How much do brains matter in a President?

Another long, hot day, this one augmented by a nasty little migraine that’s so far rebuffed treatment.  Blogging has therefore been minimal and what blogging I’ve done has been for other sites to which I owe commitments.  Nevertheless, what I blog there, I can reprint here, right?  Here’s the start of a post I did at Bloggers for John McCain. Because we’re trying to build numbers at that new blog, I’ll just print up a little bit here and, if you’re interested, please head over to that blog to read the rest:

It happens pretty much like clockwork: In every presidential election that I can remember, voters are assured that the Republican is a brainless buffoon, and the Democrat a savvy intellectual. I first saw this with the 1976 election, when I was 15 years old and, for the first time, politically aware. Gerald Ford was presented as a big, dumb jock, who couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Jimmy Carter was a brilliant, analytical engineer.

In 1980, as you recall, Ronald Reagan was the actor/jock who had simplistic ideas. I remember going around parroting the line that you could wade through Reagan’s deepest thoughts without getting your ankles wet. Carter, of course, despite his abysmal Presidential record was still, as the media repeatedly assured us, so much smarter.

By 1984, Reagan’s intellectualism had fallen even lower in the media’s and pundit’s estimation. The guy was dumb as a rock, and spoke in stupid, infantile terms about evil, and freedom, and simplistic things like that. He had no nuance. Fortunately, the savvy (but pure) Walter Mondale was going to save us from the guy with the obvious 2 digit IQ.

Fast forward a few years to 1988, and you’ve got the inarticulate George H.W. Bush, who was obviously too dumb to communicate in basic English, despite his illustrious career. And on the other side, you’ve got the pedantic Michael Dukakis, who really did sound like a hyper-analytical university professor. He was obviously smart.

I don’t need to remind you of the Clinton years. For me, they pass in a blur of paeans praising his extraordinary intelligence. The press wrote reams of laudatory columns about his ebullient wonkishness, his extraordinary ability to master complex ideas, and his lust for knowledge. The only person smarter than he was, the press assured us, was his wife, a woman who intelligently subordinated her own career to exponentially expand the power of his through their combined brains.

Wait! I forgot, there was one person smarter than Clinton — Al Gore! Al Gore, the great genius who made Dukakis look like a fluent, witty speaker. Al Gore, the all seeing, all knowing internet inventor. It was unthinkable that George W. Bush, the ultimate buffoon, a man with a West Texas accent and a habit of speaking about “nukular” weapons, could beat this Ivy League genius. And yet the unthinkable happened. And it happened again when the even smarter and more intellectual John Kerry also went down before that buffoon. (Never mind that subsequent investigation revealed that the “buffoon” did better at Yale than either of these two shining lights.)

It should be no surprise at this point that the exact same pattern is shaping up here. Obama, as we know, is even smarter than all of his Democratic predecessors put together! He is a luminous speaker (as long as he has a script). He’s a luminous writer (although his off-script speaking skills are beginning to tell me that, as much as anything else, he had a good editor). He’s just plain luminous. Palin, with her non-Ivy League degree, her slightly goofy Alaska accent, her beauty queen credentials is, of course, laughable when compared to Obama, right?