Bush For Brains
When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.’ The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. – H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun, July 26 1920
Q: Mr. President, back to your grade point average on holding the line on taxes —
THE PRESIDENT: Whew, I thought you were going to talk about the actual grade point average. (Laughter.) I remind people that, like when I’m with Condi I say, she’s the Ph.D. and I’m the C-student, and just look at who’s the President and who’s the advisor. (Laughter.) But go ahead.
– George W. Bush, Press Conference, September 20, 2007
It’s interesting to hear Bush sum up exactly what Mencken said in so many words. Look who’s the President, indeed.
And one other quip about his own intelligence from that same press conference:
Q: Do you think there’s a risk of a recession? How do you rate that?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, you need to talk to economists. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low — (laughter) — and being fiscally responsible with the people’s money. We’ve submitted a plan that will enable this budget to become balanced by 2012, so long as Congress learns to set priorities. And we can balance the budget without raising taxes. – George W. Bush, Press Conference, September 20, 2007
(Actually, he was more correct in the first quote; he was a C student through and through. And the quip about getting an A in fiscal responsibility… I won’t even dignify that comment with further acknowledgment.)
Of all the peculiarities of human nature, anti-intellectualism is the one that confounds me the most. What is it about being a moron that makes you want to be governed by fellow morons, rather than someone who’s more intelligent? Why would one actively and enthusiastically subvert yourself to that? Yet it seems even more true today than when H.L. Mencken penned that first quote 87 years ago.