Just How Smart Is Obama?

The meteoric rise to the presidency of Barack Obama was fueled in no small part by the widely accepted contention that he was one of the smartest men ever to seek the Oval Office. He is not the first leader to be oversold.

"As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist, he is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that he's a great military man -- I want you to know that."
It is an article of faith among the mainstream media, even on the squishy right (Bill O'Reilly comes to mind), to start any discussion of the 44th President with a ritual expression of utter amazement at his enormous brain power.

This immortal witticism of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf , after a lightning 1991 campaign that cut to pieces the Iraqi dictator's vaunted army, resonates with me each time I read or hear any discussion of President Obama.

Does Obama deserve his reputation? Not really -- unless of course, a "perfectly creased pant" is a true metric of rapier wit and towering intellect, as David Brooks seems to think. One can certainly take such things on faith merely on the basis of credentials: the right university, the right profession, the right crowd. Columbia and Harvard Law alum -- what other proof is needed that the accomplisher of such lofty achievements must be right up there with the Einsteins of the world? Assumptions of this sort could cause one acute embarrassment, such as the one experienced by the historian Michael Beschloss at the hands of Don Imus. Beschloss was extolling Obama's "sky-high IQ," but just as he was hitting his stride, the host interrupted his guest's rapture: "So what's his IQ?" The historian had to sheepishly admit that he didn't know.

But mindless sycophancy of Obama groupies aside, what gives his admirers the reason to believe in the incomparable intellectual faculties of their idol? An ability to more or less fluently read a prepared text? But each time he drops the life buoy of the teleprompter and ventures to go unscripted, Obama stumbles and mumbles in search of words, launching an avalanche of "uhs" and more likely than not putting his foot into his mouth. Watching him on such excursions into the terrifying world of improvisation, anyone can see that Obama would be wise to take a few speech lessons from purported lowbrow Sarah Palin. Are his glaringly poor off-the-cuff skills evidence of great intelligence?

How about his endless gaffes? Like

"I've now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go."
 - Obama 2008 campaign event, Beaverton, OR (Perhaps it was a Freudian slip, considering that there is indeed an entity consisting of 57 states -- it's called the Organization of the Islamic Conference.)

Or the "Austrian" language which Obama believes is spoken in Austria? Or

"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died - an entire town destroyed."
 - 2007 campaign speech on a Kansas tornado that killed 12 people

Or as he said in this year's Ramadan greeting, "Islam has always been part of America and ... American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country." What country was he talking about? Or this pearl: "On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong." An occasional slip of the tongue is an accident. A habit of dumb misstatements is evidence of laziness and lack of mental discipline, of the tongue just wagging uncontrollably. Is it evidence of Obama's intellectual superiority?

What about his propensity to jump feet-first before thinking and let the devil take the hindmost? Like accusing the Cambridge, MA police of stupidity in the Skip Gates incident, while freely admitting that he actually didn't know the circumstances of the case? Or getting into the Manhattan mosque controversy -- how's that for political acumen? Does it take a genius to figure out that coming down on the unpopular side of the issue, contrary to the will of nearly 70 percent of the American people, would be a major political blunder, particularly with the midterm elections just around the corner? Liberal pundits heaped praise on the president for his courage and steadfast adherence to principle. Why, then, did he hastily backtrack the very next day? Hardly a profile in courage is it. So what was it? Apparently an infantile, ideologically driven whim: I want it! I need it! And a hasty retreat as soon as the utterly predictable explosion ensued. A political genius?

How hard was it to predict that endless golf-cum-basketball outings, musical soirées at the White House, and vacation upon vacation in posh spots, culminating in Michelle's Spanish junket and a forthcoming stay in the elitist retreat of Martha's Vineyard, would be a major irritant to the people hard-hit by the recession or an undermining influence on the president's popularity? A callous disregard for the proles? Obviously. But how astute is it? Not very, for in-your-face arrogance has never been a mark of intelligence.

Add to this Obama's obvious economic ignorance, his glaring naiveté in international affairs, his boundless faith in the power of his oratory, his intellectual laziness, his intrinsic indecisiveness smacking of childish belief in the power of wish (close your eyes and the bad stuff will just go away), his political tin-ear -- are these the attributes of a genius? Sorry, Obama fans, what it all adds up to is an immature narcissist, an utterly inexperienced tyro, devoid of administrative ability, lacking political skills...a radical ideologue, who apparently believes that the job of president boils down to an incessant gabfest.  

So with compliments to General Schwarzkopf: As far as Barack Obama being smart as a whip goes, he has no clue in economics, nor has he any understanding of foreign policy; he is supremely arrogant and doesn't care if it rubs people the wrong way; he has few political skills and no administrative ability, nor does he have any desire to engage in the day-to-day drudgery of ruling, preferring to reign instead; and he revels in the luxury of presidential perks and delights in flaunting his excess. Other than that, he is a true genius. 
The meteoric rise to the presidency of Barack Obama was fueled in no small part by the widely accepted contention that he was one of the smartest men ever to seek the Oval Office. He is not the first leader to be oversold.

"As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist, he is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that he's a great military man -- I want you to know that."
It is an article of faith among the mainstream media, even on the squishy right (Bill O'Reilly comes to mind), to start any discussion of the 44th President with a ritual expression of utter amazement at his enormous brain power.

This immortal witticism of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf , after a lightning 1991 campaign that cut to pieces the Iraqi dictator's vaunted army, resonates with me each time I read or hear any discussion of President Obama.

Does Obama deserve his reputation? Not really -- unless of course, a "perfectly creased pant" is a true metric of rapier wit and towering intellect, as David Brooks seems to think. One can certainly take such things on faith merely on the basis of credentials: the right university, the right profession, the right crowd. Columbia and Harvard Law alum -- what other proof is needed that the accomplisher of such lofty achievements must be right up there with the Einsteins of the world? Assumptions of this sort could cause one acute embarrassment, such as the one experienced by the historian Michael Beschloss at the hands of Don Imus. Beschloss was extolling Obama's "sky-high IQ," but just as he was hitting his stride, the host interrupted his guest's rapture: "So what's his IQ?" The historian had to sheepishly admit that he didn't know.

But mindless sycophancy of Obama groupies aside, what gives his admirers the reason to believe in the incomparable intellectual faculties of their idol? An ability to more or less fluently read a prepared text? But each time he drops the life buoy of the teleprompter and ventures to go unscripted, Obama stumbles and mumbles in search of words, launching an avalanche of "uhs" and more likely than not putting his foot into his mouth. Watching him on such excursions into the terrifying world of improvisation, anyone can see that Obama would be wise to take a few speech lessons from purported lowbrow Sarah Palin. Are his glaringly poor off-the-cuff skills evidence of great intelligence?

How about his endless gaffes? Like

"I've now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go."
 - Obama 2008 campaign event, Beaverton, OR (Perhaps it was a Freudian slip, considering that there is indeed an entity consisting of 57 states -- it's called the Organization of the Islamic Conference.)

Or the "Austrian" language which Obama believes is spoken in Austria? Or

"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died - an entire town destroyed."
 - 2007 campaign speech on a Kansas tornado that killed 12 people

Or as he said in this year's Ramadan greeting, "Islam has always been part of America and ... American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country." What country was he talking about? Or this pearl: "On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong." An occasional slip of the tongue is an accident. A habit of dumb misstatements is evidence of laziness and lack of mental discipline, of the tongue just wagging uncontrollably. Is it evidence of Obama's intellectual superiority?

What about his propensity to jump feet-first before thinking and let the devil take the hindmost? Like accusing the Cambridge, MA police of stupidity in the Skip Gates incident, while freely admitting that he actually didn't know the circumstances of the case? Or getting into the Manhattan mosque controversy -- how's that for political acumen? Does it take a genius to figure out that coming down on the unpopular side of the issue, contrary to the will of nearly 70 percent of the American people, would be a major political blunder, particularly with the midterm elections just around the corner? Liberal pundits heaped praise on the president for his courage and steadfast adherence to principle. Why, then, did he hastily backtrack the very next day? Hardly a profile in courage is it. So what was it? Apparently an infantile, ideologically driven whim: I want it! I need it! And a hasty retreat as soon as the utterly predictable explosion ensued. A political genius?

How hard was it to predict that endless golf-cum-basketball outings, musical soirées at the White House, and vacation upon vacation in posh spots, culminating in Michelle's Spanish junket and a forthcoming stay in the elitist retreat of Martha's Vineyard, would be a major irritant to the people hard-hit by the recession or an undermining influence on the president's popularity? A callous disregard for the proles? Obviously. But how astute is it? Not very, for in-your-face arrogance has never been a mark of intelligence.

Add to this Obama's obvious economic ignorance, his glaring naiveté in international affairs, his boundless faith in the power of his oratory, his intellectual laziness, his intrinsic indecisiveness smacking of childish belief in the power of wish (close your eyes and the bad stuff will just go away), his political tin-ear -- are these the attributes of a genius? Sorry, Obama fans, what it all adds up to is an immature narcissist, an utterly inexperienced tyro, devoid of administrative ability, lacking political skills...a radical ideologue, who apparently believes that the job of president boils down to an incessant gabfest.  

So with compliments to General Schwarzkopf: As far as Barack Obama being smart as a whip goes, he has no clue in economics, nor has he any understanding of foreign policy; he is supremely arrogant and doesn't care if it rubs people the wrong way; he has few political skills and no administrative ability, nor does he have any desire to engage in the day-to-day drudgery of ruling, preferring to reign instead; and he revels in the luxury of presidential perks and delights in flaunting his excess. Other than that, he is a true genius. 

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