Speaking of fitting your news coverage to what your readers want to read, every so often you’ll see a news story or op-ed purporting to prove that people holding one set of political views are systematically smarter than those holding another political view. These days I mostly see stories claiming that liberals (however defined) are smarter than conservatives (however defined) but occasionally you’ll see stories claiming the opposite. This weekend James Joyner commented on one such story.
Perhaps I’ve just been sensitized to such claims but this column from David Corn, entitled Are Democratic Presidents Smarter Than Republican Presidents?, struck me as particularly absurd:
Is there any doubt that the collective brainpower of Reagan, Bush I and Bush II wouldn’t come close to that of Carter, Clinton and Obama?
The column suffers from a complete lack of quantitative measures.
It may be a disappointment to some but Bill Clinton isn’t enormously bright and George W. Bush isn’t enormously dumb. They’re both above average in intelligence and, I suspect, in the typical intelligence range for professionals in the United States (one to two standard deviations). Search out the quantitative measures and you’ll probably reach the same conclusion.
To my mind the more pressing question is why so many Democrats feel a need for their presidents to be brilliant?
I don’t need the president to be brilliant or omnicompetent. Indeed, I’d prefer that he or she wasn’t either. I’d prefer that my president be of above average intelligence, savvy, articulate, decent, honorable, and have succeeded at accomplishing something other than in politics. Demonstrated leadership would be nice, too. IMO intelligence is over-rated, particularly for presidents.