Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bush: A Literate Anti-intellectual

While at a diner with some friends on Thanksgiving morning, a friend asked me "what exactly will be different on January 20th?" He had asked the same question of his Obama-supporting father, who had no response. I, on the other hand, am rarely at a loss for an opinion. My response was that I looked forward to the end of the anti-intellectualism that has seen its ascendancy during Bush's tenure and saw its zenith when McCain selected Palin as his running mate.

Bush didn't start the GOP's war on intellectualism, but he certainly became its poster child. He always seems to be speaking to working class men and women in a way that implies he is on their side in a battle of good old-fashioned values against high-falutin' intellectuals.

In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Bush Is a Book Lover, Karl Rove sheds an interesting light on Bush's intellectual side.

Bush's impressive reading list doesn't change my opinion of him. I never bought the idea that he was plain-old stupid (these bushi-isms not withstanding). I knew he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I thought he was smart enough to recognize his limitations. In contrast, I always had the feeling that Al Gore thought he was the smartest man in any room he walked into. George W. Bush knew that he wasn't the smartest sibling at his parents' Thanksgiving table (his mom has said publicly that Jeb is the smart one).

I always hoped that some humility would help W lead well. Instead, it seems that W reacted to his place in his family by fashioning a public persona that is completely folksy and rejects any hint that he ever uses his ivy league education.

I'm not saying that Obama's brain trust is going to be perfect. Notably, I am wary about super-smart people coming up with overly-intricate solutions to our problems. Still, I am optimistic that having people who aren't trying to seem "folksy" in charge of the government will have some advantages.

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