-Caveat Lector-

Is George W. Bush a Moron?
by Steve Sailer
Thursday, November 18, 1999
Comments: 445 posts

 The New Yorker's recent revelation that presidential frontrunner Texas Gov.
George W. Bush scored a mere 1206 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test(SAT) has
incited journalists to snigger at his intellect. "The sharpest tool in the
shed he ain't," declared Jacob Weisberg of the ever-so-cleverSlate.com in an
article entitled "Do Dim Bulbs Make Better Presidents?" Soon, a Boston
reporter ambushed Bush with a pop quiz: Could he name the leaders of
Chechnya, Taiwan, India and Pakistan? Missing three of the four has exposed
Bush to the kind of scorn Dan Quayle endured after he misspelled "potato."

Does Bush's IQ matter?
What is particularly amusing about these attacks on Bush's IQ is that ever
since the 1994 publication of The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and the late
Richard Herrnstein, liberals have pursued an all-out vendetta against mental
testing and even the concept of intelligence. This egalitarian crusade
peaked earlier this autumn with the publication of that glib denunciation of
the SAT, The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy by
Nicholas Lemann.

Although Lemann's book contains almost no quantitative data on
testing(apparently he couldn't find any to support his prejudices), a huge
amount is available to help us interpret Bush's SAT score.

IQ snobbery

So, does a 1206 (566 Verbal, 640 Math) truly mean you're as dumb as a box of

First, any current college students reading this need to remember that SAT
scores beginning in 1996 were artificially inflated. So, do not assume that
your elders' relatively unimpressive results are objective proof that they
really are moronic as they may appear to you.

Second, although tables are readily available to convert SAT scores into
percentile rankings, they are not realistic since people who know they are
not college material do not take the SAT. Therefore, I asked my Human
Biodiversity e-mail discussion group how Bush would stack up compared to the
entire American public, not just SAT-takers.

In reply, Charles Murray noted that everybody except dropouts takes the
Pre-SAT. From the PSAT Murray calculates, "A Verbal 566 puts Bush at about
the 95th percentile of juniors & seniors ..., while 640 on Math puts him at
about the 98th percentile." In other words, only one out of 20 people would
out perform the candidate on the verbal part of the test, and only one out
of 50 on the numeric portion. Although SAT scores and IQ scores do not
coincide perfectly, Bush's SAT score would roughly project to an IQ in the
125-130 range.

Thus, all the sneering at Bush's 1206 says less about him than it does about
the IQ snobbery rampant among supposedly egalitarian liberals, especially
among neo-liberal journalists.

Are dumb president preferable?

In contrast to the liberals, conservatives suddenly have started
pooh-poohing the value of tests they had been defending only days before.
They now argue that a high IQ might work against success in the Oval Office.
Their argument is as follows: Nobody ever accused Ronald Reagan, John
F.Kennedy (IQ of 117 according to biographer Thomas C. Reeves), Harry
Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt or George Washington of being sensationally
cerebral. In contrast, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon (143 IQ), Herbert Hoover,
Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft and John Adams were smarter than they
were successful.

That's as illogical, however, as believing that height does not help in
basketball just because there are a number of fine players in the NBA who
aren't particularly tall, like 6'-0" Allen Iverson or 5'-3" Muggsy Bogues.

Just because presidents with stratospheric IQs have performed about the same
as their less egg-headed colleagues does not mean that IQ is not desirable
in a president, all else being equal. The problem is that all else is not
equal: Because so few people are at the far-right end of the IQ bell curve,
you cannot always find an individual among them who is blessed with all the
other presidential talents you desire. In contrast, the rare individuals who
make it to the White House from the fat part of the bell curve are far more
gifted in other ways than is typical for their IQ, just as Iverson and
Bogues make up for their height by being extraordinarily quick.

Consider the evenly matched Kennedy vs. Nixon election of 1960. There are
about 60 times more people who were at least as smart as JFK (whose IQ fell
at the 87th percentile) than were as smart as Nixon (99.8th percentile). Not
surprisingly, though, in compensation JFK was about 60 times as charismatic
as Nixon.

Too early to tell

Similarly, while Bush's test scores are far above average, more than 5
million American adults do at least as well as him. Out of a pool that vast,
we ought to be able to find individuals who have truly remarkable non-IQ
skills. Is Bush one of them? Our problem is that we do not yet know.
Unfortunately, the GOP establishment has been working hard to foreclose the
kind of grueling nomination fight that traditionally exposed candidates'
strengths and weaknesses.

Also exacerbating concern over his intellect is that Bush, like his father,
has run not so much on any particular platform but on an implied assertion
that he is the best man to deal with whatever problems happen to crop up. In
contrast, Reagan eased worries about his lack of improvisatory intelligence
by telling voters exactly what he intended to do in office. As Reagan
showed, it is ultimately more important to be right than smart -- no matter
how smart you are.

George W. Bush has nothing to be ashamed about with his SAT scores -- he is
an intelligent guy. His IQ is rather like a 6'-3" basketball player's
height: not a reason to think he couldn't make it to the top, but also not a
reason for calling off the season and handing him the Most Valuable Player
trophy right now.

Steve Sailer is the president of the Human Biodiversity Institute.


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