The Pencil Today:

Holy Fallacy

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg calls Dan Savage “the most significant columnist in America.” Here’s an example why:

The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner, about owning his slave.

And Paul doesn’t say, “Christians don’t own people.” Paul talks about how Christians own people.

We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong.

If the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity ever faced wrong, what are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong?

— Dan Savage

I’ll remain mute in the face of airtight logic.

Savage/Christopher Staton photo

Dan Savage

Playing The Part

George W. Bush’s presidential library opened up yesterday, leading to the very easy joke that it’s the first library he’s ever stepped foot in.

As in, Bushey-boy was dumb. Is dumb. That’s the gospel according to my brothers and sisters on the Left, at least.


And I’ve never bought it.

I’m not saying he reads Immanuel Kant in his spare time, but Bush ran a multi-trillion dollar corporation that employs some 22 million people. Ya gotta have at least a few dozen neural connections to do that.

As a high-schooler taking the SAT, GWB scored in the equivalent of the 88th percentile on the verbal portion and the 86th on math. This marks him as clearly above average in that kind of measurable intelligence. On the other hand, those scores were well below the average for incoming Yale freshman, where he was admitted as a legacy candidate. (Yale and other snooty schools give special preference to the children of alumni, presumably because those families are loaded and will donate.) Bush went on to maintain a C-average at Yale, meaning he held his own among a population best described as brains on legs.

Again, this does not put him among Hypatia and Hawking in the pantheon of thinkers, but it does indicate the kid had some smarts.

Which, again, runs counter to the prevailing wisdom.


That wisdom, BTW, was buttressed by a 2001 report from the Lovenstein Institute which concluded that Bush II had a sub-100 IQ and was the least intelligent US president in the last 50 years. Two problems: there was no report nor was there any such thing as the Lovenstein Institute.

Nevertheless, the findings of the “report” took hold in our cultural consciousness because we wanted them to be true.

An admittedly conservative researcher named Steve Sailer found in 2004 that Bush’s IQ probably was higher than his opponent in the presidential election that year, John Kerry. Sure Sailer had a horse in the race, but his findings have never been disproved. And, believe me, if there was even a hint of sloppiness or bias in Sailer’s methodology, Bush bashers would have found it.

So no, I don’t believe Bush was stupid. He only played stupid on TV. Which is worse.


This holy land’s boob-ocracy loathes the intellectual. The rest of the nations of this planet revere women and men of intelligence. The Germans, for instance, worship Goethe. The Poles go gaga over Marie (Skłodowska) Curie. The Greeks boast an all-star cast of reckoners dating back to antiquity, a fact that gang seems never to tire of reminding us. Hell, Iranians proudly point to the Persian mathematician, Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi, as a cultural and ethnic hero.

We, on the other hand, know all about the Kardashians.

And how do you explain Sarah Palin? GOP women performed cartwheels over her when she was introduced to the nation at the 2008 Republican National Convention. The most common hosanna thrown in Palin’s direction was, She’s just like us.

“Americans,” Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone, “like politicians who hate books and see the face of Jesus in every tree stump.” Palin, we knew, seldom dirtied her hands on the pages of a book.

And the more George W. Bush burnished that same image, the more popular he became. In his first debate with John Kerry in 2004, Bush flopped around like a sunfish on the bottom of a rowboat. Bush “smirked or stammered and groped for words,” according to LA Times columnist James Rainey. Bush, I feel a need to remind you, won that election.

Kerry had come off as the know-it-all, the intellectual. Bush, meanwhile, showed the nation he had no time for high-fallutin’ words and all those studies by egghead perfessors or books. He was too busy bravely protecting our great land.


Here’s the true measure of George W. Bush’s intellect: He was smart enough to know a huge proportion of Americans don’t like people who are smart.

4 thoughts on “The Pencil Today:

  1. dave paglis, illiterate, racist homophobe and now, dumpster diver says:

    Mike I like how you speak the truth to your own side. It is true some people want to believe Bush is dumb and it also true some of my side want to believe P. Obama is a Socialist who wants to take away our guns. I don’t think measurable smarts are the most important quality of a leader. I think you have to know what you believe and be willing to get out front and take the heat.

  2. dave paglis, illiterate, racist homophobe and now, dumpster diver says:

    P.S. those were some funny pictures you have of my guy.

  3. Michael, I gotta disagree with you on this one. First and foremost no one is that good of an actor; hell, even Daniel Day Lewis couldn’t pull off 8 consecutive years of idiocracy. Second, he ran a “multi-trillion dollar corporation that employs some 22 million people” the same way he ran a company, he rubber-stamped it. Cheney and Rumsfeld et al ran the country, not Bush. Finally, if you get ‘legacied’ (pardon the verb) into Yale instead of meriting admission, then of course the deal is you get Cs throughout – that doesn’t imply a modicum of intelligence, just family connections and wealth. Show me his actual work of that time with grades and professors’ notes, then maybe I’ll believe he earned that GPA. Sadly though, I totally agree with your last statement: a sorry, cynical state we’ve elected ourselves into.

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