President Bush: a report card

In response to Godfrey Sperling's Nov. 19 column "When presidents get the dummy treatment": His historical record of "dumb" Republican presidents ridiculed by "smart" Democrats overlooks an important consideration: the way a person tackles new problems. George W. Bush is, in fact, smart. But more important, he doesn't appear introspective or studious, or inclined to find out the position of those who disagree with him, and doesn't seem to consider their arguments.

His decisions to abandon all discussion of global warming, to abrogate the ABM treaty, to focus on energy production instead of alternative sources, and to eschew any responsibility to other members of the UN in pursuing an aggressive policy toward Iraq demonstrates his willingness to take substantial risks.

The intelligence of this president, or any prior leader, is not the issue. And it isn't significant to argue his popularity; the electorate is empowered to make mistakes. What is troubling is to see a lack of understanding by our journalists, which makes it impossible for them to impart important realities to the electorate, to equip them with information to exercise a more careful choice.
Philip J. Murphy

Regarding "When presidents get the dummy treatment": There has been no silencing of ridicule about Mr. Bush's intelligence. Many, myself included, contend to have seen zero evidence of an intellect hidden beneath his "Everyman" image.

As an Ivy League-educated man, and a doctoral candidate at Harvard, I can say without hesitation that although most in these institutions are astounding scholars, one can "successfully" get by with the help of a famous or rich father. The Ivy League remains an old-boys' network; social promotion is based upon how much one's father donates to alumni funds. One shouldn't judge intelligence solely by the institution a person attends, but instead by the quality of that person's work. Many are still looking closely for any such evidence from Bush.
Michael J. Biercuk
Cambridge, Mass.

In response to "When presidents get the dummy treatment": I always look at Godfrey Sperling's columns first because I can trust what he writes. I appreciate his work.
Marguerite E. Buttner
Laguna Woods, Calif.

While I agree that democrats have woefully underestimated Mr. Bush, I think Godfrey Sperling's view of "smart" vs. "dumb" misses the point. President Bush is not dumb - he is ignorant. And there's a big difference.

A dumb person is incapable of learning. An ignorant one simply chooses not to learn, though he may indeed be capable of it. Mr. Bush has learned the lessons of how to win in politics. But he has chosen over the years not to inform himself on issues tremendously important to his current job - particularly issues related to science (stem cell research and global warming) and foreign affairs.

Now he's taking a crash course in foreign affairs and he's chosen his teachers by their ideologies and politics, not their objective knowledge. Since foreign affairs have suddenly moved front and center in his presidential role, his lack of serious preparation to tackle problems in this area could prove disastrous.

Bush is a likable person who, through his ignorance, has set this country on a course to be a short-term winner and long-term loser. But then, short-term wins are what makes one successful in politics. I wonder what would have happened had either Reagan or Bush read "dummy" Ike's famous "cross of iron" speech?
Greg Stone
Westport, Mass.

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