Blogs > Cliopatria > The Bush Brain

Aug 27, 2004 2:12 pm

The Bush Brain

Former NYT editor Howell Raines showed up in the Wash Post today with an interesting piece about Bush's brain. Take a look.

He makes one observation that the Kerry people ought to be concerned with. Bush may be less than brilliant, but he has so far succeeded (with Karl Rove's help, of course) to force Kerry on the defensive.

How has he done this?

He has baited Kerry on Iraq into saying things that are nuanced. Bush is decisive is the message. Kerry is nuanced. The American people naturally are drawn to the person who sounds decisive.

Bush is following a script from the 2000 campaign. In the presidential debates he was told by advisors* to bait Gore by playing to one of Gore's chief emotional needs ... the need to feel superior. Bush deliberately made statements that he knew Gore would find stupid or silly. Foolishly, Gore took the bait and came off arrogantly. The voter may have thought that Bush wasn't a rocket scientist, but they sure as hell preferred him to the arrogant-sounding Gore.

Fast forward 4 years. Bush is again baiting his opponent. Kerry can't stand a simple explanation if a more complicated one can be found. Like Gore he is taking the Bush bait.

If Kerry doesn't change his ways at the debates he will find that the C student from Yale has defeated the A student from Yale just as he earlier defeated the A student from Harvard.

*How do I know this? I have a source.

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Michael C Tinkler - 9/12/2004

Wikipedia and distributed research saves time again.

The Wikipedia entry on Al Gore has a report on a Washington post story about Al Gore's academic record. He was an A student in some things -- but not in others. As per usual with Wikipedia there is some confusion about the sophomore year at Harvard and the 2nd year of Vanderbilt Divinity School., unfortunately, doesn't help.

Michael C Tinkler - 9/12/2004

We saw the Bush transcript in 2000 (I think), but I haven't seen any reportage of Kerry's grades. Do you have a source for that part?

Sure, he seems bright, but the Boston Globe profile never mentions grades (the only line about classroom performance, as opposed to debate team performance, is from a prep school Latin teacher who "has has no memory of Kerry's performance in class.") I'm curious. There is also an explicit mention - which one wonders about in terms of gpa - about not focusing on studies his senior year at Yale.

Here's the Boston Globe profile with the Latin teacher:

Here's a no-Kerry-transcript link:

Michael Meo - 9/4/2004

Mr Daniels, I am concerned that you find it surprising that the national Republican candidate, with all his negatives, is able to compete so well against the Democratic candidate lacking such deficiencies.

Just four years ago the Republican candidate, who dodged the draft and went AWOL, competed quite successfully against a candidate who had not had a drunk-driving conviction or a history of alcoholism. Indeed, we were treated to prolix analyses on why the country preferred the less intelligent candidate; I say this without sarcasm.

It seems only logical to me, that you either have to acknowledge a pattern of election on the basis of strictly emotional appeal, combined with mass-media dominance, or you admit to amnesia. Bush can run against Kerry by APPEALING TO FEAR. No miracle.

Mark Daniels - 9/3/2004

It is astounding to me that a president with so many deficiencies (which he tacitly admits by making his opponent the subject of so much of his campaign), has successfully put his opponent on the defensive. However this campaign turns out, the Bush turnaround, apparently culminating in the mega-bump he received from the Republican National Convention, must be counted as one of the big miracles of US political history.

But, fasten your seat belts, John Kerry is a pit bull when he's counted out and the time is short.

It should be interesting.