Saturday, June 12, 2004

Ronald Reagan

Today America has been celebrating the life and works of its 40th president.

Some recent presidents and would-be presidents have been remarkable intelligent. Richard Nixon was bright, effective in many areas, but brought down by flaws in his character. Jimmy Carter was if anything even brighter, with a strong and visible moral code which his predecessors apparently lacked, and yet was completely ineffective as president. In contrast, Ford was often scorned for his lack of intellect.

Reagan changed the equation. He is widely seen as having achieved more in foreign policy than Nixon. His evident lack of intellect, although causing some derision in European circles, only seemed to enhance his standing in America.

Following Reagan, the intelligent thing seems to be to hide your intelligence. Bill Clinton was intelligent but didn't show it. In contrast, George Bush senior and Al Gore presented themselves as intelligent - which was perhaps evidence that they weren't intelligent enough - and were rejected at the polls. George Bush junior is clearly not as unintelligent as many people think he is, but he has learned the Reagan lesson well.

In American history, the preference for Character over Intelligence goes back to Washington.