It's the stupidity, stupid

By Todd Gitlin

By Letters to the Editor

Published October 26, 2000 7:47AM (EDT)

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Finally! Somebody else besides me noticed that the governor of Texas is a complete, blithering idiot! I thought for sure that after the third debate, in which Al Gore gave by far his best performance, while George W. Bush staggered and drawled like a drunken cowboy, we might end this ridiculous so-called race and hand the presidency to the man who had clearly earned it. But NO! People aren't having any of it. They simply refuse to listen, but are content to be led around by the nose like cattle. The press is little help here. They are so afraid to be ostracized by a Bush administration, they bend over and kiss Dumbya right in the ass.

I, for one, am not buying it!

-- David Jansing

I am a registered Republican, yet nothing would send me running for the border more than four years of Bush. In another competition where it is the lesser of two evils, I would chose the basic competency of Gore over the "Does anyone remember where I parked Air Force One?" of Bush.

Unlike Gitlin, what surprises me is not the lack of attention the media gives to Bush's gaffes and lack of answers; it is the public's readiness to accept him, blunders and all, as their leader. When the man on the street is asked to explain why he is voting for Bush his answer is often as vague and confused as Bush's position on a policy that isn't on a TelePrompTer.

While Gore can lose you in detail and Clinton uses charm and eloquence to dodge uncomfortable questions altogether, Bush seems unable to do either. However just like the C averages that got him into Harvard Business School, this minimum effort to learn the material seems like it will once again lead to another improbable acceptance.

-- Chris Fennimore

Todd Gitlin is right on when he argues that Bush has blundered his way through life, and surprise, surprise, has found himself running now for Homecoming King of the United States.

But I fear his arguments are long lost on the American people who really are voting for Homecoming King. After all, why else would so many people decide their vote based on which candidate they'd rather sit next to on an airplane? The president is just another great entertainer of our time, right on par with the sitcom stars and late-night comedians. Policies, schmolicies! We want someone likeable! Clinton sure was fun. And besides, who can name even one of his policies from the past eight years? We know what we'll remember most from his tenure in office. Wink. Wink. And secretly we want more ...

-- Julyne Derrick

Well, it's about time Salon offered up an honest account of George W. Bush without, as Todd Gitlin said, bending over backward to be "fair" to our ridiculous governor from Texas. Here in Austin, Texas, thinking people all know the emperor's got no clothes, and hopefully the rest of the country will finally wake up from their Clinton fatigue and realize this, too.

George W. Bush may not be the moron that many late-night comics joke about, but he is a poor little rich kid who has had everything handed to him his entire life. His paid handlers have take great pains to put an "average Joe" spin on George W.'s misstatements, but the fact remains not only does he not fully understand what he's talking about, intellectually, he doesn't really care to understand.

-- Jason Moses

Oh, how I longed to vote Republican this year in the presidential campaign. I sent money to John McCain, and when those hopes were dashed, I looked longingly at Dubya, hoping he would impress me in some way, any way, and make it possible for me to cast my vote for him.

I can't do it. George W. Bush possesses a demonstrated lack of command of the issues, an anti-intellectualism that's frightening to behold and a dangerously lightweight manner. Think for a second about President George W. Bush at a summit of world leaders. Try to imagine him negotiating a peace agreement in the Middle East. Think about him making a decision to send troops into the Balkans ... it's impossible.

Add to this the profoundly disgraceful way Bush has conducted his campaign, and this is one Republican voting for Gore. I can at least trust him to make decisions based on an understanding of the options involved. I'm going to bet on the prospect that a Republican Congress can block President Gore's wilder notions.

And frankly, I would joyfully vote for Clinton again over my other two options. Is it too late to amend the Constitution?

-- Brad Kurtz

Great article. What has really been missed in the campaign is Bush's promise to get rid of all "terriers." Was it really supposed to be terrorists or is there some evil motive behind this dog-eat-dog campaign? Which breed is next? Bush is barking up the wrong tree with his feeble attempt to eradicate these beloved yappy, energetic beasts. May the journalistic hounds from hell descend upon the canine foe and reveal the real truths in this dogfight.

-- Liz Johnson

Thank you, Todd Gitlin, for having the courage to profile George W. Bush for what he is: a sly, slip-by-with-slogans Trojan Horse for the far-right conservatives. It does not speak well for our future that the American public (as portrayed by the polls and what passes for journalism on television ) seems to have adopted an ostrich-head-in-the-sand posture, preferring to "feel good with Dubya" and ignoring the rhinoceros (of failing education systems, endangered Social Security and Medicare; lack of affordable healthcare; etc.) that is about to kick our American ostrich in its upended derriere.

-- Patricia Holloway

Though I am no particular fan of Al Gore, I find myself awakening in the middle of the night, panic-stricken at the prospect of George W. Bush becoming president. This is not because I disagree with his policies (which I do), but rather that the man simply does not have the capacity to sustain coherent thinking processes. He has no natural appetite for knowledge or understanding.

Give us Bob Dole, John McCain, Bob Livingston, Henry Hyde (where should I stop?). Any of these people -- and any number of others -- have minds that can contain and process large amounts of information. They have capacity, regardless of what you think of their politics (in my case, not much!). If faced with international crisis, their minds -- repeat, their minds, not just their advisors' -- would instinctively go to work, processing, considering, drawing on a wealth of interior knowledge. It is impossible to imagine George W. Bush exercising such capacity.

Under normal circumstances I would hold my nose as I vote for Al Gore. But in this election, when I enter the voting booth I will pray, supplicate, cry -- anything else that might torque the universe in Gore's favor.

We face real danger here. This is no joke. George W. Bush as president?

What, me worry? Yes. Immensely.

-- Lee Nichol

I just wanted to let you know that I am a Harvard graduate, and a holder of a master's degree in mathematics, who nevertheless intends to vote for Bush. I will do so enthusiastically, and am having success in encouraging all my Ivy League friends to do so. Like Bill Buckley, I know the meaning of the words "traduce," "irrendentist" [sic] and "hagiographic" along with any other vocabulary words you'd like to quiz me on. Despite all of this, George W. Bush is much better qualified to be president than I am.

I would attempt to refute your calumnies of our future president one by one, but that would be pointless. I would rather savor Gitlin's extreme discomfiture as he contemplates the impending electoral defeat of his liberal orthodoxies. His side is going to lose, and lose "big time," if you know what I mean.

It merely amplifies my appreciation to see pretentious pseudo intellectuals like Marty Peretz and Gitlin whine about their increasing irrelevance.

We'll see who is stupid in November.

-- Will Slaughter

Gitlin's condescending view of Bush, and those who support him, is both irritating and puzzling. Like many voters, I am sometimes bemused and frustrated by Bush's awkwardness and difficulty articulating his ideas. Does Gitlin really believe, however, that Bush is stupid, or lazy, or unable to think or write coherently? My understanding is that George W. Bush is a graduate of Yale, and of the Harvard Business School, two of the greatest -- and most competitive -- universities in the world. His family connections may have helped him get in, but I don't think they helped him get out. Harvard and Yale are quite accustomed to luminaries, and their offspring. I don't think you graduate from those places unless you have the brains to do the work.

-- Richard S. Smith

To determine intelligence and intellectual appeal one must look beyond the occasional mangled syntax and labored debate answers cited by Gitlin and instead focus on the actual policy initiatives proposed by Bush. Proposals to reform Social Security (the oft-mentioned "third rail" of American politics) through partial privatization as well as support for school vouchers demonstrate a creative and bold intellect, willing to take political risks in order to address societal needs. The true "anti-intellectual" candidate in this election is Gore who is relying on demagoguery and a tortured populism ("I will fight for you") in an attempt to paper over the fact that his policy proposals represent nothing more than the traditional liberal Democratic answer to all social issues: Spend more money.

-- J. Brandt Zembsch

Todd Gitlin must not understand politics. A huge number of people vote based upon the issues, not the intelligence of a particular candidate. If you are a pro-life, pro-NRA, tax cut person you are going to vote for Bush. If you are a pro-choice, government activist type of person you are going to vote for Gore. What does Gitlin think, that all those pro-life Republicans are going to switch their vote to Gore just because he writes a couple of pages on Bush's questionable intellect? If intelligence was the criteria by which we chose our presidents we would all write in Stephen Hawking's name and be done with it.

Moreover, the fact is that intelligence plays a very small part in the makeup of a good president. By most accounts, Nixon and Carter were intelligent men and lousy presidents; FDR and Reagan were of average intelligence and excellent presidents. I would suggest to Gitlin that he write more on why George W. Bush is wrong on the issues. That way he could spend less time complaining about a campaign that increasing seems devoid of them.

-- Bradley McKinley

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