It was often said during W’s tenure that George, as famously inarticulate as he was, was smart in some ways. I never bought into that, and since Bush’s policy decisions all turned out to be calamitously stupid, I think I was right. George W. was not just unable to articulate a cogent thought; he was unable to form one.
Now, was he clever? Maybe. He was reputedly quick with an insult and could slap someone he’d just met with a nickname that would stick. But to me, these were the traits of my middle-school nemeses — the class blockheads who deflected attention away from their own reptilian simplicity with predictable punchlines delivered with a sort of base charisma. The only thing those clowns seemed aware of was their own lack of awareness, and mechanisms evolved within them to compensate for being so badly overmatched.
We have only limited ways to express ourselves — and only limited ways to demonstrate intelligence and facility with complex thinking. The primary way we do this, I think, is with language. If we cannot judge the intelligence and wisdom of another from beholding what he says and how he says it, then how can we judge his intelligence and wisdom at all? The more disjointed a person’s expression, the more disjointed must be that which he seeks to express.
It’s almost a cliche to say among the politically connected that Jeb Bush “was supposed to be the smart one.” And much has been made of Jeb’s failure to demonstrate as much — not necessarily because he is inarticulate, but because he is tone-deaf. But I think a good case can be made that Jeb is very much his brother: Jeb, like George, is prone to garbled syntax, and this is likely the symptom of a garbled intellect.
Here is Jeb “taking on” Donald Trump tonight over Trump’s reference to Jeb’s wife, Columba:
Bush said that Trump was wrong “to subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation.” He then said to Trump, “Why don’t you apologize for her right now?”
First, one does not get subject into something. One might become of the subject of something, or one might be thrust into something, but no, one cannot be subject into a conversation. Second, one wonders whether Bush’s exhortation that Trump apologize for Bush’s wife was the latest in a long line of Bush-brother Freudian slips (like OB-GYN’s “practicing their love” with their patients or breadwinners “putting food on their families”).
Later in the debate, Bush defended his brother:
Here, after claiming that his brother kept America safe (leaving aside all the thousands of Americans who were killed on his watch), Bush asked Trump, “You remember the … the rubble? Do you remember the firefighter with his arms around it?”
The firefighter with his arms around it? His arms around what? The rubble? Of course, what Bush meant to say was, “You remember my brother with his arm around that firefighter?” But he couldn’t pull it off any more than his brother could could pull off one of the simplest cliches in American lore:
We might give a political novice with an uncertain background the benefit of the doubt: surely he’s not as dumb as his tortured language suggests. But with the Bushes, we have history to warn us against such charity: a Bush who sounds like an idiot surely is one.
From the proposition that Jeb Bush should be taken seriously, we respectfully DISSENT.
How about you?
by Brendan Beery