As a student of charismatic leadership, my antenna lit up when I saw all the chatter during the 2008 Presidential campaign regarding Barack Obama’s brilliance and genius. Since I’ve gotten to know some real geniuses, I think I’m in a good position to access his intellectual capacity. Based on my experience, I can report that Barack Obama is a non-genius.
How do I know? Well, for one reason, one of my brothers is a genius. He’s tested out in elementary school with an IQ over 140. In high school, my brother figured out how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. (This was back in the days before there were on-line cheat sheets and YouTube videos explaining how to do it.)
I have also taught at the nation’s number one liberal arts college, Williams in MA. In that job, I had the opportunity to teach some of our nation’s most talented between 1986 and 1989. I also served, briefly, as an admissions counselor at Cornell in the early 1980s where I got to interview applicants and compare what I saw face-to-face with their SAT test scores. In other words, I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting “true men of genius.”
Based on reasonable standards, I can safely assert President Obama’s mental capacity is not in that category.
Nevertheless, it is tempting for those seeking to promote his charismatic image to interpret his current behavior as if he were, in fact, a genius. From this biased perspective, Obama has a secret, long-term plan that is going to work out for him and all of us at the same time. His challenges today are due to the extremely poor mistakes made by others in the past and the sheer impossibility of doing anything productive under the constraints established by the U.S. Constitution. If you choose to believe that Obama is a genius, then his failures must be due to exogenous factors.
If you see Obama as a non-genius, however, you become more sensitive to a different storyline, a storyline that makes more sense given President Obama’s actual history. To be a little blunt, assuming that Obama is not so bright helps explain a lot of mysterious stuff that makes no sense if he were truly a genius including:
1. Obama’s over-dependence on his teleprompter.
2. Obama’s boring performances in his now discontinued press conferences.
3. Obama’s indecisiveness and general slowness in figuring out how to respond to his commanders’ requests for additional troops in Afghanistan.
4. Obama’s try and fail approach to winning the Olympic Games for Chicago, his useless trip to China, and his fruitless visit to Copenhagen on behalf of the cause of anthropomorphic global warming.
5. Obama’s unwillingness to contribute an article to the Harvard Law Review while he served as its first African-American president.
6. Obama’s reluctance to compete for a tenure track job at the University of Chicago Law School and the fact that he never submitted articles to peer-reviewed law journals.
In addition, the theme that Obama is no genius also makes it much easier to absorb new information regarding Obama’s past achievements and associations, including the possibility that Obama’s first book Dreams of My Father reflects the ideas and writing style of his Hyde Park neighbor, Bill Ayers. It also raises the frightening possibility that Obama truly believed the silly liberation theology taught by Rev. Wright. Obama’s non-genius status would certainly help explain why he got married in Rev. Wright’s church and why Obama thought so little about raising his children in that bizarre, hateful environment.
As a non-genius, I think it is safe to say Obama faces the same challenges as most of us. He does not process information quickly… it is not so easy for him to retain information once he learns it… and it is difficult for him to focus – in a long and sustained fashion – on complex issues. All of this suggests that Obama is likely to spend a lot of his time as President with his family enjoying expensive, but pointless vacations. It suggests, he is unlikely to respond to the demands of political reality by becoming a Clinton style centrist. It also calls attention to the startling possibility that the mainstream media is covering up for President Obama’s intellectual weaknesses the same way they covered up for FDR’s physical disability and marital affairs.
Most worrisome, I think Obama compensates for his limited intellectual abilities with a strong reliance on ideology, with emotional appeals to fairness, and with a dogged determination to stick to the simple, leftwing perspective he learned from his mother. As a glorious leader, President Obama will always fall short of our normal expectations. Those who voted for him believing he was a talented intellectual, a genius of epic standards, are right to feel betrayed. Those of us seeking to protect our country from the temporary power of Obama’s charisma are wise to see him as he is… and not as his supporters pretend him to be.