Thursday, March 11, 2010

Glorious Leader Gap: President Barack Obama - Not So Bright for a Harvard Law Grad

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.) See,

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:

  • Obama’s over dependence on his teleprompter.
  • Obama’s boring performances in his now discontinued press conferences.
  • Obama's factual errors during his confrontation with Republicans at their retreat.
  • Obama’s indecisiveness and general slowness in figuring out how to respond to his commanders’ requests for additional troops in Afghanistan.
  • 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.
  • Obama’s unwillingness to contribute an article to the Harvard Law Review while he served as its first African-American president.
  • 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. See,

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, Stanley.

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.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.


  1. A few issues, from a non-genius:

    Being "smart" is different than being genius. As someone who has watched numerous Q&A's of his, my interpretation is that he is quick on his feet in answering questions, as would be expected. One recent example is his appearance at the GOP Leader's retreat.

    Moreover, Obama's own mental ability do not, and should not, figure into his administration's ability to strategize; one of the great tests for any leader is in expanding one's effectiveness through skillful utilization and hiring of staff.

    Going further, your choice to proceed from Obama's non-genius status to "not being very bright;" a status I would dispute. I would certainly welcome any evidence that he is below the 80% percentile for intelligence, a bar that probably works well for the word "bright," but I sincerely doubt that you will be able to produce it.

    Over-dependence on a teleprompter is not a sign of intelligence, except possibly for a more limited ability to memorize the speech text, and there are better things for a President to do. He has memorized speeches in the past.

    Indecisiveness is not a sign of mental incapacity; if anything, it reflects too great a willingness to lose oneself in hypotheticals and a lack of decisiveness, but these are not signs of genius.

    I will certainly cop to your statements about poor decisions on travel; we can probably add Biden's visit to that mix.

    I certainly take strong exception that Obama's choice to not go for tenure track is evidence of an intellectual deficiency - that's like saying that people who drop out of college (like Bill Gates) did so because they couldn't make it through their classwork. Show me some evidence, please.

    The rest of your post combines fact with fancy, such as the Ayers conspiracy theory.

    If we should debate policy, let that be so: there are a number of areas where I think Obama fails. But to suggest mental incapacity is to go a step further: the office of President requires high intelligence, and naming Obama as unqualified certainly does not change the fact that his opponent's choice for VP was much more problematic, Gov. Palin had positive attributes that were never acknowledged.

  2. Will: 57 states. Enough said.

  3. I love readding, and thanks for your artical. ........................................

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  5. Obama does not have to be a genius. He has been prepped by Ayers since Columbia, and others at Occidental and FM Davis in HI, in my opinion. Am guessing he and the SDS crowd of leftist foundations and Universities funded by soros, sandlers, lewis and others have an agenda that is well prepared and funded and he is just the semi-charming front man who took advantage of race guilt, while not even sharing the life experience of African Americans, the were ripped off.

    The Center for American Communism is their shadow govt and who knows what deviousness they are developing, including the totally wasteful green collar jobs.

    I intend to fully enjoy the spring and summer because November will be a referendum on who America will be for the next 100 years. It seems the media, except for FOX, AM radio, and the Internet, is in the leftist, fascist, progressive bag. The USSR or whoever these terrorists are have done well and won without a shot, unless stopped in November after building on the Chicago New Party for years. I am not a genius and if it is obvious to me anyone can see it if not misdirected so we will see what happens next. Watching CNN is a challenge of reality they have lost all credibility. and I liked wolf and Anderson but adios.

  6. Dear Will,
    Would you consider Bush smart compared to this blathering idiot?

  7. Only one disagreement: Clinton was no centrist. He was/is an ideologue who understood bending to the winds of political force would break him if he didn't appear to compromise.

    Case in point: Clinton's recent reversal on the work requirement for welfare.