October 19, 2010

Hints of Obama's Personality

Peter Baker writes in The Education of the President in the NYT Magazine:
Insulation is a curse of every president, but more than any president since Jimmy Carter, Obama comes across as an introvert, someone who finds extended contact with groups of people outside his immediate circle to be draining. He can rouse a stadium of 80,000 people, but that audience is an impersonal monolith; smaller group settings can be harder for him. Aides have learned that it can be good if he has a few moments after a big East Room event so he can gather his energy again. 

I'm like that. I get worn down by human contact, too. But, then, I haven't wanted to be President of the United States since I was nine years old.
Unlike Clinton, who never met a rope line he did not want to work, Obama does not relish glad-handing. That’s what he has Vice President Joe Biden for. 

I knew Biden had to be good for something.
When Obama addressed the Business Roundtable this year, he left after his speech without much meet-and-greet, leaving his aides frustrated that he had done himself more harm than good. 

Obama is not a large man. Most people aren't. But, still ...

If you can divide people up into Morning People and Night People and High Energy and (relatively) Low Energy (all celebrities are above average in energy), then Obama is a Low Energy Night Person. That seems kind of odd in a President. Clinton was a High Energy Night Person, Bush II a Low Energy Morning Person. I would guess that most CEO's tend to High Energy Morning People.

The President's great-uncle was the deputy head librarian at the University of Chicago's giant library: a worthy career, and one that Obama seems roughly cut out for.

On the other hand, Obama seems to like meeting people who tell him he's great:
But as Obama gets back on the campaign trail, aides have noticed his old spirit again. He particularly enjoys the so-called backyard sessions on the lawns of supporters. “That’s the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time,” an aide said.

He sounds a little depressed. If the economy turns around, though, he could come back strong in 2012. 

Late in the article there's a doozy of a clause inside a sentence:
One prominent Democratic lawmaker told me Obama’s problem is that he is not insecure — he always believes he is the smartest person in any room and never feels the sense of panic that makes a good politician run scared all the time, frenetically wooing lawmakers, power brokers, adversaries and voters as if the next election were a week away. 

Wait a minute? Did that just say "he always believes he is the smartest person in any room?"

Obama is a smart enough guy to be President -- he's good at explaining both sides of a problem -- but I can't recall any anecdotes about him ever  thinking up the solution to any problem. Are there any?

If Reagan or FDR or Washington ever caught themselves thinking "I'm the smartest guy in this room" their immediate reaction would have been: "Uh-oh, I'd better get some smarter guys in here, pronto!"

79 comments:

l said...

One prominent Democratic lawmaker told me Obama’s problem is that he is not insecure — he always believes he is the smartest person in any room ..."

He's not insecure, but he craves praise.

Fred said...

"If Reagan or FDR or Washington ever caught themselves thinking "I'm the smartest guy in this room" their immediate reaction would have been: "Uh-oh, I'd better get some smarter guys in here, pronto!"

A brilliant and true sentence, which raises an interesting question: is Obama the inverse of the old saying about FDR -- does Obama have a first rate intellect and a second rate temperament?

Simon in London said...

For someone with as mediocre an intellect as Obama to think he's the smartest guy in any room is a huge indictment. Did he think like that at Harvard?

William B Swift said...

With an IQ of 156, I usually am the smartest person in the room, but what that realization usually does is make me feel depressed, since I am all too aware of my problems and deficiencies.

Anonymous said...

Offtopic:

White women overwhelmingly prefer White men:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/10/female-race-consciousness-as-prudence/

"The results are striking. An African-American man would have to earn $154,000 more than a white man in order for a white woman to prefer him. A Hispanic man would need to earn $77,000 more than a white man, an Asian man would need, remarkably, an additional $247,000 in additional annual income."

Anonymous said...

Well, Obama wasn't a National Merit Scholar, so clearly there must be at least 400,000 people in America who are smarter than he is.

"...he's good at explaining both sides of a problem -- but I can't recall any anecdotes about him ever thinking up the solution to any problem. Are there any."

I checked the USPTO database: the answer is no.

When it comes to the Elite Brain Olympics, Obama doesn't make the team.

Paul Mendez said...

Wasn't Hitler awkward in one-on-one conversation but brilliant in front of large crowds, too?

Anonymous said...

That "smartest guy" quote sounds like a backhanded compliment. The Dems are full of operatives who resent Obama and it wouldn't surprise me if the source of this quote was a disgruntled Hillary supporter. I'm not saying that it's not true, though.

Anonymous said...

The guy is pretty damn smart, Steve, you have to admit that. You don't graduate magna cum laude (top 10%) from grade-blind Harvard Law if you are not smart.

Anonymous said...

Reagan and FDR, sure. Neither man thought of himself as a big intellectual, and neither was vain about his own intelligence.

But George Washington really was one of the smartest guys in the room, and the rooms he was in often included Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, or James Madison.

CC-bLF said...

"Low Energy Night Person"

So he's a lazy bum. "Night person" means you can't get him out of bed in the morning with a prybar. "Low energy" means he doesn't get anything done at 4 p.m., either. Basically, folks, what we have here is a the quintessential spoiled adolescent.

Evil Sandmich said...

If the economy turns around, though, he could come back strong in 2012.

*chuckle*

Anyway, it's possible that Obama always is the smartest person in the room, but too bad for him that he's also always the least creative since he apparently has all the imagination of a tree stump..

Anonymous said...

Obama is verbally adroit but that's about it. He seems to have few capabilities beyond that. Every Sunday thousands of great speeches are delivered from pulpits all across the USA yet nobody thinks that their reverend should be elected president. I doubt if he's capable of generating a single original concept by himself; most of the actual work seems to be done by his staff. At this point he just comes across as glib. Obama is the great shrinking man, the fast talking empty suit.

Justin said...

Come on, Steve, he's used to hanging out with black people. His impression is probably correct.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I chuckled at your high/low energy and morning/night person delineations, probably because I have always seen myself as a low E/night person who had to adjust to a world of morning people and morning people are, it seems to me, disproportionately high E, the results of necessity in our evolutionary past, I suppose.

I am interested in what factors lead you to categorize George W. Bush a low energy guy. I don't necessarily dispute your observation-just want your reasons for so designating him this way.

MQ said...

Commenters here are dedicated to disparaging Obama for basically racial / racist reasons. Obama's special strength is obvious -- it's his calm, perspective, and organizational skills in extremely hectic and stressful situations, combined with an above average intelligence. (The final quote gives a backhanded reference to those strengths). That means he executes in situations where he has an advantage. He ran a great campaign and then he basically executed on his major legislative campaign promises in his first two years. He handles crises where the answer is clear -- like the Gulf oil spill -- reasonably welll. His popularity is basically what one would expect for a President faced with the worst economy since 1932.

But his weakness is that he has a hard time seeing beyond the conventional wisdom and improvising, precisely because of his calm, organizational skills, and self-confidence. He executed on his legislative promises, but those promises were not adequate or fully responsive to the magnitude or scope of the economic collapse he was faced with. (Spending so much political capital on health care was a particular problem). And he truly seems to have though he could marginalize Republicans through a combination of conciliatory rhetoric and policies mildly to the left of center.

Anonymous said...

It is unclear what close sustained relationships he ever had other than with his mother ( a relationship that abraded quickly with the onset of adolescence )and his maternal grandparents. In high school he was observed dividing his time among two or more social circles as distinct from having "a" group. Much of hisa acts and omissions are suggestive of someone who conceals a whole lot of his inner being. From himself, as well?

Kylie said...

I caught that doozy of a clause, too: "...he always believes he is the smartest person in any room...".

It reminded me of the quotation attributed to Valerie Jarret in David Remnick's The Bridge: "He knows exactly how smart he is.... He's been bored to death his whole life. He's just too talented to do what ordinary people do."

And it reminded me of Obama's own assertion that, "Like any politician at this level, I've got a healthy ego."

Taken together, they don't add up to an extraordinarly intelligent person but to a fairly bright one with narcissistic personality traits. Nor do I think Obama knows exactly how smart he is. He only knows what the encouraging people around him have been telling him for nearly half a century.

I also take issue with the notion implied by Ms. Jarret that boredom is necessarily a function of the high intellect Obama possesses. My observation is the dumber you are, the more easily and more often you are bored.

I was surprised that such an unflattering piece on Black Narcissus made it into the NYT Magazine.

Anonymous said...

What's he gonna do, hang around with scientists? Aren't those the bad men who claim that race really exists? Lawyers like Obama know that can't be true.

And that is why he will be the smartest person in any room. I mean, he choose Joe frickin' Biden as his running mate...nothing makes you feel smart like being around that guy.

Anonymous said...

I think I read here that low IQ folk actually believe they average or better. Perhaps something of that is at work here.

Not that he is low IQ maybe high average but he's spent his time being convinced he is brilliant. Or maybe he's just deluded.

helene edwards said...

"Prominent Democratic lawmaker"? You mean like Harry Reid, or Barney Frank, or Henry Waxman? I should listen to them?

Black Death said...

The late James David Barber of Duke University's Political Science department developed a classification for presidential personalities:

James David Barber's

The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House.

Affect


Positive

Negative






Active







ADAPTIVE: self-confident; flexible; creates opportunities for action; enjoys the exercise of power, does not take himself too seriously; optimistic; emphasizes the "rational mastery" of his environment; power used as a means to achieve beneficial results.
Thomas Jefferson,
F. D. Roosevelt,
H. Truman,
J. F. Kennedy,
G. Ford,
G. W. Bush(?)

COMPULSIVE: power as a means to self-realization; expends great energy on tasks but derives little joy; preoccupied with whether he is failing or succeeding; low self-esteem; inclined to rigidity and pessimism; highly driven; problem managing aggression.

John Adams,
W. Wilson,
H. Hoover,
A. Lincoln,
L. B. Johnson,
R. Nixon,




Passive



COMPLIANT: seek to be loved; easily manipulated; low self-esteem is overcome by ingratiating personality; reacts rather than initiates; superficially optimistic.
James Madison,
W. H. Taft,
W. Harding,
R. Reagan,
Bill Clinton

WITHDRAWN: responds to a sense of duty; avoid power; low self-esteem compensated by service to others; responds rather than initiates; avoids conflict and uncertainty. emphasizes principles and procedures and an aversion to politicking.
George Washington,
C. Coolidge,
D. Eisenhower




James David Barber James Barber differentiates between four types of presidential character: active-positive; active-negative; passive-positive; and passive-negative. Before voters cast their ballots for president, they should know how active the candidate is and whether or not he or she truly enjoys political life. This allows voters to predict presidential performance before the candidate takes office.

http://academic.regis.edu/jriley/414%20presidential_character.htm

....

Where does Obama fall?

Anonymous said...

With due regard to the brains of the Payne family (Madeline Payne Dunham, his maternal grandmother; her brother, the asst. librarian referenced in the commentary here ...), it is the heritability of personality traits that is of greater concern: His putative father and his maternal grandfather both had pronounced tendencies toward con man dissembling--i.e., reality is whatever you can "sell" to your own advantage. The President's autobiographical excursions come off as the artistry of someone who is in contact with the strands but invents the weave out of his own needs and unconscious agendas.

Peter A said...

I think FDR did think he was the smartest guy in the room. You're right about Reagan and Washington though. Other Presidents who probably thought they were the smartest guys in the room - Jefferson, Wilson, John Adams and Nixon.

Mr. Anon said...

"......but that audience is an impersonal monolith; smaller group settings can be harder for him."

"One prominent Democratic lawmaker told me Obama’s problem is that he is not insecure — he always believes he is the smartest person in any room....."

Perhaps that is why Obama perfers solitude - it permits him to more easily indulge his meglomaniacal fantasy that he's the smartest person in the room.

Having to meet with Joe Biden probably helps out in that regard too.

Anonymous said...

"Not that he is low IQ maybe high average but he's spent his time being convinced he is brilliant. Or maybe he's just deluded."

I think all affirmative action admits to college must feel this way. How can you know where you stand intellectually if smart white people keep saying you're brilliant and how the SAT doesn't really measure intelligence.

syon said...

ANONYMOUS :"But George Washington really was one of the smartest guys in the room, and the rooms he was in often included Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, or James Madison.":

This is completely incorrect; Washington's intellect was very mediocre, especially in comparison to such brilliant figures as John Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, etc. Indeed, John Adams was quite withering in his assessment of Washington, asserting that he was elevated to the presidency, like Saul to the kingship in ancient Israel, on account of his imposing stature alone.

Anonymous said...

"Wasn't Hitler awkward in one-on-one conversation but brilliant in front of large crowds, too?""

No. I'm reading Erich Manstein's memoirs ("Lost Victories") now. He says Hitler was quite adroit at spotting the weaknesses and motivations of individuals in small gatherings and exploiting them. And Manstein was a pretty impressive guy and nobody's fool.

The Obama intellect is a puzzle to me. His claim to brilliance rests mostly on his HLS years and high grades there. But by actual evidence I don't think he measures up to anywhere near where the credentials would put him. John Roberts and Scalia were also editors of the HLR, and I don't think anyone would put Obama in anything like the same league as those two. He also had OK but mediocre undergraduate years.

Anonymous said...

"Indeed, John Adams was quite withering in his assessment of Washington, asserting that he was elevated to the presidency, like Saul to the kingship in ancient Israel, on account of his imposing stature alone.
"

John Adams is Envy's red-headed stepchild.

Anonymous said...

"John Adams was quite withering in his assessment of Washington. . ."

That doesn't prove much. Members of the Adams clan were seldom effervescent with praise for anyone or anything.

ricpic said...

If the economy turns around, though, he could come back strong in 2012.

Leaving aside those who are utterly repelled by him and the wookie, whatever connection he might have made with apolitical types no longer exists. Awfully hard to pull the lever for four more years of an unlikable unrelatable to type.

Anonymous said...

To me that phrase about him believing to always be the smartest guy in the room simply indicates that he's full of himself. Lots of black guys are. I bet that someone like Larry Summers (one of the actual contenders for the title of the smartest guy in many of the rooms in question here) would be far less self-satisfied.

Anonymous said...

He's not really from anywhere, he's from everywhere. So wherever he is, he sees the natives as stupid provincials. Its the "worldy-vacationer" effect that the well-travelled build up as they have compared and critiqued endless cultures, but never had to come up with a working-one of their own.

Miles

Anonymous said...

It's only years later that some of the truth comes out. With Obama it'll be shown that there was less to him than met the eye. He's just a hot air gasbag who spends his time looking in the mirror.

none of the above said...

I suspect Obama's big problem is more mundane--he has never been in charge of a really large organization before. Several levels down from president, you can no longer realistically be the smartest guy in the room on the specific subjects that are needed, because there are too many of them, and you're too busy being the boss to keep up.

The guys who brief Obama are themselves a couple or three steps up the chain from the current experts on, say, counterterrorism, what's going on in China, the tax code, energy policy, cybersecurity, regulation of mines and oil wells, etc.

Anonymous said...

Is Obama smart? And the comments section descends to Stormfront in 3,2,1.....

syon said...

ANONYMOUS:"That doesn't prove much. Members of the Adams clan were seldom effervescent with praise for anyone or anything.

ANONYMOUS:"John Adams is Envy's red-headed stepchild."

Although it is quite true that Adams was seldom full of praise for anybody, his disparaging remarks were usually grounded in reality. Hence, in regards to Hamilton, Adams did not disparage his first rate intellect. such an insult would have been laughed off as utterly baseless.Instead, Adams chose to insult Hamilton's sexuality, commenting that Hamilton was possessed of "a superabundance of secretions which he could not find whores enough to draw off." Similarly, in regards to Washington, Adams concentrated his attack on the one area (the mind) where he surpassed him.

Incidentally, since you seem so certain of Washington's intellectual superiority to Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson,etc., why don't you supply some evidence?Please suggest a product of Washington's mind that can compare with THE FEDERALIST PAPERS, Franklin's work on electrical theory, Franklin's AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Jefferson's architectural work (Monticello, the Virginia capitol building,etc), Jefferson's NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, Adams' brilliant letters, ....

Anonymous said...

off topic but

Steve should do a statistical breakdown of Jeopardy winners by race and sex. Off the top of my head I don't recall ever seeing a woman win an episode and I know I have never seen a black constestant

Anonymous said...

One recalls the old German military adages:

If a man is stupid and lazy, he is of no use.

If a man is stupid but diligent, he is fit to be a line officer.

If a man is bright but lazy, he is fit to be a staff officer.

If he is bright and diligent, beware of him.

Many successful politicians fit the staff-officer profile. Louis XIV was said to have been well suited to have been a lieutenant-colonel, had he not been a king. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter, who actually held a naval commission, was a perfect line officer. He devoted himself to such minutiae as scheduling access to the White House tennis courts, just as a sea captain might devote himself to seeing the decks properly holy-stoned, the ropes neatly flemished, all in shipshape and Bristol order. On the other hand he counselled against "inordinate fear of communism" on the eve of a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (the destabilizing effects of which are still felt), and he failed signally to defend our ally the shah of Persia, haranguing him instead about human rights - which has resulted in the far worse regime of Ahmadinejad, and a nuclear threat to boot. The man should never have been afforded more than the command of a sloop.

I suspect that Obama is a staff-officer personality, adjusting for affirmative action. In other words, he is in the "talented tenth" of the black race, bright-normal and no more, and hardly a subaltern before being vaulted to supreme command. He has been flattered all along for abilities he scarcely possessed - packaged and sold by 'handlers' at every step as the new young idea. Of course there is disappointment and 'buyer's remorse'. How could there not be?

Steve Sailer said...

I lost to a woman on Jeopardy in 1994.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
"John Roberts and Scalia were also editors of the HLR, and I don't think anyone would put Obama in anything like the same league as those two."

Correction (which actually supports the author's point): Obama was the PRESIDENT of the HLR, not editor. I believe the HLR presidency is a popularity contest with no real responsibility, whereas the position of editor carries intellectual prestige and responsibility for the HLR product. I don't think there is any record of Obama publishing anything worthwhile at Harvard.

BamaResident said...

"Steve should do a statistical breakdown of Jeopardy winners by race and sex. Off the top of my head I don't recall ever seeing a woman win an episode and I know I have never seen a black constestant."

I watched jeopardy pretty regularly in high school and women won about 1/4 of the time it seemed.

MQ said...

I bet that someone like Larry Summers (one of the actual contenders for the title of the smartest guy in many of the rooms in question here) would be far less self-satisfied.

I assure you, Larry Summers is extremely self-satisfied. Much more so than any elected official like Obama who actually has to convince regular people to vote for him (which requires you to be pretty good at concealing any belief you have they are idiots). It was actually a huge issue when he first served in DC under Clinton and was less politically savvy, now he's learned to moderate it but he's still known as very arrogant.

Simon in London said...

anon:
"Is Obama smart? And the comments section descends to Stormfront in 3,2,1....."

Well he seems smarter than several recent Presidents, certainly including George W Bush. But that's not saying much.

I'd like to know more about the Harvard Law 'magna cum laude' thing, what is it actually based on - blind graded exams? Coursework?

Clearly Obama is well above the average American IQ; his parents were academic types, though not first rate. But as President he's not amongst average people.

Anonymous said...

"Indeed, John Adams was quite withering in his assessment of Washington, asserting that he was elevated to the presidency, like Saul to the kingship in ancient Israel, on account of his imposing stature alone."

On the other hand, John Adams was a petty and anti-social paranoiac, so his assessment of other more successful politicians should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

TGGP said...

"I knew Biden had to be good for something."
I was about to say that's one of your great one-liners but it occurs to me that a decade from nobody will remember him from Dan Quayle. Might as well enjoy the jokes when they're topical.

Steve was on both Jeopardy and Kids Say the Darndest Things? That's nearly as good as John Derbyshire being an uncredited thug in a Bruce Lee movie.

Robert said...

Nixon probably was the smartest guy in the room, certainly the smartest President in living memory. Paul Gottfried and Russell Kirk - no slouches they - have written in praise of Nixon's intellect as well as his capacity for hard work.

Mencius Moldbug said...

Anyone amused, horrified, etc, by the comparison of Barack Obama to John Adams, will enjoy the last volume of Adams letters. Start at the end and read backwards.

And Adams, the American Burke, a titan unequalled in the Constitutional period, as a young man gets his intellectual butt thoroughly laid waste by http://books.google.com/books?id=slw9AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=novanglus+and+massachusettensis&source=bl&ots=aLZF1o3hGq&sig=gZwbiyPBzlPvsl8yHfnXK-ofT9Y&hl=en&ei=n4W-TO_VKpC-sQOk_PGiDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false - his ex-friend Daniel Leonard. Conclusion: all things decline and men with them.

Mencius Moldbug said...

And FDR? Jesus, man. FDR had a third-rate intellect and a sociopathic temperament. Next we'll be hearing that Stalin loved dogs...

Svigor said...

I also take issue with the notion implied by Ms. Jarret that boredom is necessarily a function of the high intellect Obama possesses. My observation is the dumber you are, the more easily and more often you are bored.

My addition to that observation (that I share), is that stuff that engages more average people, bores more intelligent people.

So yes, IME intelligent people are less prone to boredom than average people, because they can more easily cook up ways to amuse themselves; they're more rewarded by investigation into the world since they can figure more of it out.

On the other hand, assign an intelligent person a less challenging task and he can be surprisingly likely to #*@! it up because it can't engage him the way it engages an average person. It's okay in the short term, but long term they get bored.

Yes, I find it consistent with higher IQ if someone's easily bored with mundane assignments, and yes, I find it inconsistent with higher IQ if someone's easily bored in general; the latter tend to be more extroverted, "needy" types who, left to their own devices, are easily bored.

Anonymous said...

The actual German military dictum is supposed to be more along the lines of:

dumb + diligent: Get rid of
dumb + lazy: Regular officer
smart + diligent: Staff officer
smart + lazy: Commander

The dumb and diligent will do the wrong thing, and because they're diligent they will do the wrong thing very thoroughly. Staff work requires a lot of diligence to make sure all those logistics actually show up when and where they're needed, and the planning requires smarts. The smart and lazy know what needs to be done and seek the simplest and most direct way to do it, and then rely on the staff officers and unit commanders for execution without micromanagement.

The saying is variously attributed to Moltke or Rommel.

Obama would certainly fall into the 'lazy' category. I get the impression he's somewhat bright, but very derivative as a thinker; he mostly spouts lefty cant.

It's a real mystery to me why he'd be so mediocre as a prep school and undergrad student, but suddenly get great grades at HLS and write a well-regarded book. I can see the book writing getting help from a ghost, but the HLS grades are harder to explain given his history. Why that one sudden anomalous period in his life? He seems to have avoided real intellectual engagement after that period in HLS as well--he skipped clerking, and according to Lott and others he was not very well regarded for his intellectual capacity at Chicago. That's a rarified environment, but he's supposed to be up to that.

So his record is: mediocre in a good prep school, mediocre-to-good standardized test scores, (I'm assuming if he got into Occidental, even as an AA admit), mediocre undergrad in which he is pretty much anonymous at Columbia, three years where he suddenly got fantastic grades in a difficult environment at HLS, writes a book that is well regarded as a literary work, and becomes a politician.

It is very strange.

Paul Mendez said...

On the other hand, assign an intelligent person a less challenging task and he can be surprisingly likely to #*@! it up because it can't engage him the way it engages an average person. It's okay in the short term, but long term they get bored.

In my experience, an intelligent person is likely to take a mundane task and turn it into something more interesting.

David said...

>But George Washington really was one of the smartest guys in the room, and the rooms he was in often included Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, or James Madison.<

Among the Founders, the scuttlebutt on Washington was that he had extraordinary integrity and loyalty but was not terribly bright.

David said...

Svigor hit the nail on the head re. boredom and intellect.

Anonymous said...

--"I believe the HLR presidency is a popularity contest with no real responsibility, whereas the position of editor carries intellectual prestige and responsibility for the HLR product. I don't think there is any record of Obama publishing anything worthwhile at Harvard."---

If you believe that, then there is a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you. Look, there is no way you can be HLR president from "affirmative action" or "popularity". I know those of you without any legal training would like to think so, but it is simply not possible. The students and faculty are completely aware of what this position means and are not fools.

Look at what Professor Lawrence Tribe said about him:

“the most impressive and talented of the thousands of students I have been privileged to teach in nearly 40 years on the Harvard faculty.”

OK, do you really think Tribe is going to say that about an average law student that he elevated in his mind just because he was black.

Yes, it has been blind grading (most classes) since 1987, I think.

Kylie said...

Svigor said..."So yes, IME intelligent people are less prone to boredom than average people, because they can more easily cook up ways to amuse themselves; they're more rewarded by investigation into the world since they can figure more of it out.

On the other hand, assign an intelligent person a less challenging task and he can be surprisingly likely to #*@! it up because it can't engage him the way it engages an average person."

Yes, both extremes are true. An intelligent person will often be bored when confronted by the simplistic things that engage an unintelligent person. And an unintelligent person will often be bored when confronted with the complex things that engage an intelligent person.

But left to their own devices, intelligent people can something that engages their interest whereas the less intelligent when left to their own devices, are more apt to be bored.

I find Jarrett's remark, "He knows exactly how smart he is.... He's been bored to death his whole life. He's just too talented to do what ordinary people do" revealing of both her and Obama. Obviously she meant it as a compliment to him, that he is too above the ordinary to engage with it or be engaged by it. But it really comes across as a version of Leona Helmsley's remark "Only the little people pay taxes". You know, only ordinary people are not bored all their lives the way he is.

Then of course, when you consider that from an early age, Obama had a range of experiences that really mark him as privileged: traveling to various countries, going first to a private school and then to Ivy League schools. With all that travel and education from Hawaii to Harvard and he's been bored all his life?

I really feel like responding to her comment with, "Yes, he knows exactly how smart he is. He knows just how far being black would take him and he rode that all the way to the White House. Muddling through on merit is for ordinary people, melanin with a dash of merit works much better. He's been bored because those around him told him that every step he took was a giant leap for mankind--but they only did so 99% of the time. The other 1% they actually found something else to talk about. How boring."

Anonymous said...

I don't know about Adams but Washington was definitely smarter than Jefferson. Jefferson for all his genius died broke. He racked up so much debt that Montecello had to be sold. His daugher was forced to live on charity. Washington died rich.

Anonymous said...

OK, do you really think Tribe is going to say that about an average law student that he elevated in his mind just because he was black.

Uh, this is a joke - right?

[BTW, note that questions end with these here thingamabobs, "?", called "question marks".]

PS: If anyone here really cares [i.e. is ready and willing to believe this bullshit], then try reading the Chicago Law Exams - they're simply execrable.

Anonymous said...

So his record is: mediocre in a good prep school, mediocre-to-good standardized test scores, (I'm assuming if he got into Occidental, even as an AA admit), mediocre undergrad in which he is pretty much anonymous at Columbia, three years where he suddenly got fantastic grades in a difficult environment at HLS, writes a book that is well regarded as a literary work, and becomes a politician.

The book was written by Bill Ayers [and that's been confirmed beyond even a shadow of a doubt].

The grades at Harvard just go to show that an Ivy League edumakashun is now essentially worthless [especially if you're a quota admission and the professors are terrified to give you the grades that you actually deserve].

Which is not to say that an Ivy League sheepskin is worthless [obviously it opens a lot of doors] - it's just that the sheepskin [especially in the humanities and the social "sciences"] no longer guarantees any actual learning or intellectual accomplishment.

It's more like an emblem - a "Louis Vuitton" or a "Gianni Versace".

Kylie said...

Just for the record, I'm not saying and never have thought that Obama is not bright. I'm sure he's bright. I just don't think he's as bright as I suspect he thinks he is.

ben t said...

For someone with as mediocre an intellect as Obama to think he's the smartest guy in any room is a huge indictment. Did he think like that at Harvard?

It propbably just means that he spends a lot of time with Michelle.

ben tillman said...

Wasn't Hitler awkward in one-on-one conversation but brilliant in front of large crowds, too?

Steve didn't say anything about one-on-one situations. He spoke of "smaller groups", which is something vastly different.

ben tillman said...

The guy is pretty damn smart, Steve, you have to admit that. You don't graduate magna cum laude (top 10%) from grade-blind Harvard Law if you are not smart.

None of us has any reason to believe there is a "grade-blind" Harvard Law School.

Allison said...

Actually, I'm sure he's quite bright.

And bright is nothing. Brilliant is nothing, too, unless you've learned how to have discipline, work hard, and realize that you don't know much, no matter how brilliant.

Most brilliant kids that go off to Caltech or MIT or Cal Engineering promptly get their backsides kicked around--because not once in their lives did they ever have to work or think to solve a problem before. Some only learn this lesson in their first real job, where they are about to be fired for blowing off deadlines, refusing to work with people dumber (and yet more diligent than they are), etc. In any case, learning to actually do work and have discipline is more important than mental horsepower.

In any case, learning that brains doesn't make you good at something is a necessary condition to you ever acting like an adult.

Obama has never had anyone anywhere make him work hard at anything. Written up as talented, raised up for his intellect and skin color, no one challenged him. He hasn't run anything, not even as large as a dairy queen. He can't hold down a job because of the tedium of working with those other idiots around.

And it's too late now.

ben tillman said...

If you believe that, then there is a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you. Look, there is no way you can be HLR president from "affirmative action" or "popularity". I know those of you without any legal training would like to think so, but it is simply not possible. The students and faculty are completely aware of what this position means and are not fools.

Non sequitur.

Look at what Professor Lawrence Tribe said about him:

“the most impressive and talented of the thousands of students I have been privileged to teach in nearly 40 years on the Harvard faculty.”

OK, do you really think Tribe is going to say that about an average law student that he elevated in his mind just because he was black.


Not just because he was "black", but because he was a mulatto who had been chosen for promotion.

Yes, it has been blind grading (most classes) since 1987, I think.


You're lying. Harvard has claimed to have blind grading for some time, but you have no way of knowing that it does, and everything that we know about the world suggests that the "blind grading" process can be corrupted or circumvented.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know about Adams but Washington was definitely smarter than Jefferson. Jefferson for all his genius died broke. He racked up so much debt that Montecello had to be sold. His daugher was forced to live on charity. Washington died rich."

Jefferson was a brilliant intellectual but he wasn't good with money, a not-uncommon combination.

MQ said...

The book was written by Bill Ayers [and that's been confirmed beyond even a shadow of a doubt].

Are you kidding? Not only hasn't it been confirmed, there's basically no evidence for it beyond a circle-jerk on various right-wing web sites.

The obsession with Obama and affirmative action on conservative web sites is extraordinary and speaks to some real psychological issues. Anyone with any familiarity with affirmative action knows that it's useful if you're a janitor trying to become a fireman, or a guy with Penn State type grades trying to get into UPenn, but it is not going to make you HLS editor, a Senator, or a President. Stuff at that level is always highly competitive. There is no secret conspiracy of liberals looking to give away the biggest prizes and plums of American life to stupid black people. The world doesn't work that way.

Truth said...

"There is no secret conspiracy of liberals looking to give away the biggest prizes and plums of American life to stupid black people. The world doesn't work that way."

I couldn't have written it any more accurately, or concisely.

HR Staff said...

Yes, I find it consistent with higher IQ if someone's easily bored with mundane assignments, and yes, I find it inconsistent with higher IQ if someone's easily bored in general; the latter tend to be more extroverted, "needy" types who, left to their own devices, are easily bored.

Svigor conflates intelligence with conscientiousness. They are two separate factors that are independent and both contributions to success in the real world.

Svigor should say that high-IQ, low-to-average conscientious individuals often fail at dumb tasks because they become bored, drift, reframe to solve a more interesting problem, etc.

High-IQ and high-conscientiousness individuals generally will succeed at both simple and complex tasks. The dumber or more route the task the more important conscientiousness becomes relative to IQ.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone aware of some videotaped
discussion or debate presvious to, say, 2003, in which BHO , as a participant, demonstrates his capacities--e.g., to follow arguments, catch inconsistencies, perceive ramifications, etc. ?? It is astounding how much of what "everyone knows" about the President, dissipates into question marks when carefully scrutinized.

Anonymous said...

You're lying. Harvard has claimed to have blind grading for some time, but you have no way of knowing that it does, and everything that we know about the world suggests that the "blind grading" process can be corrupted or circumvented.

I'm lying? Wow.MQ and Truth said it best.

Anonymous said...

Most brilliant kids that go off to Caltech or MIT or Cal Engineering promptly get their backsides kicked around

Any regular reader of this blog, and anyone who understands HBD knows that this is not true.

Almost said...

Most brilliant kids that go off to Caltech or MIT or Cal Engineering promptly get their backsides kicked around

Any regular reader of this blog, and anyone who understands HBD knows that this is not true.


Any graduate of Caltech, MIT or Cal Engineering, and anyone who understands the undeniable hierarchy of quantitative fields, knows that this is true. The natural distribution of talent predicted by HBD also predicts 97-99% of even these select will be humbled and/or have to work their tail off.

Of course you could be taking a narrower view of "brilliant" to mean not only the top fraction of a percent of college students qualified to attend these institutions but a tiny percentage of said fraction.

In this you're right, "Brilliant" is a grossly overused term. The more intelligent the person I meet, the less likely I am to likely to encounter such generic and unqualified praise like "brilliant".

C. Van Carter said...

"[affirmative action] is not going to make you HLS editor, a Senator, or a President. Stuff at that level is always highly competitive."

The HLR uses racial prefrences, when Obama was made editor the Harvard campus was embroiled in racial controversy.

Obama was elected to the Senate after defeating Alan Keyes.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Obama thinks he's the smartest guy in the room -unless he's a crypto quantitative genius, which I think is unlikely but not completely impossible (daddy was a credible econ grad student).

He may credibly think he's the smartest at the particular type of socially and street-useful intelligence that allows one to be elected president of HLR by fellow magna cum laude track HLS students.

I'm not sure it's a disadvantage to not be running scared all the time. He seems to me to have outstrategized both Bill Clinton and John McCain in 2008. The best example of his intelligence to me is his line on McCain regarding the debates during the economic meltdown- "I think a President should be able to handle more than one thing at the same time".

When looking for technocratic superiors to Obama, I'd like to see folks with more demonstrated quantitative aptness, and administrative experience (particularly in areas of macroeconomics and national security), but with similar levels of jurisprudential literacy.

Also, I think it's good for governance legitmacy for administrators to better resemble their administrated populations, IMO -but there's a tension between that and technocratic competence.

Still, the USA has an abundant of folks that both resemble the general population and are among the most competent people in the world, so that problem seems less relevant for a country that chose someone relatively unrepresentative to the general populations in a lot of ways.

In short, it's 2010. Future presidents should be demonstrably better at math.

Hopefully Anonymous

http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com

Anonymous said...

A possibly parsimonious explanation for the President's "introversion" just might be the not unreasonable conjecture that he is basically very homosexual. Again, what is known overtly about his contacts with females during his high school years in Hawaii and his undergrad years simply is far more frequently found among homosexual males than among heterosexuals. His lack of control (e.g., can't stop smoking, can't abide writing deadlines ) might well dictate the prudence of his having mostly a "distant" exposure socially.

Eric said...

Just ran across this & it seems at least semi-relevant: Former Obama classmate Jackie Fuchs (AKA former Runaways bassist Jackie Fox) on the similarities between Obama and Joan Jett.

Steve Sailer said...

That's funny. I was just talking to my wife about Joan Jett. I saw the Runaways in 1977.

Steve Sailer said...

Wow, thanks for the link to the Runaways' bassist's extended analogy between Joan Jett and Obama, whom the bassist later met at Harvard Law School.

I mean, I have a professional interest in Obama, but I've always been fascinated by Joan Jett. By the time I saw her in 1977 she had acquired a mesmerizing rock star persona, but she didn't actually have much to do in the band other than play rhythm guitar.