The lead editorial in today's Times tries to somewhat delicately approach the subject of the president's mental prowess. It admits that even asking the question may seem "snooty and elitist," and posits that Ronald Reagan was a spectacuarly successful politician even while "a few jelly beans short of a jar" in the incipient stages of Alzheimer's. In making a case that it matters, the paper ties it back to Iraq:
Although neither group likes to say so, some Americans who support President Bush and many who don't support him have concluded over four years that he may not be very bright. This suspicion was not allayed by Bush's answers in the first presidential debate a week ago...
Actually, we would not frame the question as one of abstract brainpower, a dubious concept. You don't go through America's top schools, serve as governor of a major state and occupy the presidency with even mixed results if you're not reasonably smart, no matter how thoroughly your way is eased by others.
The issue might better be described as one of mental laziness.
Does this man think through his beliefs before they harden into unwavering principles? Is he open to countervailing evidence? Does he test his beliefs against new evidence and outside argument? Does his understanding of a subject go any deeper than the minimum amount needed for public display? Is he intellectually curious? Does he try to reconcile his beliefs on one subject with his beliefs on another?
It's bad if a president is incapable of the abstract thought necessary for these mental exercises. If he is capable and isn't even trying, that's worse. It becomes a question of character. When a president sends thousands of young Americans to kill and die halfway around the world, thinking about it as hard and as honestly as possible is the least he can do...
Does it matter? Yes, it matters... We state boldly that thinking hard is a good thing, not a bad thing, even in a president. If that sounds snooty, so be it.
The letters should be interesting.