I like to write my own stuff, but this time there's no way I could do better than the L. A. Times did this morning:
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.
The smartest candidate is not necessarily the best candidate. The candidate's belief system and character matter more.
Actually, we would not frame the question as one of abstract brainpower, a dubious concept. 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. And maybe George W. Bush will reassure us by his performance Friday night that he is thinking as hard as he should about the issues the president will face in the next four years. Especially the issues resulting from his own failure to think hard during the last four.
That's the essence of their editorial, but you can read the whole thing (including mentions of Ronald Reagan) at Is he a Dope? [Los Angeles Time 10/07/2004]
Enjoy. (And the answer is "Yes," for those of you still wondering.)