PAPER CUTS: Presidential Aptitude Test
Take out your No.2 pencils, open your blue books, and begin writing NOW.Complete the following sentence. George W. Bush is running for President of the United States because:a. Poppy told him to.b. He came up with a nifty slogan, even if it is an oxymoron.c. The job comes with a swell white house with a pool and a private jet.d. He isn't qualified for any other job.e. All of the above.Years ago, Harvard President James Bryant Conant envisioned the possibility of a new American meritocracy, based on innate ability, rather than hereditary privilege. Working together with Henry Chauncey, head of the Educational Testing Service, they devised the Scholastic Aptitude Test, as a means of quantifying both intrinsic intelligence and future potential. And the SAT proved a success, at least until expensive tutoring courses came along.It's too bad that no one has come up with a similar method of measuring an individual's capacity to serve as President of the United States. A test that would effectively weed out hopelessly dimwitted legacies and those feverishly cramming for the job, from the genuinely qualified.Examine with me, if you will, the unbearable lightness of being George W. Bush. With the slimmest record of accomplishment of any man ever to seek the presidency of the United States, Governor Bush has aroused an understandable curiosity about his suitability to assume higher office. Except for Republican lobbyists and former family friends out of work for the past eight years, what most Americans see on George W.'s curriculum vitae is a history of ascension through a shrewd combination of family money and paternal influence.A brief perusal of the candidate's record of scholastic achievement shows that were it not for his fortunate position as the legacy of a graduate of the Yale class of 1948, his SAT scores of 560 Verbal and 640 Math would barely have qualified him for admission to the College of the Ozarks.During his halcyon days within Yale's ivy covered walls, George the younger distinguished himself mainly for his participation on the Davenport College tackle football, baseball, and basketball teams and his membership in Delta Kappa Epsilon, winners of the college beer drinking championship in perpetuity.Unlike his contemporaries, Bill Clinton and Bill Bradley, George W.'s cumulative grade point average of 77, including an unpromising 71 in Political Science, disqualified him for consideration as a Rhodes Scholar, or indeed, most other positions of note in the real world. In fact, until a friend fortuitously offered him the opportunity to serve as gladhander for the Texas Rangers, George W.'s main accomplishment was his remarkable ability to perform reverse alchemy, an uncanny tendency to turn oil wells to dust, and gold into base metals.So unless Americans are ready to elect another guy who can't spell potato, it might be useful to consider why we make it easier to become president of the United States than to be accepted into college, get a driver's license, or qualify for a home improvement loan. Shouldn't there be some more reliable measuring stick than fundraising ability to ascertain if a man or woman has the ability to lead the country?Governor Bush recently failed a pop quiz on the governments of global hot spots, posed to him by Boston political reporter Andy Hiller.You might well ask what difference this makes. Does it really matter whether or not a presidential candidate knows the names of the leaders of Pakistan or Indonesia, or for that matter the organizational chart of the Talibans in Afghanistan? Isn't that what foreign policy advisors are for?Not so fast. Foreign policy advisors, like economic analysts, ambassadors, HEW and HUD administrators, and the rest of the gaggle of D.C. supernumeraries, are appointed to their positions, often by virtue of their generosity during the campaign. In selecting a president, the implicit assumption is that we trust him to choose competent subordinates. If he doesn't know anything about their fields of expertise, how can he judge their work? When the buck stops at the desk of a guy who does not even know its value, it is unlikely his constituency will be well served.Mindful of the lapses in his resume, Governor Bush has undertaken a crash course in being presidential, something akin to the Stanley Kaplan prep courses for the SAT. This is a remarkably efficacious way of utilizing short term memory to review previous test questions, and regurgitate the correct responses. Under the tutelage of a crack team of former Bush factotums like Secretary of State George Schulz, Richard Armitrage and Condoleezza Rice, the kid appears to be shaping up nicely, and should do just fine, provided he's allowed to bring a crib sheet to all future summits attended by foreign dignitaries with those pesky forgettable names.