Barack Obama is the smartest man with the highest IQ ever to be elected to the presidency, historian Michael Beschloss told radio talk show host Don Imus in November of 2008.
"So what is his IQ?" Mr. Imus asked. Mr. Beschloss didn't know. He was just assuming.
Many shared that assumption. Adjectives frequently applied to Mr. Obama are "smart" (278 million hits on Google), "intelligent" (62 million) and "brilliant" (24 million).
There is little evidence to support it. Mr. Obama went to Harvard, but so did George W. Bush, who some liberals consider dumber than dirt. The president won't release his transcripts, so we can't judge by his grades. Mr. Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, but when he was selected, popularity mattered more than scholarship.
Mr. Obama joined an undistinguished law firm, where he tried no cases. So no help there.
Many cite the president's oratorical skills, but he often rambles when he speaks without a teleprompter. That's because his brain "is moving so fast that the mouth can't keep up," wrote Meghan Daum of the Los Angeles Times.
Columnist Joe Klein said Mr. Obama's first autobiography "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician." But Mr. Obama got help writing "Dreams from My Father" from "his friend and Hyde Park neighbor Bill Ayers," celebrity journalist Christopher Andersen claimed in his 2009 biography of Barack and Michelle.
"The book's language, oddly specific references, literary devices and themes would bear a jarring similarity to Ayers' own writing," Mr. Andersen wrote.
Biographer David Maraniss published this month his interview with Genevieve Cook, who dated Mr. Obama in New York, but bears little resemblance to the "New York girlfriend" described in "Dreams." That's because she is a composite, Mr. Obama said.
Yet Mr. Obama's description closely resembles radical Diana Oughton, who was Mr. Ayers girlfriend and who blew herself to smithereens in 1970 while building a bomb intended to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, according to the blogger "Bookworm."
Mr. Obama has said a lot of unsmart things: there are 57 states; Canada has a president; "Austrian" is a language; America is "20 centuries" old; Arabic is spoken in Afghanistan. He's called the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) the Maldives, and declared it would be "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to invalidate a law passed by Congress.
President Obama's stimulus bill didn't stimulate. His subsidies to "green" firms have produced neither the jobs nor the energy he promised. Unemployment on his watch peaked at 10 percent, one of the highest rates since the Great Depression. Deficits are out of control.
"The man who promised everything is delivering nothing," wrote Noemie Emery in the Weekly Standard. "Journalists who wept when he won the election now grind their teeth in despair. ... The gap between sizzle and steak never seemed so large."
Could it be that Mr. Obama's "superior intellect" is a myth created by journalists to mask what may be the thinnest resume of anyone ever elected president? An example of puffery is the description of Mr. Obama as a former "professor of constitutional law." Mr. Obama was a part time instructor at the University of Chicago law school, without the title or status of professor. And, according to blogger Doug Ross, he wasn't very popular with the real professors.
"I spent some time with the highest tenured faculty member at Chicago Law a few months back," Mr. Ross wrote in March 2010. "According to my professor friend, [Obama] had the lowest intellectual capacity in the building. ... The other professors hated him because he was lazy, unqualified,"
Mr. Obama's been governing like someone with a resume too thin for a president. He's "incompetent," an "amateur," former President Bill Clinton told Hillary Clinton at a private gathering with friends, according to a new book by Ed Klein. The Clintons have vehemently denied his account.
Even Ms. Daum noticed "the gulf between the brilliant young man who wanted to change the world and the stymied president who can barely pass a piece of legislation." Mr. Obama is just too smart to be a good president, she wrote.
Or not smart enough. "The presidency of Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does," said Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412 263-1476). First Published May 20, 2012 12:00 AM