Secretary of State Kerry Isn’t That Bright

I rather like John F. Kerry. He strikes me as a fairly cool guy. Personally, I’d rather drink a glass of fine French wine with Kerry than a non-alcoholic beer with George W. Bush.

For example, in the winter of 2004, when the media had derailed Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean with the Dean Scream Meme and Kerry’s path to the presidential nomination looked wide open, allegations of adultery suddenly popped up. But, within a day or two, the young lady of interest simply left the country on an extended trip overseas and the scandal vanished along with her.

But, let me point out, that there’s never been that much evidence that Kerry is smart enough to be a good Secretary of State. I recently reread Henry Kissinger’s huge volume of memoirs devoted just to the tumultuous years 1973-74. Now, whatever else you want to say about Nixon and Ford’s secretary of state, everybody was in agreement that Dr. K was smart enough for the job.

On the other hand, is John F. Kerry smart enough to hold all the pieces of the puzzle in his head and keep track of how each influences the other? And if he ever was, can he still do it now that he’s in his 70s? These kind of questions are almost never asked because Kerry is a Democrat, and Democrats, especially upper crust ones, are assumed by the media to have higher IQs than Republicans. (Not that IQ exists, of course, but if it does, everybody knows that Democrats have higher IQs.)

Actually, though, we have a lot of data on how well Kerry performed on various objective tests as a young man, and it’s in line with how well he performed as a presidential candidate in 2004: not bad, but nothing special. I spent a huge amount of time in 2004 researching the performance of Kerry and George W. Bush on the Officer Qualifying Tests they took in the 1960s while seniors at Yale to get into the Navy and Air Force Reserve, respectively.

From the New York Times:

Secret Weapon for Bush?

By JOHN TIERNEY

Published: October 24, 2004

To Bush-bashers, it may be the most infuriating revelation yet from the military records of the two presidential candidates: the young George W. Bush probably had a higher I.Q. than did the young John Kerry.

That, at least, is the conclusion of Steve Sailer, a conservative columnist at the Web magazine Vdare.com and a veteran student of presidential I.Q.’s. During the last presidential campaign Mr. Sailer estimated from Mr. Bush’s SAT score (1206) that his I.Q. was in the mid-120’s, about 10 points lower than Al Gore’s.

Mr. Kerry’s SAT score is not known, but now Mr. Sailer has done a comparison of the intelligence tests in the candidates’ military records. They are not formal I.Q. tests, but Mr. Sailer says they are similar enough to make reasonable extrapolations.

Mr. Bush’s score on the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test at age 22 again suggests that his I.Q was the mid-120’s, putting Mr. Bush in about the 95th percentile of the population, according to Mr. Sailer. Mr. Kerry’s I.Q. was about 120, in the 91st percentile, according to Mr. Sailer’s extrapolation of his score at age 22 on the Navy Officer Qualification Test.

Linda Gottfredson, an I.Q. expert at the University of Delaware, called it a creditable analysis said she was not surprised at the results or that so many people had assumed that Mr. Kerry was smarter. “People will often be misled into thinking someone is brighter if he says something complicated they can’t understand,” Professor Gottfredson said.

Many Americans still believe a report that began circulating on the Internet three years ago, and was quoted in “Doonesbury,” that Mr. Bush’s I.Q. was 91, the lowest of any modern American president. But that report from the non-existent Lovenstein Institute turned out to be a hoax.

Here’s my enormous 2004 VDARE.com article explaining the methodology.

Tom Brokaw asked Kerry about my study, as I recounted in The American Conservative:

For a moment, I thought Sen. John F. Kerry was the exception to the rule that all liberals are secretly obsessed—even though they tell each other they don’t believe in it—with IQ.

The Thursday before the election, Tom Brokaw interviewed Kerry on the “NBC Nightly News” and told him, “Someone has analyzed the president’s military aptitude tests and yours and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do.”

Kerry instantly dismissed this news with admirable nonchalance, “That’s great. More power.” …

When Kerry insouciantly replied to Brokaw as if he didn’t care what he scored on a 90-minute exam 38 years ago, as if he believed that all that he had accomplished since then was the proper measure of the man, I was impressed.

But then Kerry broke the spell by quibbling about my research, “I don’t know how they’ve done it, because my record is not public. So I don’t know where you’re getting that from.” Evidently, IQ mattered to Kerry, too.

A few days later, Brokaw went on Don Imus’s radio show and revealed just how much it bugged Kerry that I had said Bush probably had a slightly higher IQ. After the cameras had stopped rolling, Kerry had rationalized to Brokaw, “I must have been drinking the night before I took that military aptitude test.”

Kerry’s performance in naval officer training programs was good but not exceptional:

During the 3.5 month-long Officer Candidate School, Kerry outperformed his test score, finishing 80th out of his class of 563.

I found two other class ranks for Kerry. In a ten-week class on damage-control, Kerry ranked 17th out of 33. In a three-week Command and Control course, he ranked 7th of 22.

Then, the year after the election, Michael Kranish broke this story in the Boston Globe:

During last year’s presidential campaign, John F. Kerry was the candidate often portrayed as intellectual and complex, while George W. Bush was the populist who mangled his sentences.

But newly released records show that Bush and Kerry had a virtually identical grade average at Yale University four decades ago.

In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.

Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D’s in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years.

This shouldn’t have come as a surprise after Kerry’s dreary performance running for President. Like Romney in 2012, he won the first presidential debate due to an awful performance by the incumbent but then couldn’t deliver a knockout in the next two. And Kerry’s speeches …

As Chris Suellentrop of Slate wrote in “Kerry vs. His Script: Why can’t the man read a simple speech? Declaring war on declarative sentences,” the candidate repeatedly insisted on padding out the well-written speeches his staff gave him with meaningless improvisations:

The campaign gives reporters the text of each of Kerry’s speeches “as prepared for delivery,” apparently to show how much Kerry diverges from them…

Kerry proves incapable of reading simple declarative sentences. He inserts dependent clauses and prepositional phrases until every sentence is a watery mess. Kerry couldn’t read a Dick and Jane book to schoolchildren without transforming its sentences into complex run-ons worthy of David Foster Wallace.

Kerry’s speechwriters routinely insert the line “We can bring back that mighty dream,” near the conclusion of his speeches, presumably as an echo of Ted Kennedy’s Shrum-penned “the dream will never die” speech from the 1980 Democratic convention. Kerry saps the line of its power. Here’s his version from Monday’s speech in Tampa: “We can bring back the mighty dream of this country, that’s what’s at stake in these next two weeks.”…

Kerry flubs his punch lines, sprinkles in irrelevant anecdotes, and talks himself into holes that he has trouble improvising his way out of. He steps on his applause lines by uttering them prematurely, and then when they roll up on his TelePrompTer later, he’s forced to pirouette and throat-clear until he figures out how not to repeat himself. He piles adjective upon adjective until it’s like listening to a speech delivered by Roget.

Kerry’s health-care speech Monday in Tampa was a classic of the form. The written text contained a little more than 2,500 words. By the time he was finished, Kerry had spoken nearly 5,300 words—not including his introductory remarks and thank-yous to local politicians—more than doubling the verbiage.

Last year, Kerry flubbed up badly regarding chemical weapons in Syria, but the Russian foreign ministry bailed him out by turning his scoffing words into a constructive solution. But the international situation has turned more perilous since then, and the country needs a first-rate Secretary of State.