Someday, when brain science has evolved further, specialists may be able to understand how someone like George Bush -- a man of wit and intelligence in private -- can be so unbelievably inarticulate in public. For now, it remains a mystery.
Those who dislike his policies have made a cottage industry of calling him stupid. But this reveals their own stupidity. Stupid men don't become fighter pilots, attend Harvard Business School or successfully declare and conduct a worldwide war against terrorism. They don't have the vision to understand that seeding democracy in the backwater that is the Middle East is the best long-run strategy for winning the war and ridding the world of the most dangerous threats to peace and order.
From all accounts, and even from my own very limited personal experience, it is clear that the president is quick and bright. And yet, he is also capable of an excruciating performance on "Meet the Press." Words are not this man's friend.
But this brings us to John Kerry, who has none of these problems -- but he does have others. It's a mystery to me how things have come this far -- Kerry is the all-but-certain nominee of the Democratic Party -- and yet we've heard very little about Kerry's real identity. The chat shows have featured speculation about whether Kerry's war hero status and George Bush's National Guard service will bear on the outcome in November in any way.
Now, before turning to Kerry's true identity, let me acknowledge that it would be nice if more prominent Republican leaders in this country had actually served in combat. One thinks of Sens. John McCain and Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Rep. Duke Cunningham (who was nominated for the Medal of Honor). There are others, but the pickings are slim.
Of course John Kerry deserves honor for his heroic service in Vietnam. But the credit he earned by serving is undercut by his completely dishonorable role in the antiwar movement when he returned home. It is that history -- as well as the 20-year record he amassed in the Senate as a dovish liberal -- that sheds the most illuminating light on the kind of president he would be.