Barack Obama was the smartest president of my lifetime



The declaration in the headline above is intended mainly to start an argument. After all, the term “smart,” like the term “effective,” can have different meanings in a political context, and we can disagree about such matters.

Pundit David Corn put it this way a few years ago:

Whenever I ponder the relationship between political success and smarts, I recall an interview I conducted with a particular George W. Bush supporter at a Wisconsin campaign rally shortly before the 2000 election. At that event, Bush had produced what seemed a record crop of weird and mangled statements, including this classic: “Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.” Once the event was done, I asked this enthusiastic Bush-backer — a middle-aged woman — if she thought there was an intelligence gap between Bush and Al Gore. She conceded that Gore had more upstairs than Bush, but she quickly added, “Being smart isn’t everything.”

Obviously, conventional intelligence is not the key ingredient for a successful politician or president. After all, Reagan and Bush II enacted key aspects of their agendas — for good or bad — and won re-election. Maybe the question is, not which presidents are smarter, but whether it matters?

Still, it can be said that some presidents generally have been smarter than others regardless of their effectiveness as politicians.

In her wonderful book “Team of Rivals,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin convincingly made the case that the uneducated Abraham Lincoln proved to be far smarter than the intellectual luminaries who surrounded him during his presidency.

Donald Trump, our current president, loves to tell us how smart he is, but it usually rings hollow. If much of what you say contradicts your claims to smartness, you’re only a poseur. Truly smart people never fake it. They know their limits.

There have been 13 presidents in my lifetime, which began in World War II. The least-educated of them, in a formal sense, was Harry Truman. But he was a voracious reader, and he now ranks among the smartest presidents we ever had.

Richard Nixon had a pretty good education, but he wasn’t smart enough to avoid a stupid scandal that brought about his resignation in disgrace.

Barack Obama’s academic credentials — including degrees from two Ivy League universities — were among the best of any of our presidents, and he turned out to be smart enough to achieve a generally good record in two terms despite daunting odds against him. As the nation’s first black president, he had to overcome lingering racism among much of the populace. And he inherited from George W. Bush the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Obama’s administration was virtually scandal-free, and his approval rating in retirement is the highest since Ronald Reagan. Of course, he probably benefits in that regard from his immediate successor’s notoriously bad start in the White House.







  1. Neftali

    Obviously Pat never bothered to actually research academic credentials before writing this post. Here’s the details:

    Barack Obama – Columbia University (BA)
    Harvard University (JD)

    George W. Bush – Yale University (BA)
    Harvard University (MBA)

    Bill Clinton – Georgetown University (BS)
    University College, Oxford
    Yale University (JD)

    Richard Nixon – Whittier College (BA) (Turned down a grant to go to Harvard to help take care of his sick brother)
    Duke University (JD) – President of Duke Bar Association Order of the Coif – 3rd in his class

    JFK – Harvard University (BA) – Cum Laude
    – Briefly enrolled in Stanford Graduate school of business before becoming a decorated military officer

    If you are just counting degrees, I’d call it a draw between Obama, W., and Clinton.

  2. Steverino

    It takes a real intellect to sit there in a classroom reading My Pet Goat after learning America is under attack.

    • Neftali

      He learned an airplane hit WTC. A singular one. Anything could have been the cause….rouge pilot, equipment failure, etc. Some stations were thinking it was a small plane at the time with only a couple of passengers. Most people including the President, didn’t think it was the worst case scenario when it happened.

      It’s always so easy to play Captain Hindsight.

  3. Wilson

    Turn 1 million into what? Wikipedia: “His net worth was estimated to be $3.5 billion as of 2017”
    I guess he is an idiot to have the intelligence to amass a fortune and then run and win the Presidency then take all this BS.
    We needed an “honest” leader that wasn’t rich until he or she left office.

  4. Steverino

    Carter was an Annapolis grad with a background in engineering and physics.

  5. Steverino

    Bush was informed by Andrew Card that a second plane hit the second tower and that America was under attack. He did not respond for several minutes. He also claimed to have seen the first plane hit on TV prior to entering the classroom which is strange since the actual video was not televised for several hours.

  6. Robert Hazz Geaunads

    “Barack Obama was the smartest president of my lifetime

    Youre such a brown noser, literally.

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