Is Bush smarter than a fourth-grader?

Notes from the political sidelines.
May 17 2007 3:58 PM

Is Bush Smarter Than a Fourth-Grader?

Maybe he's failing on purpose, to help our young people make gains in civics and history.

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The sanctuary even has its own YouTube—the Elecam. Experts there believe that the best strategy to revive the ailing captive elephant population is to replace human contact with video teleconferencing. Apparently, the Romney campaign has adopted the same strategy.

Tonight, Republican candidates will gather to debate the GOP's future at the Reagan Library, the ultimate elephant sanctuary. The party is ailing, and the captives are restless. Don't be surprised if the field heeds the words of the Elephant Sanctuary Web site: "Our [elephants] are not required to perform or entertain for the public; instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants." Let Reagan be Reagan! ... 5:05 P.M. (link)

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Wonks in the Palfrey: Something caught my eye when ABC News reported that one of the next clients D.C. madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey will out is the head of a Washington think tank. Perhaps it's the dark secret I've spent years trying to conceal: I'm the head of a Washington think tank.

That's how it is on a dark night in a Think Tank Town that doesn't know how to keep its secrets. Thousands of my fellow propeller heads aren't worried that our names will turn up on Palfrey's list, because our idea of an escort service is the GPS system in our cars.

Palfrey told ABC that the client in question runs a conservative think tank. That takes most of us out of the running, but it begs the question: What does it mean to be a conservative in the sexual-fantasy business?

Until the Bush years, we think-tankers could only dream of being mired in scandal. In high school, nerds don't get sent to the principal's office unless they threaten to blow up the building. Washington is the same way: Wonks get the white papers; hacks get the indictments. Hacks routinely make the gossip pages; wonks can't even make Wonkette. TV crews film hacks taking out their garbage and emerging from federal courtrooms; wonks are the bald spots in the audience at seminars on C-SPAN.

Don't get me wrong—wonks have a rich fantasy life. Only a few go so far as Lynne Cheney, who penned steamy sex scenes as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The rest of our daydreams are more prosaic—like matching budget authority and outlays, or revising the definition of poverty, now hopelessly out of date. When we're feeling especially frisky, wonks close our eyes and imagine the Alternative Minimum Tax being fixed.

President Bush has no use for wonks, and hacks have grabbed the headlines in most Bush scandals. But the sheer volume of scandal in the Bush administration has made it possible for even a few eggheads to get a piece of the action. Paul Wolfowitz used to be a classic Washington academic—dean of a public-policy school and charter member of a neoconservative think tank. But at the World Bank, he has pulled off the rarest of feats—a wonk sex scandal, which is just as you'd expect: a dull morass of committee meetings, personnel classifications, and contracts.

When Claude Allen, Bush's domestic-policy adviser, was arrested last year for refund fraud, Jacob Weisberg wrote that no one should be surprised: "The more we hear about what Allen is accused of, the less it sounds like kleptomania and the more it sounds like an application of Bush economic policy."

Now that a doctrinaire deputy secretary of state, a discredited military theorist, and the head of a conservative think tank have made the madam's list, we shouldn't be shocked, either. The medium is the massage: Over the past six years, the Bush administration has turned conservatism into a booming fantasy business.

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