Primary

“West Wing” vs. Reality: Bush Dumb, Gore Bright?

President George W. Bush — despite his post-Sept. 11 performance — remains dumb, says “West Wing” producer Aaron Sorkin.

Bush’s stratospheric popularity, claims Sorkin, results from our collective refusal to admit Bush’s stupidity: “That illusion (of a fully-engaged Bush) may be what we need right now, but the truth is we’re simply pretending to believe that Bush exhibited unspeakable courage at the World Series by throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, or that he, by God, showed those terrorists by going to Salt Lake City and jumbling the first line of the Olympic opening ceremony. The media is waving pompoms, and the entire country is being polite.”

Why, then, did “brainy” Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore lose to his obvious intellectual inferior? Sorkin offers this analysis: Gore, reluctant to demonstrate his superior intelligence, pulled his punches against Bush. In an upcoming “West Wing” episode, Sorkin intends to pit his fictional smart Democratic President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen (who once called Bush a “moron”), versus a less-than-bright Republican candidate. Sorkin explains, “Bartlet is going to be running against Governor Robert Ritchie, of Florida, who’s not the sharpest tool in the box but who’s raised a lot of money and is very popular with the Republican Party. … It was frustrating watching Gore try so hard not to appear smart in the debates — why not just say, ‘Here’s my f—ing resume, what do you got?'”

In this fictitious Gore vs. Bush II contest, President Bartlet’s communications director, often portrayed as the White House’s conscience, psychoanalyzes the boss and offers the following advice: “You don’t want to lose as the smartest kid in class who’s running against an everyman. But I’m telling you, be the smartest kid in your class. Be the reason why your father hated you. Make this an election about smart and stupid, about engaged and not, qualified and not.”

Gore, according to Sorkin, possesses an impressive f—ing resume, but what about Gore’s f—ing academic performance and his f—ing grades?

First, prep school. Although Gore received a SAT math score of 730, a former St. Alban’s teacher called his performance in physics “terrible.” What about chemistry? The former professor said, “He didn’t do too well in chemistry.”

After his graduation from St. Alban’s High School, Gore entered Harvard. “In his sophomore year at Harvard,” according to The Washington Post, ” Gore’s grades were lower than any semester recorded on Bush’s transcript from Yale (emphasis added).” Gore, later the author of the environmental call-to-arms book “Earth in the Balance,” received a D in a Harvard science course. The Post described Gore’s sophomore year: “(That was) the year Gore’s classmates remember him spending a notable amount of time in the Dunster House basement lounge shooting pool, watching television, eating hamburgers and occasionally smoking marijuana.”

On to graduate school. In 1971, Gore enrolled in Vanderbilt Divinity School. The Washington Times says, “It is said that Mr. Gore failed to hand in his book report on time. Thus, his incomplete grade turned into an F, one of five Fs Mr. Gore received at divinity school, which may well be a worldwide record.” He later dropped out.

Gore then enrolled in law school, but also failed to finish. The Boston Globe said, “Nor did Gore graduate from Vanderbilt Law School, where he enrolled for a brief time and received his fair share of Cs.”

Not only did Bush academically outperform the “intellectually superior” Gore, Bush scored a higher verbal SAT score than Rhodes scholar and former Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley, with Bush scoring 566 to Bradley’s 485. True, Gore scored a higher verbal SAT at 625, but the “smart, engaged, and qualified” former vice president scored only 59 points higher than the allegedly intellectually deficient Bush.

Stupidity, it appears, flows from the ideological eye of the beholder. Reporters constantly asked the late JFK Jr. when he intended to run for president. The Kennedy glow never dimmed even when he flunked the New York bar twice before finally passing it. Recently in Los Angeles, leftist candidate Antonio Villaraigosa ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Los Angeles. Villaraigosa took and flunked the California bar four times, never passing it. Yet because of Villaraigosa’s ethnicity, his opponents — fearing a charge of racism — refused to raise the issue.

Don’t misunderstand. Time magazine named Albert Einstein “Person of the Century,” and President Bush will not demand a recount. But Al Gore, while performing well on standardized tests, and reportedly possessing a high IQ, nevertheless underwhelmed academically. If Gore possesses more brain power than Bush, what’s more impressive? A Gore-like bright kid who refuses to apply himself, or the less-than-brilliant kid who gets the job done?

Maybe President Bartlet can sort that one out for us.