High praise for one head of state from another:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose closeness to U.S. President George W. Bush earned him praise from Washington and derision at home, says he thinks the American leader’s lightweight image is “complete bull.”

In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Blair said the image was not only “complete bull” but “total nonsense.”

He added in the interview with contributing editor David Margolick, “I was about to say, ‘He’s not someone who will philosophize,’ but actually that’s not true, because he does. But ‘directness’ is the best way I can describe it. He has a very, very direct way of stating exactly what he feels about a situation.”

Blair added about Bush, “He is highly intelligent, and it’s not clotted by so many nuances that the meaning is obscured. The good thing about (Bush) is that once he does really think that an issue has to be tackled he has big reserves of courage for doing it, and he won’t really be diverted.”

“I trust him, and that is extremely important at our level of politics,” Blair, a chief Bush ally in the Iraq war, said.

The British prime minister defended being both friends with Bush and his predecessor, Bill Clinton, saying, “They’re very different people, but so what? We all have different friends.”

It is remarkable that Blair seems to have such strong relationships with Clinton and Bush. Clinton is certainly more intellectual than Bush and is likely possessed of a genius level IQ; but he is a moral vegetable. Bush has above-average intellect and scruples. I certainly prefer the latter combo.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jen says:

    Wait a minute…you think Clinton may have a genius IQ? IQ is more than just a measurement of book smarts, it’s also a test of common sense. I think that is an area where Clinton is lacking enough to skew an IQ test away from genius levels.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

  2. James Joyner says:

    IQ is pretty much just a measure of cognitive reasoning skills, which Clinton has in great abundance. Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar (only 20 or so are chosen annually) and graduated 5th in his class at Yale Law. He’s fairly bright. And he has uncanny political instincts.

    I think Clinton has terrific common sense–he lacks judgment and a moral compass.

  3. Gail says:

    Pardon me, but is the quantity of Rhodes Scholars a proof of intelligence? I’m not being combative – I have heard that the selection is also based on being correctly pedigreed in ones’ political, shall we say, alignment? I have not found the opinions of the university elite to be grounds for me to change laundry detergent, let alone decide on the mental capacities of the leader of my nation.
    How does anyone judge intelligence in someone with whom they have no intimate knowledge? Many seem to agree that Pres. Bush is not as intelligent as Mr. Clinton. I would just like to see some evidence besides grades in (long ago) university. Using quarter words when nickel ones will do has never impressed me. Especially when the quarter words often mean nothing or are intended to create confusion. Nonetheless, I am willing to be convinced.

  4. jen says:

    Judgement is part of common sense in my opinion. Since Clinton is lacking sound judgement then he’s lacking some common sense.

    And what Gail said too. I’ve never been too impressed about the fact that anyone is a Rhodes Scholar or in Mensa or had a 4.0 GPA.

    I’ve used this example before, I’ll use it again: my father is a genius, he scored 1560 on the SATs, he’s been invited to join Mensa (he rejected that offer), and yet he barely graduated from college (University of Virginia). Why? Because he had a little too much fun with his fraternity brothers and he married while still a student. So he wasn’t focused on his studies as he should have been. But that doesn’t mean he got dumb, he just didn’t apply himself.

    I believe the same probably holds true of GWBush with his C average in college. So, while he is a plain speaker, and sometimes a horrible speaker, it doesn’t mean he’s not smart. And the opposite is true – just because Clinton uses loftier language doesn’t mean he’s smarter.

    Sorry for the rant – it’s a hot button of mine. =)

  5. James Joyner says:

    I think we’re engaged in a semantic debate here. My point is simply that Clinton has a very high IQ, which is beyond dispute–it’s a measurable phenomenon rather than a matter of opinion–and that he is more of an intellectual than Bush, which no one has yet challenged.

    Now, does having a very high IQ mean that you’ll be successful if you don’t apply yourself? No. (Although, by most standards, getting elected President at 46 is doing okay.) Does it mean you’re a jolly fine human being? No. Clinton clearly isn’t.

    But the context of the argument is the “Bush is dumb” thing which both the Blair quote I provide and the commentary that accompanies it dismisses.

  6. jen says:

    You’re right, it is semantics. And it is a hot button for me – the difference between intellectual and intelligent. I get a little testy about it. 😉