April 17, 2008

McCain's reported IQ

UPDATE: If you are interested in learning the IQs and SAT scores of recent Presidents and candidates (and who isn't), I discuss them on pp. 127-130 of my new book, America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's Story of Race and Inheritance, which you can read online here:


Now back to my specific posting on John McCain:

When John McCain was released by the North Vietnamese in 1973, he began to participate in a series of psychiatric and medical exams by U.S. doctors, the American Ex-Prisoners of War study, that went on for two decades. In late 1999, he let several news organizations paw through a big stack of his records from this project (with some parts redacted, which apparently referred to his first marriage).

Does anybody know if these (and other military) records of McCain's are online anywhere? The news reports from 1999 make it sound like he just let some of his (favorite?) reporters read through them to summarize, rather than release them to the public.

In 2004, John Kerry posted a whole bunch of his military papers online, from which I was able to figure out how his performance on his military officer aptitude test compared to George W. Bush's on a similar test: a little lower (just as Kerry's GPA at Yale was revealed, after the election, to be slightly lower than Bush's GPA at Yale). Kerry's documents were scanned images of papers, so they weren't Googleable. I didn't find out about Kerry's documents until the fall of 2004, so I imagine it's unlikely that McCain has posted much yet.

The military shrinks gave McCain good marks for mental stability. The main bad-sounding thing that anybody published (other than one embarrassing medical condition) is that he has a "histrionic pattern of personality adjustment" (i.e., he's a big drama queen), but probably anybody who wants to campaign for President is kind of like that.

They tested his IQ twice. I can only find the second (and presumably higher) result. Time wrote in 1999:

Included in the records is a 1984 IQ test. His score, 133, would rank him among the most intelligent Presidents in history.

How exactly Time would know that 133 "would rank him among the most intelligent Presidents in history" is not explained. The only known tested IQ is JFK's (which was in the 115-120 range at prep school). I'd long heard that Nixon scored 143; when I tried to verify it a couple of years ago, I found lots of webpages saying that Nixon's IQ was 143, but all their supporting links pointed to a 1999 article by ... me. And I've forgotten where I got that figure. (I would guess I got it from the late historian Jim Chapin, who would certainly be a reliable source, but I don't know for sure where I got it.)

UPDATE: The ever-helpful James Fulford of VDARE.com tracks down the Nixon 143 figure to a 1991 Fortune magazine article by my friend Dan Seligman:

"The IQs of those who rise to the top are hard to come by, mainly because most such folks are shy about their scores. Not shy was Spiro Agnew, who arranged a luncheon with the editors of Time after the magazine said he was unqualified to be President, and there made the point that his IQ was 130. Nixon biographer Roger Morris says RMN tested at 143 when he was in Fullerton High School in California. Kennedy biographer Thomas C. Reeves tells us JFK tested at 119 just before entering Choate Academy. That last figure looks low. Might there have been some kind of testing error? The ''standard error'' for the Otis test -- the one taken by both future Presidents -- was six IQ points. That means there are two chances out of three that the true IQ is within six points of the reported score. So maybe Jack really was entitled to 125. But then maybe Nixon was worth 149. The only gangster whose IQ we have come across is John Gotti, who weighed in at 110 when tested at Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, an institution in which he did not linger overlong."

All these reports on McCain sound pretty good, but there aren't any records from other POWs to compare them to in order to tell whether the POWs' examining doctors were playing it straight or were accentuating the positive.

Also, IQs are adjusted for age, so a 100 is the average for your age group, with the highest raw scores being attained as a young adult and then a long downward drift that often accelerates past 65 or 70.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

It's shocking just how stupid presidents are.

My IQ tested at 134 and I don't consider myself intelligent enough to want to have me as president!

Anonymous said...

What's Obama's IQ? You can find it out, or you're not gonna tell us because it might be higher and we might want to vote for him? ;)

Unknown said...

Hey Steve: I think 143 was actually Nixon's bowling average



Anonymous said...

I never thought he seemed as stupid as his academic performance indicated. In fact, I never got the feeling he was stupid. He does seem to be lazy, even worse than Bush on a lot of issues. He just follows consensus and figures it must be right, such as on global warming, campaign finance, etc. There isn't much depth or nuance in his answers, ever. Look at the morgage issue, how many times has he changed his opinion on that? That's indicative that he hasn't thought much about it and is being buffeted around by his advisors.

Anonymous said...

Whenever you are tempted to think that a politician and his circle may be passably intelligent, just remember that it was just over 200 years ago that the principal polititcal advisers to the two main party leaders in Britain were David Hume and Edmund Burke.

Anonymous said...

Is 133 really all that high? That number is pretty interesting because it's the same number I got on one of the two IQ tests I took (the other was 142). 133 is just over 2 SDs above average and would mean that 2.3% of the population is smarter than you. Not bad, but not outstanding, either. Becoming president, of course, requires more than just a high IQ.

Anonymous said...

I really have nothing against McCain. But I doubt that his Effective Intelligence would compare to, say, James Madison or Hamilton (granted, Hamilton was never President).

Also, I would be really curious to know the IQ of Coolidge.

Anonymous said...

The press likes to portray Republicans as dumb and Democrats as smart (with the exception of Nixon, an "evil genius"). What are they going to do this time, especially if Obama is the nominee and somebody digs up an old IQ test showing that he gives away 25 points in that department to McCain?

Having an engaging manner, and an ability to turn a phrase is not necessarily indicative of superior intelligence. Does anyone think Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are a couple of rocket scientists? Charles Manson has an IQ that is average or just slightly above, but he has an unusally sohpisticated vocabulary for a guy with so little education, and look what he did with that and a modicum of personal magnetism.

mnjohn said...

If John McCain scored a 133 on an iq test that would make him mensa level and should probably invalidate the whole idea that you can measure a "g". Remember that George Bush scored what would be a combined 1280 on today's SAT's but can scarcely string together a sentence. Plus I remember Steve blogging about the NFL's wonderlic tests at one point. If you google these you'll notice some black collegiate quarterbacks who also scored at mensa level which according to him is much more unlikely than whites due to the standard deviation difference. Or it could be that they just studied for some dopey test and excelled at it which isn't to hard to do no matter what you're "iq" is. Any comments rebutting me would be great, thanks.

Unknown said...

Given that Dad and Granddad were admirals (Old Dad was even CINCPAC!),the IQ score is not that surprising. General Schwartzkopf supposedly tested at around 160. However, given how poorly he finished in his class at the Academy (which measures total performance), McCain must have some real personality issues. Certainly, there are times when he seems not to "play well with others".

FDR was once characterized as having ''a first-rate temperament'' (forget the brains, I surmise - Keynes once left the Oval Office thinking that FDR was ''an idiot''). McCain would likely come in at third-rate.

Dutch Boy said...

If his IQ is really 133, then his low Naval Academy standing could be a result of intellectual laziness (a trait ascribed to Dubya by Mr. Sailer). Alas, the academy also counts demerits in calculating class standing and one suspects that Midshipman McCain got plenty.

Anonymous said...

very well. but a more interesting question is to figure out age related declines in IQ. How much does it matter that McCain is 71 rather than 51. How many points of IQ difference is there in his reasoning ability?

Anonymous said...

InSane McCain has always struck me as a blithering idiot---I would be extremely suspicious of such a score, esp. since it seems to conflict with ALL other real world data.

Has anyone ever heard him say anything remotely insightful or intelligent? Has he ever done well in school? Had an original thought, as evidenced by writings? Shown curiosity in anything aside from infantile pursuits (killing, getting laid, etc.).

W.J. Clinton, Nixon and Carter WERE bright. Crappy defectives as leaders, but bright. And JFK was much brighter than test scores would indicate---he prolly had what we now call ADHD. McCain, on the other hand, strikes one as verging on retardation by comparison; no brighter than many of the illegal aliens whose crimes he loves to aid and abet.

Anonymous said...

I would be surprised if Obama had >120 IQ. People and especially liberals overvalue common language skills when looking at IQ.

Given his tone deafness in recent speeches, Barry has just enough verbal acumen to think that anything he says will be greeted with gasps of awe at his felicity with words. When he commits a gaffe he is graceless and awkward in recovering from it.

Anonymous said...

Anon of course dismisses McCain's great achievement. Anon would have broken in five minutes or less likely with McCain's torture. The man had and continues to have the respect of those he was held and tortured with. The people who were there, respected him.

It's an accomplishment moreover he could not "think his way out of." Once he was stuck in the Hanoi Hilton he could only endure.

I don't like McCain's policies, consider him a RINO, but I respect what he did. No one should ever underestimate someone, particularly those you dislike.

Temperament is likely more important than IQ, "high IQ" (regarded as such) Presidents such as Carter or Nixon or JFK tended to keep their own counsel, with disastrous results, and even worse, appointed weak and ineffective Cabinet officers and others, refused to referee disputes with the result that bureaucracy rolled them (see GWB).

You can see this with Carter. He had a weak team, which could not respond to the challenges of Khomeni-Iran, OPEC, the USSR. A President's most important quality is NOT IQ.

Sorry Steve.

It's his ability to appoint and manage his team. The size and scope of the Federal Government means we are not searching for Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson or even Abe Lincoln. But Jack Welch.

[McCain's supporters will cite his turn-around of the Florida squadron which post-Vietnam had mostly grounded planes. That's fairly thin but better than Clinton or Obama.]

Unknown said...

McCain graduated near the bottom of Annapolis because he acculumulated loads of conduct demerits. Whatever else, he sounds like he was lots of fun. (I think his med records also say he had herpes, or something.)

133 is pretty bright. But that histrionic business doesn't sound too good.

An anecdote from a book written about his class at Annapolis, the name of which I forgot, says something revealing. To mentally withstand solitary at the Hanoi Hilton, guys would do characteristic things. Admiral Stockdale would solve differential equations in his head. McCain would replay entire scenes from favorite movies.

Histrionic, anyone?

Anonymous said...

"I would be surprised if Obama had 120 IQ."

Law school grades are incredibly correlated with IQ. It's nothing like grades in college classes. It would be incredibly difficult for someone with a 120 IQ to be Magna at HLS as Obama was.

Don't have the numbers for Obama's class, but Harvard has always been an elite law school. The most recent LSAT data reports a 25th/75th percentile split of 169-175. A 169 is 97.55 and a 175 is 99.67. Those are percentiles of people who take the LSAT; ie, college graduates planning on going to law school. Law school grades are strictly curved and based on hihgly g-loaded blindly graded "issue spotting" exams. I really cannot emphasize enough how different this is from simply getting As as a political science undergrad.

Obama was in the top quarter of his class at ruthlessly competitive Harvard Law School. It's impossible to argue he's not very bright. He's not just eloquent or charismatic.

""I can't pretend that I had any idea then that he would be a serious presidential candidate -- that would have been a crazy thing for anyone to project at that stage of a career -- but he was certainly the most all-around impressive student I had seen in decades," said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar at Harvard for whom Obama served as a research assistant.

Obama analyzed and integrated Einstein's theory of relativity, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as well as the concept of curved space as an alternative to gravity, for a Law Review article that Tribe wrote titled, "The Curvature of Constitutional Space.""

While I found that particular Tribe article kind of silly (though it should be noted that Tribe has a background in mathematics), he is arguably the leading figure in constiutional law and his opinion shouldn't be taken lightly.

"On this occasion, he had an important topic to discuss: the controversy over President George W. Bush's warrantless surveillance of international telephone calls between Americans and suspected terrorists. I had written a short essay suggesting that the surveillance might be lawful. Before taking a public position, Obama wanted to talk the problem through.

In the space of about 20 minutes, he and I investigated the legal details. He asked me to explore all sorts of issues: the President's power as commander-in-chief, the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force and more.

Obama wanted to consider the best possible defence of what Bush had done. To every argument I made, he listened and offered a counter-argument. After the issue had been exhausted, Obama said that he thought the programme was illegal, but now had a better understanding of both sides. He thanked me for my time.

This was a pretty amazing conversation, not only because of Obama's mastery of the legal details, but also because many prominent Democratic leaders had already blasted the Bush initiative as blatantly illegal. He did not want to take a public position until he had listened to, and explored, what might be said on the other side.

This is the Barack Obama I have known for nearly 15 years -- a careful and even-handed analyst of law and policy, unusually attentive to multiple points of view."

That's Cass Sunstein, a leading law professor at Chicago.

Whatever you think of Obama, he hasn't fooled the major thinkers in his field for years and years with charm and charisma. He's a legitimate intellectual.

Anonymous said...


Regardless of how I would fare, InSane McCain WAS broken, and did collaborate with his jailers, hence his good treatment.

They called him The Canary for a reason. He sang. Well, and often.

Anonymous said...

IQ matters and there is probably a point were a low IQ really hurts you (and certain professions do require a certain minimum), but I have found the people that tend to have power/run things in the world, while generally not idiots, have a host of other chracteristics, i.e., decision making skills, charisma, drive, political savvy, focus, where they started out at the beginging of the race, etc., that play a far bigger role. Being real smart is not a guarantee of competence,success or happiness in this life.
McCain would probably do as well as anyone else in the race and does not appear to be a de facto marxist, so I guess he gets my vote. If I were Vietnam, though, I would be a little bit nervous. Payback can be a bitch.

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing from someone with firsthand knowledge that Nixon was an extraordinarily smart man. And every bit as odd as his reputation indicates. Wearing the suit on the beach said it all.

Jefferson almost certainly had the broadest intellect. Garfield was supposed to have been very learned and could write Greek with one hand while writing Latin with the other. Herbert Hoover, at least prior to the Depression, was an extremely gifted administrator (see John Barry's "Rising Tide" for his handling of aid after the Great Flood of 1927 - puts our handling of Katrina to shame).

Truth said...

That was pre-alzheimers.

Anonymous said...

Obama analyzed and integrated Einstein's theory of relativity, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as well as the concept of curved space as an alternative to gravity, for a Law Review article that Tribe wrote titled, "The Curvature of Constitutional Space.

Well, maybe I'm just cynical, but I'm a little skeptical of this sort of thing. Has Saint Barack also won two or three Nobels?

Look, Obama took all the usual standardized tests---PSAT, SAT, LSAT---which are completely objective. He also attended Hawaii's most elite prep school, so he wasn't "culturally deprived." I'd put more faith in his test scores than former professors explaining how he combined Heisenberg and Einstein to produce a theory of "legal quantum gravity".

A negative indicator is that he went to Occidental while e.g. his wife Michelle attended Princeton. I'd guess that on average, Princeton students are 1-2 SD brighter than Occi students. (Though maybe there's some special personal reason he attended Occi, as discussed in his book, which I personally haven't read).

AmericanGoy said...

"but all their supporting links pointed to a 1999 article by ... me."


Steve, thank you, thank you, thank you for this.

Off to clean up the soda from the table.

Anonymous said...

the LSAT percentile for blacks the year Obama was admitted was around 85, far lower than average.

Still that could give Obama 125-135, if he was above the black average for example. On the other hand he was an ambitious guy, so his grades might overestimate IQ.

His first college was not a top one, right? Despite affirmitive action? Dig up his SAT:s Steve, if anyone can do it its you.

Anonymous said...

133 is in the upper 2%. 132 qualifies you for mensa. Each additional point is an exponentially lower percentage of the total poplation. I scored 138 at my best sitting in a controlled environment back in the 70s, and I was informed that that put me in the upper 1%. I don't know what scored in grade school, but it was pretty high yet my grades weren't great.
Concerning JFK's IQ--I scored 119 in a controlled high school IQ test, and 138 six years later, also in a controlled setting. Probably high school, especially if someone is unhappy or unhealthy, would be about the worst time to take an IQ test.

Anonymous said...

Well, a few things to think about

Quarterbacks are selected for intelligence. Black of white, they're still selected for IQ.

Obviously teams will accept the fastest guys in college where they can run by the second-rate defensive players, but they still go for IQ (by proxy) when they have the choice. Any bets on the ancestry of most of these high-IQ black QBs? In a somewhat related story, this year's men's NCAA basketball tournament featured a ton of best-players-on-the-team who were clearly mixed race.

High IQ/g is useless in most things if you don't have practice to develop the skill, and public speaking is a learned skill.

You might have noticed that Bush, as a speaker now, and while not a genius, is far beyond his abilities in 2000. He simply didn't have reason to learn how to be an orator with that spoon shoved so far up his ass. Also, 1280 isn't that high, and combined with other IQ indicators suggests that he's just a lazy student with a lot of potential he never reached for. And he also never read books.

Kind of like McCain.

Obama probably has a slightly higher IQ than McCain, assuming this 133 is correct. Obama is definitely better read, and more in touch with many issues. IQ doesn't dictate policy, though, and Obama's got a lot of bad ones semi-hidden in his bag.

I'm still voting for a natural disaster in November. This would be a good time to start the presidential election process over again.

Anonymous said...

Those numbers would have been McCain's IQ when he was younger. People stay sharp up until the age of 65, but after 70 folks really slow down. Past 80, a significant number of people have some dementia.

I think McCain is pretty sharp overall. I doubt he cares that much about the nitty gritty of policy, but one could say the same about Ronald Reagan. That said, he should avoid discussing details like Shiite vs. Sunni in Iraq, if he doesn't know the specifics himself.

I think Barack Obama is pretty smart, and I wouldn't doubt if his IQ was 130+. But you'll find people that smart working in a typical hospital or walking around an Ivy League campus. It's not a genius IQ. That said though, he's not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, or has been led to believe by reading his own hype in the press. His grasp of policy specifics isn't that much better than McCain's. He's shot himself in the foot multiple times over the past week trying to philosophize - incorrectly - about desperate small town hicks in the Appalachian region amongst whom his campaign can get no traction. His campaign actually worked better with the meaningless "Hope brings change, change brings hope" speeches.

Anonymous said...

Well, the average physician is 126.
And we do know some presidential IQ's:
LBJ's was 136.
Carter's was 140, I believe.
GWB's is 136 too, but he is also dyslexic, and they do poorly on the mostly written tests, so his 'native' intelligence is a lot higher. Don't 'misunderestimate' him!

Anonymous said...

McCain has stated that he doesn't know a lot about economics. I give credit to anyone who is halfway smart in his position who willingly admits he doesn't know everything.

Better than Obama's perfect inside knowledge of white, working class Pennsylvanians, or Hillary's incredible knowledge of health care policy.

As the saying goes its not what you don't know that can hurt you. It what you do know that ain't so that's so damaging.

Anonymous said...

"dearieme said...

Whenever you are tempted to think that a politician and his circle may be passably intelligent, just remember that it was just over 200 years ago that the principal polititcal advisers to the two main party leaders in Britain were David Hume and Edmund Burke."
Quite so. And Isaac Newton was a member of parliament.

"Hans Gruber said...

I never thought he seemed as stupid as his academic performance indicated. In fact, I never got the feeling he was stupid."

Hey, that'd make a great campaign slogan: "John McCain....not as stupid as you'd think."

"testing99 said...

A President's most important quality is NOT IQ."

At long last, something we can agree upon, testing99. Temperment and overall common sense are more important, and those are not necessarily correlated with raw intelligence, at least above some threshold IQ level. I have met people who were very smart, and who were quite good scientists, and to whom I would never entrust decisions that affect my life.

Anonymous said...

"Concerned said...

To mentally withstand solitary at the Hanoi Hilton, guys would do characteristic things. McCain would replay entire scenes from favorite movies."

Did "The Caine Mutiny" happen to be one of his favorites?

"It was the strawberries.....I proved it to them with facts, and wi' wi' with logic."

Anonymous said...

Re: Obama's IQ

He probably is bright (IQ 130+). Because of his race, his admission to Columbia and Harvard don't mean that much. Also, his acceptance onto the Harvard Law Review doesn't mean that much because they also have affirmative action for appointements (though it does mean he was better than most of the other blacks at HLS). Likewise, his appointmant as editor of HLR is an elective position and doesn't speak all that much to his intellect. However, his finishing in the top 25% of his law school class does indicate intelligence because these exams are generally blind marked and very g loaded.

However, it would be interesting to see what classes he took at HLS. First year curriculum is set in law school and there isn't any wiggle room. In later years there is a lot of choice. If one takes seminar courses, one's grade is generally determined by a reasearch paper and not an exam. These papers are not blind graded, so there is the oppurtunity for professors to fudge grades. At the law school I attended (not quite as auspicious as Harvard, but ranked in the top tier - I scored in the top 2% in the LSAT and was a national merit scholarship competition finalist, FWIT), many of the black students took critical race theory seminars and other such nonsense and I'm fairly certain that they were awarded rather generous grades to help up their otherwise miserable averages on blind-graded large lecture courses. (I also noted that the moot court competition championship every year (which is obviously not decided anonymously) seemed to be reserved for a black student, even though when watching the finals it was patently clear that they were not in the same league as their white or asian opponents.) I also knew some white students who didn't test all that well on exams and elected to take as many seminar courses (which tended to deal with pet topics of the left such as race, gender, human rights, etc.) as possible in the last two years to up their GPAs because semiar courses were ususally graded fairly generously. It would be interesting to see if St. Barrack's grades were in "real" courses or whether he padded his grades by opining on "race and inheritance" in non-anonymously marked seminar courses.

Anonymous said...

Anon, McCain by all accounts did not sing, did not get special treatment, in fact refused it. He still has the respect of people who were held with him. What does that tell you? People could hear him screaming while being tortured. He still bears the brunt of it, physically.

I don't like the man, but I can respect that part of him. It's also his big weakness, he's always looking for the us-against-them mentality. Looking for righteousness. It's why he picks fights where he can be the hero. It's not a nice character trait.

He is also savvy, politically. He called for a Summer Gas Tax Holiday, something neither Obama nor Hillary can match. Why? Because they are tax cut averse. It's brilliant. Certainly McCain has had more exposure to various kinds of people and has been close (in the Hanoi Hilton) to people who were of various backgrounds. More than Obama can say.

Obama was Magna Cum Laude? How much of that was influenced by his race and Harvard's desire to have a top Black student?

Anonymous said...

You write:
"McCain by all accounts did not sing, did not get special treatment, in fact refused it. He still has the respect of people who were held with him. What does that tell you? People could hear him screaming while being tortured. He still bears the brunt of it, physically."

And you're wrong. McCain WAS broken. He DID receive special favors. He DID violate his oath, and his injuries were the result of his crash and poor medical care (itself a favor), NOT torture.

One of *many* articles on this:


I have all the respect in the world for InSane McCain's ability to endure physical suffering without offing himself, but I certainly have far more respect for people who (ahem) endure chemo or recover from serious car crashes than fools who **Encounter Karma** while flying planes and dropping bombs on civilians---fools like InSane McCain, that is.

Anonymous said...

"It's shocking just how stupid presidents are."

"My IQ tested at 134 and I don't consider myself intelligent enough to want to have me as president!"

You sound young. In the real world you find folks with significantly higher-IQs tend to be ill-suited to fields like politics. Go to a Mensa meeting sometime and try to imagine one of the members running a large corporation or running for governor of your state. Or consider Steve's pal Greg Cochran. Can you imagine Cochran campaigning successfully for elective office?

Another point:

- I doubt McCain's age has any impact on his intelligence. Warren Buffett is in his 70s and his Vice-Chairman at Berkshire, Charlie Munger, is in his 80s (Munger is sort of the Greg Cochran of investing). No one who has heard them speak or knows of their investing prowess would question their intelligence. The bigger problem with McCain's decision making isn't his intelligence, but his sense of self-righteousness, and his tendency to characterize everything as a moral issue. That can lead to a lot of stupid economic decisions, but the good news is that he doesn't care much about economics, so hopefully a President McCain can be convinced to delegate economic policy to someone competent.

- Fred

Anonymous said...

"Obama was Magna Cum Laude? How much of that was influenced by his race and Harvard's desire to have a top Black student?"

It's extremely unlikely he was able to massage mediocrity into Magna. As was mentioned, early grades are based on blindly graded exams that test ability more than knowledge. It's logically possible Obama put a ton of work into finding easy seminar classes in later semesters to boost his GPA, but it doesn't strike me as likely. Obama was already a star and already on law review -- getting Magna meant little to him at that point. Obama is also the only law student I've ever heard of who turned down a certain Supreme Court clerkship, so while I think being President of HLR meant something to him I don't think he chased honors for their own sake.

And here's no evidence he was mediocre. Someone here was unimpressed that the leading con law scholar in the country considered him an exceptional research assistant. I'm sorry, but that's a little different than a high school English's teacher's warm memories. Similarly, Cass Sunstein considering Obama his peer as a legal thinker cannot be taken lightly.

Some people here seem to think that there's math/physics and then everything else that lacks intellecetual rigor and objective standards. But the legal world brutally and maniacally sorts people by analytical ability. It's impossible to bamboozle the Univeristy of Chicago faculty (in this regard). Elite law professors pounce on intellectual weakness with frightening quickness and perspicacity.

Obama has a first rate mind.

Anonymous said...

I have come around to the view that GWB is not nearly as stupid as usually said. Like Obama, GWB is someone who has distanced himself from the surroundings he was raised in. His background is New England elite. His down home Texan style is something he sought out for himself. I think he did it out a genuine Reagan-era admiration for the values of the American heartland.

On hindsight we can say he was scheming to adopt a false persona to fool the American people. I don't think so. Going in, I bet GWB was saying "to hell with the East Coast elite" for some reason or another. My guess is that it was based on moral convictions. Look at whom he married.

Obama also is a smart guy. He is in rarified air, more than Bush Jr. However, the scary thing is that he seems to have some kind of vision, but he isn't sharing it. There really is something about that "Messiah" thing. Question is, which/whose "promised land" is he looking to bring us Americans to?

Anonymous said...

Obama has a fantastic mind, he's extremely smart. You just have to read his books to see that. The second book deals more with policy.

He called for a Summer Gas Tax Holiday, something neither Obama nor Hillary can match. Why? Because they are tax cut averse. It's brilliant.

Ummm, it will have almost no effect on gas prices and will boost oil company profits by a lot. Really brilliant.

Unknown said...


FWIW, I think Obama's very bright, and would have gotten into Harvard w/o being black.


Color me skeptical about Obama's analysis and integration of "Einstein's theory of relativity, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as well as the concept of curved space as an alternative to gravity."

No one has integrated the two theories. They are antithetical! Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is the bedrock of quantum theory which is antithetical to relativity. This is what physicists have been trying to reconcile for the past 60 years. Anyone who "integrates" the two should immediately be awarded the Nobel Prize for physics.

Can you supply the "analysis and integration"?

Anonymous said...

"Obama has a first rate mind."

Udolpho low balled Obama considerably suggesting his IQ was below 120. But first rate? Why hasn't he released his test scores? Why did he never write a single student note or law review article? What sort of moron refuses a Supreme Court clerkship (unless he's worried he's not up to snuff)? He's holding all that wonderful intellectual firepower back?

It is obvious that Obama has rhetorical gifts, especially in print. But that doesn't mean he's a "first class mind" capable of original or especially rigorous scholarship. I think Obama is smart enough to be president. I think he's smarter than McCain. I think he would have made a good lawyer or perhaps even a great one. But first rate mind? That just assumes far more than the record tells us. A lot of people are confusing verbal ability and fluency (certainly a subset of intelligence) with IQ in general.

Dutch Boy said...

Obama is an enemy. The smarter your enemy, the worse for you!

Anonymous said...

Brian Leiter ranks law professors by citations.

"These listings are drawn from the same data we collected in July 2007 about citations to faculty since the year 2000 that were incorporated into the Ranking of Law Schools by Scholarly Impact released on September 1, 2007. In several cases (Bartlett, Bibas, and Horwitz) we attempted to correct for the fact that these scholars are frequently cited with different spellings of their names (that had not been corrected for in the Scholarly Impact study, but also would not have affected the overall results). We also had to conduct new searches for highly-cited faculty in some areas who do not teach at schools included in the original study. Otherwise, all results are taken directly from the July 2007 data.

In each specialty, we list the “ten most cited” faculty, or the “twenty most cited” in the event that the area is quite large. This is, quite plainly, not an exhaustive list of legal specialties. I have concentrated on those that are well-defined or especially important/prominent, and sometimes both."

Constiutional law is certainly one the most competitive/prestigious areas in the field.

Since this is a large category—including not only constitutional law and theory, but also legislation, statutory interpretation, voting rights, and administrative law, among other public law fields—we list the twenty most-cited scholars.

1. Cass Sunstein (University of Chicago): 6180 citations, age 53

2. Laurence Tribe (Harvard University): 3520 citations, age 66"

The two most cited con law scholars alive are impressed with more than Obama's 'verbal fluency.' I'm not sure what more you want. Obama didn't pursue an academic career and I'm not saying he would have been as prolific or influential as some of his colleagues at Chicago if he had decided to focus on research. But Sunstein certainly seems to consider him an intellectual peer. You can always demand more evidence, but the reasonable interpretation of the information available is that Obama is brilliant.

Anonymous said...

...but the reasonable interpretation of the information available is that Obama is brilliant.

Look, this is just a joke, right?

Because in *my* world, when prominent legal scholars like Sunstein and Tribe start praising to the skies some rising politician who has a shot at eventually becoming president it's called "I really, really want a Supreme Court appointment---please, please!".

This sort of ridiculous flattery is pretty common in political-groupie circles. For example, remember all those books a few years ago---including by Woodward---which praised Bush as the greatest and most brilliant American president since Churchill Himself. And there are books in North Korea claiming that Kim-the-Great can transform sand into rice and walk on water.

It's called "lying".

Since test scores are objective and Obama took the tests when he got into third-rank Occidental College and long before he became Saint Obama the Triple Nobel Laureate, I'd tend to trust them more.

Anonymous said...

"It's logically possible Obama put a ton of work into finding easy seminar classes in later semesters to boost his GPA, but it doesn't strike me as likely."

Why would he necessarily "put a ton of work into finding easy seminar classes." Perhaps he just naturally gravitated to such courses because they tend to be about "race and inheritance" and other such leftwing topics that he seems so interesting in in his writings.

"The two most cited con law scholars alive are impressed with more than Obama's 'verbal fluency.' I'm not sure what more you want."

You know darn well that Posner is right when he says that in both practice and theory Con Law is more of a political than a scholarly or truly judicial exercise. It is mostly left leaning activist judges and professors making up rubbish to justify their political desires. Everytime I read something by Tribe his noxious disregard of the Constitution makes me ill. Is being frequently cited really an indication of excellence in Constitutional scholarship or drafting clever rationalizations of left wing political usurpations of legislative power by the judiciary?

I will always remember a conversation I had with a German Law Professor who did his LL.M. in the US (at a top 7 lawschool). In his constitutional law course he was quite confused by the fact that the professor never referred to the actual text of the Constitution, but instead constantly referred to Supreme Court cases that, to him, seemed to be created out of whole cloth with little or no reference to the meaning of the underlying text of the Constitution. Eventually, he plucked up the courage to raised his hand in class and asked the Prof. why they never looked at the Constitution and why the reasoning in decisions seemed to have little to do with the Constitution. The Prof. and the class burst into hysterics laughing and the Prof. said, "in Con Law the Constitution is irrelevant. Only the cases matter." And note that he was not joking, but serious. The German was flabergasted.

"Obama didn't pursue an academic career and I'm not saying he would have been as prolific or influential as some of his colleagues at Chicago if he had decided to focus on research. But Sunstein certainly seems to consider him an intellectual peer."

Is a liberal white Prof. going speak of the intellect of a great black hope in anything other than glowing terms? Even if he didn't agree with Obama's hard left positions (which he undoubtedly does), it is not a smart thing to do in an academic setting.

"You can always demand more evidence, but the reasonable interpretation of the information available is that Obama is brilliant."

I wouldn't go that far. He seems far more capable than the average black admittee, even for Harvard. Is he brighter than the average white or Asian at HLS? I don't know. It is quite possile. Is his IQ over 130? Probably. Is he smarter than McCain? Probably. Is he smarter than Hillary? Maybe. What proof do we need? Simple: his standardized test scores (SAT, LSAT, etc.). In any case, intelligence isn't his problem. He's certainly smart enough to be President. I'm much more concerned with his beliefs political goals (which he seems reluctant to share). It's interesting how recently he seems to lose his poise when asked hard or probing questions. Some of the off the cuff responses I've heard him give to questions where he didn't have a scripted answer were rather Bushian. I do not, however, think this reflects poorly on his intellect. After all, he knows what he believes, and he also knows that what he believes is still unacceptable to the average American, so he has to translate his answers into what he thinks those dumb, bitter, working class honkeys from the middle of the country want to hear before answering. He's bound to mess up once in a while!

Truth said...

I think it's quickly becoming time to change the name of this website.

I suggest:


Anonymous said...

Good thing truth is here to give us the absolute best hipshooting the leftists can muster. "Whiney" is absolutely priceless. Tell all your socialist pals how hard you were on the white guys, truth. They'll be so proud of you!

While you're at it, you can share stories about how Johnson's War on Poverty ended poverty, about how psychometrics professionals don't know as much about psychometrics as a single Marxist paleontologist, and about how six black athletes beating up a single white teenager constitutes "a fight".

Unknown said...

"It is mostly left leaning activist judges and professors making up rubbish to justify their political desires..."


Here's an article about Obama the Nobel-material integrator of quantum mechanics and relativity:


It's clear Obama did no such thing. He borrowed some ideas from 20th century physics and applied them to a wholly dissimilar topic.

E voila, constitutional law.

Tribe does have a degree in math. I guess he figured it was better to be a big fish in an intellectually neglible pond, than a neglible fish in an intellectually demanding pond.

Anonymous said...

You do know that Obama transferred to Columbia, right? Even if he had stayed at Occidental, it's a bit ridiculous to see people work themselves into a lather denouncing Occidental College as inadequate. Not every smart person went to an Ivy League college. (I wonder how many people here are actually Ivy League graduates?)

Robinson Jeffers was a great poet(and was recently praised in The American Conservative). Fred Whipple was a prominent astronomer and did important work on comets. Jack Kemp's political career came to a self-righteous and self-indulgent end, but he had some pretty good ideas in his youth. Terry Gilliam's Brazil was an excellent movie. All graduated from Occidental.

Exactly how accomplished does one have to be to meet rku's standards? Occidental's rough peers, if the U.S. News and World Report rankings can be believed, include Mount Holyoke, Bucknell, Holy Cross, Sewanee, and Union. Schools such as Gettysburg, Pitzer, Denison, Reed, Wheaton(MA), Wheaton (IL), Hobart and William Smith, Drew, VMI, Hillsdale, and Hampden-Sydney are all ranked quite a bit lower. Are these all "third-rank" schools? I have no connection with Occidental itself, but I did go to a small liberal arts college and I received an excellent education (and an Ivy League Ph.D. afterwards). It's ridiculous to judge someone's entire life by a decision made at age 17.

(See http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/brief/t1libartco_brief.php)

On the other hand, I agree that those comments by Tribe and Sunstein are clearly absurd.

Anonymous said...

"Concerned said...

Tribe does have a degree in math. I guess he figured it was better to be a big fish in an intellectually neglible pond, than a neglible fish in an intellectually demanding pond."

Does he? The article you linked states"

"A Yale-trained lawyer who earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at New York University, Elisha Kobre, said Mr. Tribe is....". So one of Tribe's critics had a math degree, but does Tribe?

In any event, Tribe's whole thesis is silly. He seems to confuse general relativity with quantum mechanics. The two have nothing to do with each other, at least so far. The law has nothing to do with physics. If Obama helped Tribe write this drivel, then it's nothing to be proud of.

Neil Bates said...

OK, not bad on IQ (BTW it's the same as Gore's score of about 132-34, and both Clintons are said to be 140 or more.) But what about McCain saying, that he was always being put in the Brig for insubordination, that he held his breath until he turned purple when he was mad, etc?

PS: Re GWB, his 1206 or so SAT score means likely IQ about 120. But I've heard people wonder, that maybe something happened to Bush around 2001 that flubbed him up. I remember reading an interview with him in a Wired type magazine from 1999. Bush sounded rather more intelligent than he does now. Some say it was the real issue behind the "pretzel incident", all laughs aside.

Anonymous said...

Based on these equivalents, I just cannot imagine John McCain has an IQ of 133.

Over 140 - Genius or near genius
120 - 140 - Very superior intelligence
110 - 119 - Superior intelligence
90 - 109 - Normal or average intelligence
80 - 89 - Dullness
70 - 79 - Borderline deficiency
Under 70 - Definite feeble-mindedness

Source is:

Steve Sailer said...

By the way, the always helpful James Fulford of VDARE.com tracked down at


where I heard that Nixon had a 143 IQ -- a 1991 article in Fortune by my friend Dan Seligman, who got it from a biography of Nixon by staffer Roger Morris.

Anonymous said...

Y'all have short memories re: McCain. During the 2000 presidential race he was hounded by the media to release his medical records which he finally did, along with results of IQ tests, which, as I recall was something like 126-127. I remember thinking that his IQ and mine were about 2 points apart and I certainly don't consider myself qualified to be president. That and the fact he graduated 5th from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy should give one pause.

Anonymous said...

usna grades on physical, military and academics when determining class rank....mccain was good on physical. On academic he was good on the courses that interested him but not on the required courses like steam boilers (no electives back then at canoe u!). military (inspections, saluting etc.) is where he really fell down and nearly always had 100 demerits that he was working off via punishment. His goal at usna was to get thru and graduate nothing more and nothing less. McCain knew that usna is not the real navy and that the first and last in his class are called the same thing, Ensign

Anonymous said...

IQ tests are biased and are really not a true indicator of how intelligent one is. They're a very old method of measuring one's intelligence. Obviously is someone scores average on the test then they probably aren't going to be qualified to run the country. But nitpicking the difference between a 120 and a 135 is pointless. There are many other types of intelligence that are not measured by the IQ test that are equally, if not more, important than the types measured by an IQ test in being a qualified candidate for president.

Anonymous said...

John Mccain, in my opinion, has alot of raw intellligence which would mean a high I.Q my guess would be higher than 133 somewhere from 138-143. I do admit he seems lazy and rebelious which explains the low ranking, but he did exceptional on entrance exams based on aptitude and also subjectgs he liked. My I.Q is 144 and i consider myself in Mccain's range.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if IQ is a good qualifier of who should be president either. I think you need to look at history, ability to "play" with others, and ability to build momentum. We have so totally screwed ourselves economically in the last 28 years, that it will take someone who thinks in a rational way and is able to build a strong passion among the majority.

I'm sorry, John McCain has proven to do NONE of these things well. The "God" of the Republican party, Ronald Reagan, is truly the beginning of the cause of where we are now. If the average American would simply look at now and how we have changed in the last 7 administrations, the answer won't even require an IQ of the 100 median.

Temperament and consistancy are two of the most valuable tools we have to base a decision on. Obama displays both, even if his experience is less, due to age.

Anonymous said...

133 isn't really that high -- these days it's about average (among middle class educated people) MENSA certainly wouldn't accept him. Obama's is supposed to by higher according to different estimations based upon his exams. Not much of a surprise. He seems like a good, smart guy. McCain seems to be falling apart bit by bit. Senility?

Unknown said...

Dear Pammy- Mensa's requirement is 132---- 133>132 get it ? Duh.

Anonymous said...

My IQ's over 150, can I be President?

Anonymous said...

My IOq is at least 153. It probeley is more. But anyone smart knows not to becopme president. Instead you should become the next presidents puppent master.

Anonymous said...

Mccain is senile. or soon to be and gonna bomb the whole world at the press of a button.

Anonymous said...



check it out dude!

-to truth seekers alike. ;)

Anonymous said...

none of this stuff is true. president clinton had the highest iq of any president, then carter (incidentally, my eight cousin), followed by four other democrats. Nixon did not have a high iq.

Anonymous said...

My IQ has been tested several times, and all of them came out higher than 133. (I'd prefer to keep exact statistics to myself.) But that's beside the point. I suspect our current president's IQ could be outmatched by most rodents. Presidents throughout history have been idiots. It's their cabinet that keeps them from falling apart. But I am curious about Obama's IQ. He seems like an intelligent person, but who knows?

Unknown said...






Anonymous said...

Dude if McCain's IQ was any higher then 115 or 120 I would bite the head off a chicken. The man doesn't do any research on his opponent and comes to the debates with many false comments and is quick to anger that's not a smart man. Yes the man was a pow but that doesn't mean your any stronger then someone that wasn't. There was no documentation of him ever trying to escape which is your duty in the US military.

Your number one objective is to escape or die trying and collect as much info as you can because the info you hold in your head is to important to risk giving to enemy especially when they will brutally torture you and pump you full of med's to try to get you to talk. Maybe he was scared to try. Hell any would you would have to be a fool not be scared to do it but it is what he signed up for.

Anonymous said...

Also you fail to realize that he is in his 70's would you ever hire any one that old for a high stress, fast paced job? NO you would be a Idiot to. Not only for the fact it would most likely kill the person but you would probably be worried about legal action from the surviving family.

You can't put someone who's in the age group for Alzheimer for one of the most important high stress jobs in the US

mickeysteib said...

The political attacks are planned to distract from our thinking about the capability to analyze and communicate, the capability to have this analysis and communication result in good judgment in choosing advisors and in coordinating the best ideas for America, not just the simplistic ideas. The simplistic distractions are planned to keep voters from thinking about how much poor judgment (Like Keating Five, the relationship with the Bin Ladin family and the last eight years of agreeing with the administration on war and deregulation) costs Americans in resources and in life and limb.

The special interests and lobby groups want to buy government decisions on the cheap and take advantage of Americans without having to deal with the complex results that might cripple our nation. They get people from the top of their class to represent them and manipulate to take advantage. We are too lax about the possibility that we might be represented by those from the bottom of their class and that we might be making it easy for the special interest lobby groups to take advantage of us. Again!!! They "spread the wealth" from the middle class up to the rich who pay for their services.

Having effective and timely studies by our government led by those from the top of their class has been lacking at great cost to us all. We have lost planes due to neglect in the timely study of flight manuals. We have lost lives and livelihood due to neglect in the timely study of intelligence information. We have lost a solid economy due to neglect in the timely study of needed regulations and deregulations. We have lost our standing in the world due to neglect in the timely study of diplomacy and when and how to successfully use it. Our country has had to have an expensive surge with financial payments to those who would oppose and expensive bailouts with hopes that these, although expensive, will fix some of the poor judgment and will work in the long run.

It is time to replace the simplistic attitudes and ideas useful in manipulation with a stronger understanding of ideas useful in doing the strong work needed to get us back on track. This needs to be led by a dedicated president from the top of his class, rather than by the special interest lobby groups who are carefully selected and paid to take advantage of America.

Again!!! Let's be careful in rebuilding our country's capabilities. We cannot buy off on Palin's advice not to be concerned about killing civilians. We cannot buy off on McCain's “I know how to” claims on how to win a war , fix the economy and so on. These are simplistic ideas of those from the bottom of their class, not based on effective studies. They are useful in delighting the emotions of supporters.

Unknown said...

It is strange that people stress IQ at all.

The ability to handle stress has much to do with success. It explains how so many high IQ and students that achieved very high SAT scores never really amount to much, and often times choose to take jobs that require little raw intelligence. I know a couple of people that fit that profile.

McCain has shown an incredible ability to handle stress. It would have suited him well as president. Obama is certainly unproven.

I have scored very high on IQ tests but never had a high GPA...I was always somewhat anti-authority. Plus I never understood why we gave tests in school. I always thought that anyone could study and learn material, it was the ability to figure things out under pressure, that really measured intelligence and ability. This is where I believe McCain likely exceeded Obama. Obama seems to never acknowledge what he does not know. He follows a script. They (his campaign) refused to talk about marginal tax rates...why? I suspect that they do not trust their own analysis...and believe their ideas may be shot down with facts and figures.

Anonymous said...

I guess I.Q. and wisdom trumped whatever it is you think you have because the next President of these United States of America is Barack Obama. I am certainly glad that the possibility of Sarah Palin being my President is nipped in the bud!!

Mike Dissinger said...

@ RKU:

No offense, but I'm not sure how you are "ranking" Occidental College. Are you going by its' NCAA D3 ranking? That's for sports, buddy. Those things don't matter in the real world.

Please share how you got your "ranking". As far as I can see, it is a phenomenally well respected institution. Not only have I known many bright students that have attended or currently attend Oxy, but the US News and World Report (considered one of the most legitimate college ranking systems), puts it at 37th in the country. That's one of the best in the country. And why stop at that? US universities comprise 30 of the top 45 universities worldwide. Occidental is far from "third rank".

But, continue thinking what you will. I doubt I can change your ignorant opinion on things.

Anonymous said...

An IQ over 100 is not stupid. A bright normal person is probably in the 120 range.