stupidest president - you can't be serious

How could you possibly leave William Henry Harrison off the list? The man was - literally - to dumb to come in out of the rain.

The column in question is Who was the stupidest US president?

To explain the WHH comment: He once gave a speech at an outdoor function (I think it might have been a college commencement) which lasted for over three hours, in the middle of a downpour. Predictably, he caught pneumonia, and died a few weeks later.

It was his inaugural address - he was in office for a month when he died.

I wonder if this column will alienate all the Dubyah supporters among the SDMB.

One can only hope…

Hmm? Why should it? Cecil pointed out that W’s scores were in the top 20% of those tested.

Even had Cecil been willing to state outright (and note he did not) that Bush is the stupidest president we’ve ever had, this statement still does not necessarily denigrate Bush- in the first place, if all presidents have an above-average IQ, then even the stupidest one has an above average IQ. Is calling you the stupidest Mensa member I’ve ever met an insult, or a compliment?

Second, and as I’ve argued over and over again in GD, intelligence has no measure of relation with actual success as a President. Wilson and Carter are considered by most historians to be the two smartest Presidents of the 20th Century; I think you’d be very hard pressed to find any historian who calls them the two greatest as well. Likewise, FDR and Truman were quite castigated in their day for being not bright; Hearst stated that FDR had an “affable smile” but “a second-rate intellect”, and most people considered the non-collegiate Truman a country rube and hick- yet most people consider the two of them as top-notch Presidents.

And one note on the column, as much as I really hate to correct my boss- Johnson did not merely appear drunk at his inauguration as Vice-President. He was by all accounts sloshed out of his gourd. However, in his defense, he was suffering from a serious sickness at the time but was forced to attend the Inauguration and make a speech anyways because it would look bad for the Union were he to bow out. So outgoing VP Clay gave Johnson quite a few stiff drinks so that Johnson’s fever would go down and he wouldn’t hurl all over the podium, and Johnson went on stage and gave a miserably drunk performance. While this action gave Johnson the reputation around town as a complete lush, there is no other evidence that Johnson was anything other than a light social drinker.

I don’t know anyone who’d name them both, but Arthur Walworth certainly thought well of Wilson.

Huh? Lincoln’s first VP was Hannibal Hamlin.

From the European perspective (and quite unanimously, I have to say), Dubya is considered to be dumb and a bad politician. he might do a few things right in the U.S., but on the international scene he is one big bomb.
Y’ know, back here we cares not (oopsi, was that bad English?) if he’s got good advisors (though Rumsfeld, Rice, and Ashcroft are not highly popular figures back here either).
About Harrison having been dumb, well, the rest of the world didn’t notice (I guess). And Truman was at least wise enough to make some friends in Europe – Dubya hasn’t made one new friend (regardless of what he said about his Europe trip on CNN)

This is not to say that he is dumb. Just that a lot of people here think that there is a lot of evidence to say he is…
so flame me…


The William Henry Harrison story/myth is once again perpetuated. First the facts: He did attend his inaugural in rain/snow/cold without proper clothing(coat). He contracted a cold shortly after that date. He died of a respiratory disease a month later which was probably pneumonia.

But to say that he “caught pneumonia” because he didn’t wear a coat in the cold is a medical myth. He was 68 years old, spent the rest of his inaugural day seeing office seekers and well wishers. And much of the next month also. Almost any one of us would catch a cold if we were visited by hundreds of people in our home in a short period of time, especially in March. And colds can turn into worse things, untreatable in that day and age.

Maybe the advisors he has are good… but he’s only just now finally getting around to appointing a science advisor. But heck, he doesn’t need a science advisor! Why, he already knows everything there is to know about global warning and the National Missile Defense.

Meanwhile, I’m no historian, but I do happen to think that Wilson and Carter were two of our greatest Presidents. In both cases, I think that their failures in office can be mostly attributed to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time: It wasn’t Wilson’s fault that nobody accepted his Fourteen Points (which IMO would have prevented WWII), and the foreign crises of the seventies didn’t really help the career of any politician.

Reagan seems like an obvious candidate. Missiles can be recalled from submarines?

As far as dumbest VP goes, Dan Quayle, without a doubt.

I’ve wondered about this before, and even thought about starting a thread to ask about it. (Unfortunately, my threads often seem to die quickly and quietly. My hijacks, however…)

I’ve often seen it reported that historical figures, including Washington and others, as well as Harrison, died from being out in bad weather and getting sick as a result. But Cecil has said that no such thing is possible (at least according to avilable scientific data). What am I to make, then, of all these stories from otherwise reputable and well researched sources?

And you know that they are reputable and well researched HOW? Almost everything written and available on the NET concerning history is copied from another source, and not primary research.

And what bearing does this have on how we should evaluate his intelligence?

Well, for one thing, several were on this message board…
Another was in The Professor and the Madman : A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester, which (as far as I could tell, anyway) was scrupulously researched and extremely entertaining, too boot. I’m not saying any of these are Cecil, but, well, even the Encyclopedia Brittanica *implies *as much about both WHH and Geo. Washington.

Alan I see what you mean. The articles included the crap about being exposed to the elements just before being smitten with a terminal illness. You and I know that they were old, frail guys who were subject to death when anything turned into more than a cold.

How to exclude what is implied in an article and what is really said is the question. I guess a healthy dose of skepticism and reading the SD might be all you can do.

Why does everyone pick on poor old Warren Harding. He won by one of the largest landslides in history over Wilson’s hand picked successor despite the fact he didn’t even bother to campaign. Harding has gotten a bad rap because he reversed some of Wilson’s more racist policies, such as not appointing blacks to even minor federal posts like postmaster.

My vote has to go to Ronald Reagan, whose name is conspicuously absent. Francois Mitterand called him the biggest imbecile he ever met. The chancellor of Germany was shocked to hear Reagan describe his role in liberating a concentration camp when it was a well known historical fact that Reagan spent all of World War II in the continental United States. Reagan consistently confused real life with things that happened with movies, and used these in his public speeches. During his testimony during Iran Contra criminal prosecutions, his most common answer was “I don’t remember”.

I think the real point to make is whether the president was smart but dumb as our leader…or vice versa.

George W. Bush may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but he IS surrounded by smart people. I don’t think he could have handled the spy plane incident without the help from advisers.

On the other hand… I though Carter was very intelligent as a person, but somewhat of a nimrod as our president. Good ole’ peanut wanted to be the worlds humanitarian in a time when the Cold War was at its height.

Thats my two cents… they may not seem smart, but they have the “collective IQ” of about a million. Just hope they can use it to the best

IIRC, George Clinton was actually senile for a while before he died in office.

I remember reading in Paul Harvey’s book, “The Rest of the Story”, that Ulysses Grant’s horse and buggy was chased by a town deputy. The deputy was almost run over by a very drunk President Grant, who did the noble thing and insisted that he be taken to jail. If anyone out there is familiar with Paul Harvey’s books or radio program, you probably already realize that the alleged facts of the story must be taken with a grain of salt. However, if it is true, we may have an instance of presidential DUI while in office! Enjoy!

I’ve read in different sources that Grant indeed did get ticketed for careless driving of his buggy. I don’t believe he was put into custody, but was just told to make an appearance in court.

I have no idea whether the matter was pursued further.

And as for Harding, while he may not have been as racist as Wilson, his administration was rife with corruption and he didn’t make up for his deficiencies by appointing some rather nondescript Cabinet members, with the exception of Charles Evans Hughes at State.

My take on William Henry Harrison is that he wouldn’t have accomplished much as president if he had lived as he was pretty much going to serve as Henry Clay’s puppet. Clay was seriously ticked off when Harrison died and Tyler took over. He knew that Tyler was not in agreement with him on any of his pet issues, especially the national bank.

Accounts about Harrison’s inaugural address said it would have been even longer had not Daniel Webster edited out large amounts of it.