Is Trump a genius?

The president claims he is "like, very smart" on Twitter

Download Perspecs

Is Donald Trump, like, really smart?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

When Donald Trump claims that he is a genius, we have to take his word for it. There is no evidence to prove that he is an intelligent man.

Despite boasting of his "genius" on social media, he has been less enthusiastic about providing evidence of his intelligence. He repeatedly claims that he has a high IQ, but he refuses to back this up with a test - when someone challenged him to provide his own score, he simply replied: "The highest, asshole!"

IQ - short for intelligence quotient - can be measured by various standardised tests. There is no evidence that the president has taken any of the 200 tests accepted by Mensa, or that his IQ score has been registered.

Newsweek calls his reliance on IQ to prove his intelligence "nothing more than a salesman's trick". Intelligence is abstract, they note, so boasting about something relatively concrete like an IQ score, even though it appears he does not have one, it "lends his claim of intelligence a false sense of legitimacy".

Being smart is not a pre-requisite of the highest office, and there is "no law that a president has to document his intelligence", the Washington Post notes. They warn, however, that someone might come along and try to measure it for him.

A 2006 study by psychologist Dean Keith Simonton gave John Quincy Adams the highest score out of all the presidents, an estimated IQ between 165 and 175 (most people score around 100). He is followed by Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

In lieu of an IQ score, Professor Fred I. Greenstein, professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University, lists six qualities that bear on presidential performance: public communication, organisational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. He told the BBC that Trump scores low on all but public communication and political skill, which he utilised to win the presidency.

Trump's mental capacity for the White House has been questioned since taking office, but the recent scrutiny has arisen from Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury book, detailing his first year as president. Reacting to the publication, he tweeted that he is "like, really smart", boasting of his success as a businessman and reality TV personality. He added: "I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!"

The president is no genius, the Globe and Mail argues, but he is smart at playing dumb - and he could be taking advantage of the situation. He may be a "moron" in terms of his geopolitical acumen, but it does not tell the full picture. They argue: "He may be purposefully ignorant of policy and emotionally volatile, but he understands power and spin, and his 40-year history of dodging criminal prosecution and manipulating the media testifies to a certain kind of skill." This is not something that Trump wants highlighted - and he would rather be painted as a dupe than a deceiver. "Do not be fooled by the president who cried Wolff," they conclude.

Donald Trump's astronomically high IQ score that he likes to boast about may be fake news. When the president claims he is a genius, there is nothing concrete to prove the contrary - or indeed, back it up. His intelligence can only be monitored from his behaviour and actions, and even then there may be smoke and mirrors.

Download Perspecs
Download Perspecs