Is Donald Trump a smart man?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
It cannot be claimed that Donald Trump is stupid, or indeed a "f--king moron" – the alleged words from his secretary of state Rex Tillerson – on Perspecs. Well, we can risk it – as other British publications have done so in the past – but unlike our American counterparts, there is an element of risk in claiming that the President is stupid.
First and foremost, they are covered by the First Amendment of the US Constitution; and yes, while Britain follows the European Convention on Human Rights (for however long) with its freedom of expression under Article 10, our libel laws are a bit different. If someone believes their character has been impugned in the UK, it is up to the author or journalist to have the burden of proof; in the US, it is vice versa.
While we do not, for one second, make remarks about the intellectual capacity of the President (pictured: staring at the sun during the solar eclipse, when warned not to), we will, instead, point you towards what others have been saying about his alleged stupidity; which we may or may not believe, of course. Consider this our burden of proof, if you will.
Salon argues that "his limited vocabulary, short attention span, ignorance of policy specifics, indifference to scientific evidence and admiited aversion to reading raises questions about his intellectual abilities". They cite a linguistic analysis that found Trump speaks at a fourth-grade level (Year 5 in Britain), where students are usually 9 to 10-years-old.
Another study, by researchers from Carnegie-Mellon University, compared the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates last year in terms of their vocabulary and grammar, ranking him the lowest at fifth-grade (Year 6), the level of 10 to 11-year-olds. The study found “most candidates using words and grammar typical of students in grades 6-8".
This is contrary to what Trump would have you believe. The President, CNN argues, an "IQ obsession" after he has repeatedly cited his "reportedly sky-high IQ - and the relatively low IQs of his political rivals - to make a point or win an argument". They list 22 separate occasions where Trump has used his favourite piece of rhetoric on his IQ.
Newsweek calls his reliance on IQ to prove his intelligence "nothing more than a salesman's trick". The concept of intelligence is abstract, so by claiming a high IQ score, it lends him "a false sense of legitimacy". They examine his education, and conclude that there is not much hard evidence to suggest he possesses any sort of objective intelligence. Trump received only an undergraduate degree - not an MBA - from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; and Wharton does not list Trump as graduating with any honours. He attended the prestigious school for only two years, transferring from the Fordham University in the Bronx, with Gwenda Blair, the author of 2001's The Trumps, claiming it was due to a family connection to the admissions officer and his family's wealth.
Being intelligent is not a pre-requisite of being the president, CNN's Chris Cillizza notes, but the perception of intelligence from voters can be important. For the public, he adds, "Trump's intelligence is a bit more of an open question - and becoming more open with each passing day in the White House". A Quinnipiac poll in August showed that 55 per cent of Americans think he is intelligent while 43 per cent do not. This is a big drop from a similar poll in November 2016, two weeks after the election, where nearly three quarters of voters believed he possessed some intelligence.
But, of course, Perspecs cannot say whether or whether not Donald Trump is stupid - with our hands tied, we can only report on what other people are saying about the President.