Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from the University of Texas, where he earned a B.A. degree in Latin American affairs.
He completed his coursework in two years and is fluent in Spanish.
Jeb Bush giving commencement address at Liberty University
So it’s interesting to contrast Bush’s educational background with a statement he made to the New Hampshire Union Leader on July 8.
Speaking about the foreign policy of President Barack Obama, Bush said:
“You don’t have to be the world’s policeman, but we have to be the world’s leader—and there’s a huge difference.
“This guy, this president and Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry, when someone disagrees with their nuanced approach—where it’s all kind of so sophisticated it makes no sense, you know what I’m saying?
“Big-syllable words and lots of fancy conferences and meetings—but we’re not leading, that creates chaos, it creates a more dangerous world.”
If Bush lacked a university degree, it would be reasonable to assume that his remarks were fueled by jealousy of those who did have one.
But since Bush does have a university degree, there’s another possible reason for his statement: He’s playing dumb to win votes from his largely uneducated audience among the Far Right.
In fact, appealing to the ignorant and uneducated has become a commonplace for politicians on the Right.
President John F. Kennedy speed-read several newspapers every morning. He nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for entirely altruistic reasons.
These journalistic relationships gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.
But in 2012, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance of the reasons for President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya.
Texas Governor Rick Perry showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:
“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah–
“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”
In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.
Then there was Sarah Palin’s rewriting of history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”:
“He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”
In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. He was warning his fellow Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.
Republicans have attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”
And they resent his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. As if being a writer is somehow subversive.
When President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, it was said that he left three great legacies to his country:
- The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
- The Apollo moon landing; and
- The Vietnam war.
But there was a fourth legacy–and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.
White House painting of JFK
At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:
“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.
“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”
Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.
On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.
During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, on the events leading to World War 1.
He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake-–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.
When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline and collapse lie just around the corner.