Keith Hennessey, former advisor on economic policy to George W. Bush, explains to his Stanford students that GWB is actually quite an intelligent man despite the public caricature of him.
“President Bush is extremely smart by any traditional standard. He’s highly analytical and was incredibly quick to be able to discern the core question he needed to answer. It was occasionally a little embarrassing when he would jump ahead of one of his Cabinet secretaries in a policy discussion and the advisor would struggle to catch up. He would sometimes force us to accelerate through policy presentations because he so quickly grasped what we were presenting.
I use words like briefing and presentation to describe our policy meetings with him, but those are inaccurate. Every meeting was a dialogue, and you had to be ready at all times to be grilled by him and to defend both your analysis and your recommendation. That was scary.”
I'll be honest, my opinion of Bush's intelligence was likely shaped early on by the combination of his gaffes and his political choices, along with an assumption that he only got into office thanks to his father.
Then again, I was in 10th grade when 9/11 happened, and like other teenagers, I was much quicker to judge somebody's character based on little information back then. My opinion of Bush was formed rather prematurely and calcified that way throughout his presidency, especially as the Iraq War continued unabated. In my mind, he never really had a chance at redemption.
Reading this article was eye-opening though. I still vehemently disagree with much of Bush's politics, but perhaps a reassessment of his intelligence is in order. If anybody reading this knows about any good sources on the subject, I'm all ears.