Saturday, November 11, 2006

Therefore, Bush Is Smart. QED.

Since 9/11, those who know me know that I've made the following argument often enough for it to have become not even interesting for me to make anymore:

The military does not let stupid people fly fighter jets because flying jet airplanes requires high intelligence and stupid people would crash. Bush flew a fighter jet for 350 hours without crashing. Therefore, Bush is not stupid; he is highly intelligent.

Bill Whittle, a TV editor, pilot and essayist whose early works had a profound effect on my thinking (and who rightly became somewhat of a blogosphere legend because of them) makes the same argument, only much better, in a new essay in which he focuses his laser-vision on some bumper stickers. Here's a long excerpt from "Seeing the Unseen, Part 1", but definitely read the whole thing.

Somewhere in Texas, a Village is missing its Idiot.

I chose this one first since it’s the only one that has a particle of real wit. But the Bush is an idiot meme is very tired, and the most cursory look causes it to fall apart like -- how can I make them understand? -- like a lemon almond biscotti left too long in a grande’ caffe verona.

For starters, you can of course point to the fact that the man did graduate from both Harvard and Yale, but that was with a C average, and clearly, the idea of being merely in the middle of the pack of those getting advanced degrees from America’s two preeminent universities cuts you no slack from those community-college theater major drop-outs who love to level the charge.

So let’s leave that aside for a moment – Poppy’s connections and all that – and take a moment to look at this, if you will:

This is a Convair F-102 Delta Dagger. It is a second-generation, supersonic fighter-interceptor. It cruises at 845 mph.

There were some minor aerodynamic problems with the F-102. For example, at certain power settings and angles of attack – like, say, take-off -- the jet compressor would stall and the aircraft would roll inverted. It is no picnic, skill-wise, to fly a modern F-16 with advanced avionics and fly-by-wire flight control systems. The workload on the F-102 was far higher. The F-16 has an accident rate of 4.14 occurrences per 100,000 flight hours. The F-102’s accident rate was more than three times that: 13.69 per 100,000 hours. 875 F-102A interceptors were built; 259 – almost 30% - were lost to accidents or enemy action while serving in Vietnam.

George W. Bush flew hundreds of hours in the F-102.

Now look at this:

This is the cockpit of the F-102 Delta Dagger’s successor, the F-106 Delta Dart (I could not find an F-102 panel, but they would have been very similar)

Now, picture yourself in this chair, at 40,000 feet, traveling at one and a half times the speed of sound. Now imagine that someone has painted the windows white – you are flying on instruments. Now imagine that not only do you have to be able to fly blind, by referencing these instruments, but that you also have to stare into that orange jack-o-lantern of a radar, and interpret a squiggle that will lead you to your target. Now imagine that in addition to not hitting the ground, or your wingman, and watching the squiggle, you also have to turn those switches on the right side panel to activate weapons systems, to overcome enemy countermeasures…without looking outside, as you hurtle through air at -40 degrees F, air so thin that should you lose pressure, you have about 4-6 seconds of consciousness before you black out and die.

I maintain that the instant George W. Bush closed that canopy and took off on the first of his many solo hours in an F-102, it is quite impossible that he was either an idiot or a coward.

Here is a random question from the instrument rating exam I had to pass a few years ago.

Refer to figure 91:

What should be the approximate elapsed time from the BOSEMAN (BZN) VOR to the DUBOIS (DBS) VORTAC if the wind is 24 knots from 260 degrees and your intended True Air Speed is 185 knots? (The magnetic variation is 17deg. E)

A. 33 minutes
B. 37 minutes
C. 39 minutes

(It’s C., obviously)

If he had been a civilian rather than military pilot, Dubya would have had to have passed 60 questions like this with at least 70% correct. Questions on weather, radio communications, mechanical systems, aerodynamics, pilot physiology, airspace, navigation and a hundred other things. But, since he was military, he also had to know how to operate that primitive in-flight radar, plus weapons systems, rules of engagement, electronic warfare, hydraulics, fuel systems…it goes on and on.

People like Michael Moore and Bill Maher and Keith Olberman would not be able to figure out how to close the canopy on an F-102. These people would be weeping with fear when those afterburners light up and you barrel down that runway hoping that engine doesn’t flame out and roll you inverted into the asphalt, or when you’re rocketing through the soup at 300mph watching two little needles chase each other, praying the next thing you see out the window is a runway and not a mountain goat.

George W. Bush is not stupid. It’s not possible to be a moron and fly a supersonic jet fighter, and everyone knows it.

What George W. Bush is, however, is inarticulate. English is his second language. From what I can see he does not have a first language. Abraham Lincoln spoke in simple frontier language in an age of rhetorical flourish. Like Bush, he was considered a bumpkin and an idiot, and like Bush, he realized that there were times when having people misunderestimate you repeatedly was a real advantage. That’s goal-oriented. That’s playing the deep game. That’s cunning.

I personally have gotten to the point where Bush’s malapropisms cause me to look at the floor and shake my head with an affectionate smile, in much the same way supporters of his predecessor used to do with every new revelation of coerced sex from former employees. He is what he is. But he is a damn sight more intelligent than the graphic designer in the Mini Cooper with the Village Idiot sticker. Me, personally, I look at the man’s entire catalog of flaws in the same way Lincoln looked at Grant and his drinking: I can’t spare this man. He fights.

So to me, anyway, given the above information I feel that anyone calling President Bush a moron and an idiot comes off sounding like…well…a moron and an idiot.

One germane detail that Whittle leaves out: I've read from multiple persons that in private, Bush pronounces the word "nuclear" as "nu-clee-ar." The "nukular" thing is just for show. Perhaps this is just another example of why Bush was known as the best poker player at Harvard Business School. There is book-smarts. And there is poker-smarts. Guess which I would rather have in a President during war?

Other bumper sticker-based arguments Whittle addresses include:
No Blood for Oil!
End U.S. Imperialism Now!
You Cannot Simultaneously Prevent and Prepare for War – Albert Einstein.
Give Peace a Chance
War is not the Answer

Many on the Left have the ideas of these bumper stickers as the foundational premises for their political "philosophies," and at the root of arguments they make very, very emotionally and passionately. They know the Truth, because the Truth is in their Hearts.

...And that's why I don't argue with them anymore. It is not rational to argue rationally with someone for whom rationality is not necessarily a pathway to the Truth.


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