Jewish World Review Dec. 27, 2000 / 1 Teves, 5761
How do we know that? Because Will Ferrell tells us so -- every weekend on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," the comedy show on which the actor parodies the president-elect.
So why should anyone take late night political satire seriously, even if it is at the expense of the next president? Because the powers that be at NBC News have decided that Ferrell's weekly mockery of Bush is worthy of re-airing on its widely viewed "Today Show," as well as "The News with Brian Williams" on its cable offspring.
By providing Ferrell a wider audience than he would otherwise enjoy, NBC News gets away with telling millions of viewers that the president-elect is an intellectual lightweight and that he is unworthy of the high office to which he has been entrusted.
Of course, the producers at NBC News will deny, deny, deny this is their intent. But during the 25-year history of "Saturday Night Live," when else have its political parodies been re-aired on the network's news shows?
The weekly derision of Bush, which occurs most conspicuously on NBC, is a reminder of an all too familiar tactic used to undermine Republicans in high places. If you can't beat 'em fair and square, smear 'em. They did it to Clarence Thomas. They did it to Dan Quayle. And now they are trying to do it to George W. Bush. But just as anyone who truly knows Justice Thomas realizes that he was the victim of despicable character assassination, just as anyone who truly knows former Vice President Quayle realizes he was, and is, quite conversant on a wide range of public policy issues, anyone who is familiar with Bush's background recognizes that the mocking characterization, blithely passed along by the media, is so misleading it is downright unfair.
If viewers accept without skepticism "Saturday Night Live"'s assessment of the relative intelligence of Bush versus his vanquished opponent, Al Gore, they would conclude that Bush was grossly overmatched. But what they would not know, because the sketch writers at SNL are undoubtedly unaware of it, and the folks of NBC News haven't seen fit to inform viewers of it, is that Bush's academic background is clearly superior to Gore's.
The Washington Post obtained a copy of Gore's undergraduate transcript at Harvard, which it compared with Bush's transcript at Yale.
Gore was no more than an average student, posting a C minus in introductory economics, and a C plus and D in two of his science courses (which casts doubt upon his qualification to author a scientific jeremiad like "Earth in the Balance").
In fact, in his sophomore year at Harvard, the Post reported, "Gore's grades were lower than any semester recorded on Bush's transcript at Yale."
And Gore's graduate school record is even worse. He dropped out of Vanderbilt Divinity School after earning F's in five of the eight courses he took over three semesters. Then he dropped out of Vanderbilt Law School after receiving mediocre grades.
Meanwhile, Bush earned his MBA from Harvard.
Yet, the American people would never know this from the way Gore and Bush are portrayed: Gore as the brightest guy in the class, the one most likely to succeed; Bush as the dunce, the Texas rube a couple of tacos short of a combination plate.
Bush, much to his credit, doesn't let the condescension bother him. He's been underestimated throughout his political career -- by political opponents like Ann Richards and Al Gore, and by the media -- and he's always exceeded expectations.
That's because Bush is comfortable in his own skin. He doesn't have to compensate for his college record by cultivating a political image as some sort of policy wonk. He doesn't have to pretend he invented the Internet.
The president-elect addressed questions about his smarts in an interview with Time magazine, which selected him as its "Person of the Year."
"I think there's a difference between people who are intellectually curious and people who are intellectually haughty," said Bush. "I appreciate people who are intellectually curious, who want to learn and know more. I am turned off by people who think they're smarter than everybody else."
So take that, Will
12/20/00: Bush should reach out, not bend