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Smart enough to be president?

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As I leave for a little Florida vacation, I take with me Edmund Morris's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt." I've read enough to see the fine writing and superb research that brought Mr. Morris to the attention of those who were searching for a biographer for President Reagan. How he muffed his opportunity with Reagan I'll never understand.

But as I look over the field of presidential candidates, I wonder whether any would have the stuff of a Teddy Roosevelt, as depicted by Morris. For example, on the subject of intelligence Morris writes: "The vast majority of Roosevelt's interlocutors [intellectuals who have met with him] would agree with H.G. Wells that Theodore Roosevelt has 'the most vigorous brain in a conspicuously responsible position in all the world.' ... When the new British Ambassador, Sir Esm Howard, presented his credentials and mentioned that he had been transferred from Crete, Roosevelt immediately began to discuss the archeological digs at Knossos, 'which he had evidently followed closely,' then asked if Howard was by any chance descended from 'Belted Will' of Border fame - quoting [Sir Walter] Scott on the subject, to the diplomat's mystification."

Allow me to continue briefly with Morris's depiction of the amazing Teddy: "The President," he writes, "is also capable of declaiming German poetry to Lutheran preachers and comparing recently resuscitated Gaelic letters with Hopi Indian lyrics. He is recognized as the world authority on big American game mammals and is an ornithologist of some note.

"Stooping to pick up a speck of brown fluff off the White House lawn, he will murmur, 'Very early for a fox sparrow!' Roosevelt is equally at home with experts in naval strategy, forestry, Greek drama, cowpunching, metaphysics, protective coloration, and football techniques."


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