W. asked my opinion as to who the dumbest US president was. I tried searching for “List of US presidents by dumbness” but google autocorrected it to “List of US presidents by numbness” instead, so I found nothing. Nevertheless, I think this question has a resoundingly straightforward answer. Has the United States ever had a president dumber than Millard Fillmore? No. And so that others needn’t share my unhappy fate of googling for presidential dumbness in vain, I shall make the case right here on this blog.
First off, maybe some would say “Andrew Johnson” or “Buchanan”, but keep in mind that we’re not here to judge the quality of a president, that is, any quality other than dumbness. Then a lot of people would say stuff like “Gerald Ford” or “Dubya”, but keep in mind that due to the Flynn effect, it is highly improbable that the dumbest president was a recent one. Even if W. Bush is not particularly well-spoken for the current era, well, for one thing, he’s better educated and somewhat more well-informed than presidents past. Surely he’s received the benefit of environmental factors and better nutrition as well. There’s just no way that he’s dumber than a bunch of people from the nineteenth century, whose speechifying abilities we mostly have no clue about anyway (unless they were really good at it, like Lincoln). So no recent presidents then. Still, that leaves us with a wide assortment of candidates, and besides, you say, the Flynn effect only holds true for wide, representative samples of a population, not presidents who are picked from a very select group? (Your definition of select may vary, given Newt Gingrich et al.) But fine, let’s look at some other points:
- The name. Millard Fillmore is a terrible name. This may not be the most slam-dunk case possible, after all there have been several US politicians named Post, (dumb as a…) but unfortunately none of them ever rose above the rank of Representative. Within the presidential realm, this name is pretty much the worst. In that it contains no given names really. Well, you say, that’s hardly little Milly’s fault – his parents named him (with their two last names and no first name). But here we come back to the genetic component of intelligence. Someone with parents dumb enough to name him Millard Fillmore ain’t gonna be a genius. If any further proof was needed, though, we can look at what Fillmore and his wife did with their children. By giving their son a first name that was actually a first name they could have shown that they are able to learn from the mistakes of close kin. Did they do that? Not a chance. And then they compounded the error by sticking Fillmore’s wife’s last name in the mix too. Millard Fillmore’s kid’s name: Millard Powers Fillmore. Disgusting. Next time you wonder why the US is filled with people that have preposterous first names like Johnson and Van Dyke, you could do worse than to blame the sheer stupidity of Millard Fillmore.
- Mallard Fillmore. Need I say anything else?
- Fillmore founded the University of Buffalo. That displays a belief that it’s worth investing in the future of Buffalo. That’s a proposition so dumb that seemingly no former Sabres owner even made that mistake. And former Sabres owners include Tom Golisano (a noted idiot).
- Upon leaving the presidency, Fillmore joined a group called the Know-Nothings. I think I could rest my case here.
- The Compromise of 1850.
- Did I mention he joined a political party called the Know-Nothings? As in, “we’re too stupid to know stuff”? Apart from the literal implied dumbness, there’s the fact the Know-Nothings were a marginal non-influential bunch of reactionary xenophobes. And, unlike cynical racist-courting opportunists like George Wallace or something, Fillmore joined the Know-Nothings after he was president, so not out of calculated political expediency or anything. He wasn’t even smart enough for that.
You’re convinced, right?