Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan were certainly not intellectuals, but they understood the power of the presidency and they knew how to impose their agendas on their political partners and rivals.
By contrast, Jimmy Carter was a whiz at policy analysis and Bill Clinton grasped the connections among issues almost intuitively. Yet neither of them left the White House with a record of great achievements.
So for several years, I have been arguing that there are traits much more important to the success of a president than brainpower. Self-confidence, curiosity, an eye for talent, the ability to communicate, a temperament that invites collaboration -- all these and more rank higher on the list of desirable presidential traits.
I am not ready to abandon that view. But I am struck by how lucky this country is, at the moment, that the president-elect is a super-smart person like Barack Obama........
Even in the emotional maelstrom of his election victory, and even with the pressures of assembling his administration, everything points to his managing to focus on the policy choices looming in the economic field.
I have talked to two people on the fringe of the transition team -- both members of Congress with major responsibilities in the economic area. Both have been asked for input by Obama, and both say that the quality of his questions -- and his follow-ups -- were a measure of the depth of his knowledge of the situation.
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