[H]e is extraordinarily intelligent. Forget what you've read in the press. The man is smart and has an incredible memory. He'll remember things that you said months ago or he'd remember some minute detail of some obscure policy issue. He studied the issues and took it as a challenge to know as much about a topic as his experts knew.Marquez also found Bush to be exceptionally compassionate, witty, incisive, and serious -- in one-on-one encounters, not on a podium where he, like his father, often became sort of tongue-tied. The picture of the private Bush, confirmed by many of those who knew him, is strongly at odds with his popular image, which was largely a press and political construct fashioned by his enemies.
For example, President Bush asked all of the directors in the NSC to put together a transition book for the incoming Obama team. Each director was responsible for creating a book that covered all the details of their specific responsibility. I was responsible for space. I put together a 3-inch binder of all the things that we had done and encountered during President Bush's administration. I gave the book to the president and two days later the book shows back up on my desk. In the margins the president had hand-written comments and questions and even remembered a few details on things that I, the "expert", had failed to include. Anybody who says the man is dumb has never met him.
Read the whole thing here.
I don't expect most academic historians to accept this characterization. They have far too much invested in the portrayal of Bush as dumb, insensitive, and clueless. But I would note that Professor John Lewis Gaddis, who teaches at Yale and is considered "the Dean of Cold War Historians" and who had several one-on-one sessions with Bush during his presidency, has frequently spoken of Dubya as an exceptionally intelligent and well-informed person.
To this I would add this article in the American Spectator by Walt Harrington, longtime WaPo staff writer and unabashed liberal who has known Dubya for a quarter of a century and considers him not only intelligent and well-informed, but a principled man who has been influenced by a deep and perceptive reading of history. Dubya is, he writes, "smart, thoughtful in a brawny kind of way and, most of all, a good and decent man".
Goodness and decency -- qualities that are in short supply these days, especially inside the beltway.