Tom Brokaw: Someone has analyzed the President's military aptitude tests and yours, and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do.
John Kerry: That's great. More power. I don't know how they've done it, because my record is not public. So I don't know where you're getting that from.
Brokaw: Do you think he's a smart man?
Kerry: I do. Yes, I do think he's a smart man.
Brokaw: Do you think too many people in your party underestimate?
Kerry: I think people have always underestimated President Bush. But I'm proud that in those debates, I didn't underestimate him.
Well, actually, Kerry's campaign did release his Officer Qualification Test score on this Acrobat PDF on the www.JohnKerry.com website. Yet, even though huge numbers of Kerry's supporters and detractors pored over this dump of documents on Kerry's military record, the first person who seems to have noticed the significance of that one document was Sam Sewell, a Navy vet and minister in Florida who works with gifted children with learning disabilities. Because I'd written articles in the past on candidates' IQs, he called it to my attention about a month ago, and I spent three weeks interviewing military psychometricians and reading old military reports to figure out how to interpret Kerry's score and how to compare it to Bush's scores on the somewhat similar Air Force Officer Qualifying Test.
So, I'm sure Kerry's not lying when he says, "So I don't know where you're getting that from." I'm sure he honestly doesn't know. His test score appears on just one rather cryptic-looking page out of the hundreds of pages of military records his campaign has put online, and I doubt if he recognized what it was, if he even looked at it.
Also, I don't see that Kerry is under any obligation to release any of his other test scores or grade transcripts. Although many of his supporters have claimed that he is much smarter than Bush, I've never heard Kerry claim that. Further, I don't believe that Bush's SAT score (1206) was voluntarily released. I think it was leaked to The New Yorker in 1999.
Finally, Tom Brokaw is oversimplifying when he says, "Someone [i.e., myself ] has analyzed the President's military aptitude tests and yours, and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do." My best judgment is that they were fairly similar in cognitive capability back when they were seniors at Yale. If I had to bet on who would have scored higher if they had taken the same test back then, I would bet on Bush. While it's not an apples to oranges comparison between the two service branches' officer tests, it's not an oranges to oranges comparison either. It's more like oranges to tangerines. There will always be a good deal of uncertainty.
What we do know is that both candidates scored roughly about what you'd expect for someone qualified to apply to become a military officer. It appears by my reading of the results that Kerry got the average score for applicants to the Navy Officer Candidate School and that Bush did better than about two of out of three applicants to the Air Force Academy. This strikes me as slightly better than Kerry's performance, but not by a huge amount.
Those are both good performances, although hardly great. I would imagine that a large majority of the regular readers of this blog would score higher. That does not mean, of course, that you or I would make a better President than Bush or Kerry. They both have a lot of non-cognitive gifts.
I think Kerry would benefit if his supporters stopped flattering him about how smart he is. Like Bush, he's smart enough to be President, if he works hard, seeks out good advisors, and fires bad advisors. But Kerry would be a better campaigner if he stuck to reading the speeches his speechwriters give him and stop trying to improve them on the fly by adding digressions and dependent clauses. He's not that smart.