Mike Johnson Declines Invitation to Be a Hostage

House Speaker Mike Johnson and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speak to one another in the U.S. Capitol prior to an address by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on April 11, 2024. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The so-called hard right in the House is learning an old lesson: Life is hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid. 

There’s a tendency in political rhetoric to talk as though everybody who disagrees with you is stupid. That isn’t true. I don’t agree with, say, Howard Dean—about almost anything—but I can tell you that Howard Dean is not stupid. James Carville and I don’t agree about much (although I think we are approaching one another in nonplussedness regarding our own respective “sides”), and nobody who knows much thinks he is stupid. But there are some genuinely stupid people in our politics—people who think a manila folder is a Filipino contortionist—and you can, in general, get a pretty good idea of how smart somebody is by how they speak and write in their native language. (Years ago, I saw a talk by a brilliant Chinese scientist who spoke English with some difficulty and reminded the audience: “I only sound like a 4-year-old in your language.”) And my impression is that the rogues’ gallery of the populist wing of the GOP is dominated by some room-temperature IQs: Moscow Madge, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar—let’s just say you don’t want to ask any of these goobers who is to be found in Grant’s Tomb. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is the sort of clod who could accidentally lock herself out of a moped. 

And Donald Trump is exactly what you should expect to get when you take a kid with an IQ of 88 and give him hundreds of millions of dollars worth of New York City real estate. I’ve known some dumb trust-funders in my life, and not one of them ever figured out he was dumb until the money ran out. But everybody else figured it out way before that.

Perhaps we should feel about the achingly stupid the way Sen. Roman Hruska felt about mediocrities: “They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?” I suppose they are entitled to some representation—the asinine, the dull, the dunces, the moronical—but they are abusing the privilege.

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