Watching the late Tim Russert interviewing Obama recently, I was struck by an unusual detail in Obama's cognitive process. Russert was exploring Obama's plans for leaving Iraq, and asked something like, "Why not give the Iraqis a few more years to consolidate the political gains they've made thus far?"

Obama's response was illuminating -- more for what it said about his cognitive process than on any political level. He answered: "If we cannot get the Iraqis to stand up in seven years, we're not going to get them to stand up in 14 or 28 or 56 years."

Check out the numerical sequence: 7, 14, 28, 56.

Most of us, confronted with that cognitive moment, would have come up with 7, 14, 21, 28 -- a mathematical progression: N+N+N+N.

But Obama went exponential: N, Nx2, Nx2x2, Nx2x2x2. His next numbers would have been 112, then 224, and so on.

Clearly, as a politician whose main vulnerability with a famously anti-intellectual American public may be his obvious smarts, he wasn't showing off. That's just how the guy thinks. I'll bet he nailed the SAT! Since Ronald Reagan wiped the map with Jimmy Carter in 1980, we've had a parade of presidents who were either authentically unintelligent or pretending to be (think: Bubba, pork rinds, ketchup as a vegetable, etc.). Could it be that things have finally gone so far off track that this country is ready to hold its nose and vote for a president who is unashamedly, unselfconsciously intelligent? A man who isn't even pretending to be a cowboy with brush to clear on his ranch?

Just how desperate are we?

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