I heard some comments on NPR a few days ago which brought to mind my prior thoughts on why George Bush is reportedly much more articulate in public than in private.
Here's a slightly different spin on [perceptions of Bush as stupid] - Bush talks down to the American public, spinning carefully scripted and packaged positions which are designed to advance his agenda while satisfying the largest possible number of likely Republican voters. If you accept that he believes what he is saying, some of those positions can make him seem stupid. This can even help explain some of the "he's wonderfully articulate in private" contradictions. In a private, off-the-record moment he is freed from his script and can actually address the facts and issues as opposed to hiding behind insipid sound bites. (Surely he does have a better plan for Iraq than "adapt to win", even if that's all he seems to say when asked about the situation in public.)The comments I heard inspired me to consider yet another possibility.... Specifically, the person commented that in a private meeting Bush is articulate, informed, and doesn't resort to talking points.
Early in Bush's Presidency I heard it argued that Bush is inarticulate about things he doesn't care about, and articulate about issues that really matter to him. My proposal above was that many of the positions he takes in public are stupid, leading to the impression that somebody who says a lot of stupid things is probably stupid himself. But here's another possibility which, in a sense, ties the two together: Bush is a really bad liar. He stumbles over his words when he doesn't believe what he is saying. It is interesting in this context to note that no matter how tepid his prior performance, when Bush loses his temper at a press conference there is nothing ambiguous in his language and he doesn't trip over his words - he says what he means, quite clearly.
This could also explain why nobody turns on a tape recorder or videotapes a private session of Bush being brilliant and articulate behind closed doors - he goes off-message, and it's better politically for him to be perceived as inarticulate than to have the public know what he really thinks and intends.
Somehow it seems to be more comforting to just think of him as a bit slow....