Bill Clinton’s best selling autobiography provides historiometric data

In a previous post, I talked about historiometric IQ’s (used to estimate the intelligence of historical luminaries such as Sir Francis Galton and recently, H.P. Lovecraft) where intelligence is often estimated from biographical, retrospective descriptions of a person’s intellectual precociousness or backwardness, especially in childhood.

Bill Clinton for example, was taught to read at age three by his grandparents. Since most children don’t read until age six, one could retrospectively estimate Bill’s childhood verbal ratio IQ at an astonishing 200, since at age three, he was, by this measure, verbally functioning at 200% his chronological age. Is it plausible that Clinton had a verbal ratio IQ of 200? The media seems to think so. Pundits gush about him being a political genius and former talk show king Phil Donahue once described Clinton as the most verbally skilled president to ever occupy the white house, citing his ability to dazzle in any venue, from a presidential press conference to a black church. It’s even been reported that Clinton has a photographic memory and can solve the New York Times crossword puzzle with superhuman speed, though such anecdotes should be interpreted cautiously since there’s a lot of propaganda in politics.

During his presidency, Clinton’s surrogates like James Carville would routinely appear on TV ranting and raving about how brilliant Clinton is, saying “he’s the smartest person in the room! I don’t give a goddamn who’s in the room. It could be a room full of politicians, it could be a room full of Nobel prize winners. If he’s in the room, he’s the smartest person in the room!”

In his autobiography, Bill Clinton claims he studied algebra in the eighth grade (age 13?) which was unusual since it’s typically taught in the ninth grade (age 14). So Clinton was mathematically functioning at 108% of his chronological age, suggesting a math ratio IQ of 108. However since typically only college bound kids (average IQ 105) study algebra in even the ninth grade, we should multiply this IQ by 1.05. Doing so raises Clinton’s math ratio IQ to 113

This however might be an overestimate because on the same page of his autobiography, Clinton claims that he had to stop helping his daughter with her math homework when she reached the ninth grade (age 14?) because it had become too advanced for him. A grown man incapable of helping a 14-year-old with her homework would imply he was mathematically functioning at less than 88% of adult age (16+), implying a math IQ of 88. But we should remember that his daughter attended an extremely elite school attended by the children of presidents. Since presidents seem to average IQ’s around 130, and the parent-child IQ correlation is 0.42 (see pg 348 of Arthur Jensen’s The g Factor), we should expect a school full of children of presidents (and comparable elites) to have a mean IQ of 0.42(130 – 100) + 100 = 113. So the math homework was geared at 14 year olds with an IQ of 113, which means we must multiply the estimated math IQ of 88 by 1.13, which raises it to 99. If we average this 99 with the previous math ratio IQ I derived from the age when Clinton learned algebra, we get an aggregate math ratio IQ of 106. If we average this aggregate Math ratio IQ of 106 with the Verbal ratio IQ of 200, we get an overall ratio IQ of 153.

Of course ratio IQ’s (mental age/chronological age) are no longer used because different mental abilities develop with age at different rates, and the rates are not linear throughout all of childhood and adolescence, and some children show sudden huge cognitive growth spurts before returning to a more normal growth rate. Because of such inconsistencies, ratio IQ’s give sloppy results, especially at the extremes, and have been replaced by the deviation IQ where all scores are forced to fit a normal curve at all ages and all ranges with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of usually 15. According to John Scoville, a ratio IQ of 153 has a normalized Z score of +2.84, which means it’s equivalent to a deviation IQ of 143, when the U.S. population SD is set at 15 (Scoville prefers to set it higher).

An IQ of 143 is incredibly high, making Clinton roughly 1 SD smarter than the average U.S. president, who is likely roughly 2 SD above the average American. Bill Clinton is widely described by the media as the most politically skilled person of our life time, so him having an extreme IQ of 143 suggests social intelligence and charisma might be fairly g loaded. On the other hand, Clinton seems more the exception than the rule, as a great many high IQ people are socially awkward nerds. A likely reason for this is that most high IQ people are K genotypes, and being highly evolved, lost primitive parts of intelligence like social cognition that are useful in prolific mating, to make room for more g loaded and technological parts of intelligence. By contrast Clinton, who was born illegitimate, has half-siblings, and lacks sexual restraint, is likely a genetic throwback to our archaic r genotype ancestors. That unique combination of a highly evolved IQ with a primitive social instincts and r genotype personality gave Clinton an incredible competitive advantage in life, and allowed him to rise from the backwoods of Arkansas to leader of the planet in record time. Oprah, who also shows an unusual number of r genotype traits for a smart person (teen pregnancy, illegitimate, half-siblings) is probably another example of that unique combination of traits causing spectacular success.

It should be noted that Clinton was a National Merritt Scholarship Semifinalist, an honor that is given to students who score extremely high (perhaps the equivalent of IQ 138+) on a test of academic ability. So the historiometric estimate is validated by an actual IQ score.