Every so often I take a look at the National Book Critics Circle Blog, Critical Mass. The interviews are unusual, and their thorough scouring of the books pages in one go gives me a cross section of what’s going on in the world of literary criticism.

The latest in the NBCC blog series Critical Outtakes features Norman Mailer connecting sin, our President, and the use of language. As I’ve recently been blogging a lot about purpose, education, questions of identity, and the power of language–and on my own thinking about politics–I’ve posted the excerpt that resonates most, below. Click the title of this post to check it out in full.

Q: What do you make of the comparison between [World War One] and now?

A: To compare Saddam Hussein to Hitler is the kind of thinking you would do in an eighth grade civics class. You can absolutely quote me on this: I really think the level of intellectuality in George Bush’s mind is comparable to the mind of some mediocre teacher who instructs eighth grade pupils in civics. He’s a civics teacher at a middling level, at a dreary middling level.

Q: And we’re all paying for it.

A: And we’re all paying for it, thank you. Look, democracy depends — it’s very good when a democracy has a leader who speaks well. People really do take their cue from how well the leader speaks. FDR was able to turn the nation around because he spoke so beautifully. He had such command of language, such a love of language, such concern for it. The English were able to keep themselves together after losing the Empire because they had Shakespeare and they have a tradition of speaking well. And when you have a leader who speaks in dull slogans you are stupefying the mind of the country. That’s his greatest sin — even greater than Iraq. Is America is a dumber country now. The average person in America is dumber than they were in 2000.

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