It’s common, global, knowledge that President Bush doesn’t have the brightest public image (as best portrayed by Will Ferrel on Saturday Night Live). Unfortunately George is an easy target, what with the poor grammar, pretzel incident, I could go on. His history of being an ‘oil man’ doesn’t help his wartime reputation at all.

This morning I heard something that changed my own opinion of the man. I have to admit I was surprised to hear that the reality of President Bush is just the opposite of popular satire.

Today on NPR’s Morning Edition, reporter Renee Montagne interviewed David Frum, a speech writer for Bush and the author of The Right Man, an insider’s look into the Bush Whitehouse:

MONTAGNE — The President Bush that you spent you first months in the White House writing for, how did he measure up against the President Bush that was being made fun of? The President Bush of malapropisms, poor memory for facts. Was that the fellow that you encountered on a daily basis?

FRUM — I don’t know that there has been a president in a long time whose image and whose reality have been farther apart than President Bush. I think people have an image of George Bush as, you know, very good-natured but maybe kind of dumb, whereas the truth is he’s not at all dumb and he’s not always so good-natured.

MONTAGNE — Well, let’s work backwards. What about not being good-natured? He has a temper?

FRUM — Well, let me read you an example of his temper. ‘I once made the mistake of suggesting to Bush that he use the phrase “cheap energy” to describe the aims of his energy policy. He gave me a sharp, squinty look, as if he were trying to decide whether I was the very stupidest person he had heard from all day, or only one of the top five. “Cheap energy,” he answered, “was how we’d got into this mess. Every year, from the early 1970s until the mid 1990s, American cars burned less and less oil per mile traveled. Then in about 1995, that progress stopped. Why?” He answered his own question. “Because of the gas-guzzling SUV. And what had made the SUV craze possible?” This time I answered, “Um, cheap energy?” He nodded at me. “Dismissed.”‘

Now keep in mind this is the guy who everyone thinks of as the posterchild for Mad Magazine. This is the man that almost cost Alec Baldwin his citizenship. This is our president who has just reprimanded his staff for suggesting that cheap fuel is good because poor fuel economy is a problem.

Am I missing something? Did the President of the United States of America call sports utility vehicles a bad thing? If Bush stands to profit so much from the sale of oil, then why would he care how many giant, gas sucking, land yachts are speeding around the world?

I submit that G.W.B. might not be as big of a jerk as everyone, including myself, has made him out to be. If the President is really this sharp — away from the cameras and reporters — then what do I care if he can’t pronounce the word nuclear correctly?