The conventional wisdom about Karl Rove – back when he was Bush's Brain, and paid for it with the presidential nickname "Turdblossom" – was that he was a genius. (Of course, back in 1994 they said that about Gingrich, too.)
Almost ten years ago, in one of the very first posts here at p3, I put my foot down on that. Rove was smart in his own way, sure – even Junior was, in his own way – but Rove's unique gift wasn't his ability to think up ideas no one had ever thought before. It was his ability to look at ideas that others had also considered, but rejected because the collateral damage was too great compared to any short range political gain – and then go ahead anyway because he didn't care.
Charlie Pierce helpfully collects the same sort of he's-a-genius stories – even from Mother Jones! – about Texas madman Ted Cruz, and concludes:
Over the last two days, the Tailgunner has put his off-the-charts intellect to interesting use. First, he argued that repealing the Citizens United ruling would enable the federal government to take Saturday Night Live off the air and declare political satire to be illegal, which is just nutty. Then he went before an audience of Christians of Middle East origins and got booed off the stage.
I shudder to think what he might have done had he not been so off-the-charts brilliant.