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Monday, August 31, 2009

Our "Extraordinarily Intellectual" President

(H/T to Power Line) In this Washington Post story, there appears to be another reincarnation of the media's reminders of the public that President Obama is extraordinarily brilliant.

The president is a very sophisticated thinker and understands the implications of these decisions and events. . .I think he is making sure he makes the best decisions and sometimes you cannot just wipe the slate clean. You have to deal with what the facts are or you have to actually try to make sure you can ascertain the facts, as opposed to some of the hyperbole that is out there.


There are some things [Obama] recognizes are the attorney general's prerogative to do, but at the same time it's not like he just says, "well, whatever he does, he'll do. [Obama] wants to make sure we take into account those decisions and take the appropriate steps within the White House to deal with them, particularly from the standpoint of making sure we maintain that very capable, robust counterterrorism capability."

This has been repeated by some in the media that it's turned into a mantra and a broken record. The fixation by some to convince the public that President Obama is uniquely intelligent in a way no president has ever been before is equally misleading and totally without context. First, if geniuses made the best presidents, then all our presidents would have been geniuses. Second, it's far from clear that President Obama is uniquely intelligent in a way that no other president has ever been before.

Whenever anyone starts to measure the intellect of a president and use that intellect to try and prove some larger political point, I go back in history. First, Andrew Jackson could barely read. Jackson was far from an intellectual. While we can debate his place in history, it's hard to argue that Jackson was a unique and transformative president. Clearly, his lack of intellect didn't hurt him that much. Ronald Reagan graduated from Euraka College, not Harvard. No one is saying that Reagan was dumb, but he was certainly not a president of uniquely extraordinary intellect. Yet, he also was a transformative president. Abraham Lincoln wasn't necessarily a man of extraordinary intellect and yet he was instrumental in ending slavery.

I have no doubt that President Obama is extremely intelligent. I don't even doubt that he's more intelligent than the overwhelming majority of citizens of the U.S. I also don't doubt that most presidents are smarter than most of the citizenry they serve. No one has shown how Obama is somehow much smarter than most presidents. More than that, no one has show why it would even matter.

Whenever anyone makes the claim that Obama is really, really, really, really smart, what they are really saying is don't worry about his policies because you just don't get it. Obama, you see, just understands the world better than us simpletons. So, when we are concerned about his policies, that's because we don't get it.

I would challenge all of it. If Obama is so smart, why did he think that saddling the country with overwhelming debt was the only way to move us out of a recession. Warren Harding, no intellectual heavy weight, cut spending and taxes when he faced a severe recession in the beginning of his administration. That recession did not lead to a depression and in fact ushered in a decade of outstanding growth. If Obama is so smart, why does he think that a big government overhaul of health care is the best option? Furthermore, if he's so smart why can't he see that his health care reform package has no hope of passing?

The reality is that alluding to Obama being extraordinarily intellectual is a trojan horse. It's a way to change the debate from the subject at hand. In the Washington Post piece, the story was actually about AG Holder's appointment of a special prosecutor for the CIA investigation. In this case, Obama's intellect should be of no relevance. The decision was supposedly entirely that of Holders. So, who cares how smart Obama is? This is a constant technique of many in the media. It's subtle justification for a policy. It isn't the job of the media to offer justifications for Obama's policies. His intellect is irrelevant. As such, his policies need to be analyzed on their merits not on his supposed extraordinary intellect.


JimDavisNewsmax said...

Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar. But he wasn't smart enough to avoid being impeached for lying under oath. We have no published records demonstrating the alleged brilliance of Barack Obama: no college transcripts, no research papers or published writings (other than two autobiographies, which may have been ghost written). And he was the editor of the law review at Harvard. All we really know is that he's very good at reading from a teleprompter.

Anonymous said...

For someone is suppose to be so "brilliant" Obama says and does a lot of stupid things.

V12Merlin said...

Hmph! If Obama's such an intellectual, why can't he even answer questions at a news conference without a teleprompter?

Having lived in Cambridge MA all through my 20's and near Ann Arbor since 1994, I've noticed that the definition of intellectual among liberal academics has morphed into "agrees with me". Makes dinnertable conversation insipid, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to be smart to be a good politician and you don't have to be stupid to be a bad politician.

Anonymous said...

Obama is smart enough to act smart on TV :)