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SMARTISTS FOR OBAMA
I happened to overhear an elevator conversation recently, between two of my neighbors. They were talking about the election -- when, I wonder, will anybody on the West Side start to talk about anything else?
Neighbor A: “At least Obama is intelligent. Bush was such a... dummy.”
Got me thinking. I’ve heard this intelligence trope a lot. What does it presuppose?
Wanting a smart president, then, goes along with another trope: that the presidency is a “job.” And of course (unlike people who actually make hiring decisions, in the real world) we want the best man -- or woman, as the case may be -- for the job.
What exactly is the job description? Administrator of the global empire, right? Required skills: bland hypocrisy, experience with mass murder....
All of which makes me think I’d rather have a “dummy” in the job. It’s not, actually, a job I want to see done well.
I made this point recently to another neighbor of mine -- call her Lyle. West Siders are nothing if not quick. Lyle shot back, “You just had eight years of the biggest dummy in US history. Did that make you happy?”
Now factually, I don’t think she’s right about Bush. She’s deceived -- as New Yorkers often are -- by the hick accent. Who knows what Bush is really like? But the carefully-contrived persona to which both she, and the people who voted for him, are responding, is not that of a dummy, but of a sly and crafty peckerwood anti-intellectual, quite a different matter. Lyle mistakenly believes that a peckerwood anti-intellectual must be dumb -- it’s her New York provincialism coming out. And it must be noted that if this Administration was run by dummies, it nevertheless strangely succeeded -- with a good deal of help from the Democrats, to be sure -- in doing exactly what it wanted to do.
Still. Let’s grant Lyle’s point, arguendo. I didn’t have a response ready at the time, but pondering the matter later, I realized that I wasn’t all that happy after the presidencies of the two officially-certified Brainiac presidents in my lifetime, Carter and Clinton. (Nixon was smart too, but poorly educated and crazy as a bedbug, so he’s in a class by himself.)
Smart as they undoubtedly were, they left very unsatisfactory records behind them -- unsatisfactory to me, anyway, happy though others may have been -- and more to the point, these two mighty intellects paved the way for Reagan and Bush II respectively.
So how important is intelligence in a president? It depends, I suppose, on what you’re looking for. Here I must return to a favorite theme: to wit, that people like Lyle and my neighbors in the elevator, when they go to vote, are mostly looking for someone they can recognize as a person like themselves. In the case of my neighbors, this would be a smart person, with a reasonably good education (as these things go), with some regard for culture, and above all -- no fucking hick accent.
Read more from Michael J. Smith at stopmebeforeivoteagain.com.
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