Monday, September 22, 2008

Astute Observations on the Importance of Intelligent Leaders

I participate in discussions in the comments section at, a polling and analysis site. Much of what goes on there is childish partisan bickering, but there are always a few gems, and once in a while, a posting I feel is worth a wider audience. Credit to "stepper" for the following observations.

First post:
I don't think Palin has the brainpower to be President. While McCain probably doesn't, either, he's been a Senator for a long time, and thus gets a pass. (His current dementia, however, will soon disqualify him. I hope it comes out during the debates.)

But as for Obama, as a Harvard Law School graduate, and a law review editor myself (but at a different law school), I can tell you that Obama has the intellectual chops, notwithstanding his somewhat inarticulate speaking style when he is not teleprompted. (That speaking style got a lot better tonight on 60 Minutes. I pray he drops the umms and uhhhs for the duration. They are not becoming.)

I want a President who's really smart. Who has thought about the issues for a long time, and who is tested in the political process. Having Sarah Palin (even chock full of advisors -- like Cheney and Rumsfield, I presume) sitting across the table from Putin or someone of his ilk, is terrifying to me. I guess it will be time to prepare for the Rapture, even if I am a heathen non-believer.

Has anyone noticed Obama's style. Unhurried, careful, calm. These are the attributes we want in a President. McCain is of average intelligence and, when he was mentally competent, he was angry, impetuous and divisive. Palin is simply a neophyte moron who believes the earth is 7,000 years old. We've already had the coverboy of Mad magazine as President, and it hasn't worked out too well.

I want a President who is versed in the arts and literature, who understands Western thought, religion, the place of Christianity in world history, stuff that makes up a liberal arts education. Things the English thought should be taught to prepare gentlemen for the world, even as they were living in their country estates and chasing foxes 3 or 4 times a week. From what I can tell Sarah Palin doesn't read anything except, maybe Snowmobile Monthly.

When you're really in trouble, do you hire a slacker of a lawyer who is someone you can have a drink with at the local bar, or the toughest, smartest most creative lawyer you can afford? Your answer to that question will often determine whether you are jailed or bankrupted or acquitted or absolved of liability.

In any event this discussion about Sarah Palin's "experience" is beside the point. She's not experienced. Obama isn't experienced. Nor are McCain or Biden. Neither was Abraham Lincoln. But successful Presidents have the intellectual chops. We haven't had one since Clinton. (Hard as that is for me to say since he is a Yalie.)
Second post:
After the attacks on 9-11 Bush rose to the occasion and did a splendid job for a couple of months, burying the dead and rallying the world. But the first two things that happened after 9-11 really were instructive, and looking back made it clear that Iraq was on his hit list.

When he was told about the terrorist attacks, he didn't stop reading to the school children he was visiting. He kept going for another 10 minutes while it sank in. A capable President would have been out of there immediately, and in his limo in his motorcade. Instead, we have a timeless shot of Bush with a deer in the headlights look.

And, Bush's first speech talked about a crusade against those who attacked our country. Obviously Bush had no idea what the Crusades were about and it was exactly, precisely the wrong thing to say. But his advisors at the time apparently explained it to him and he stopped.

I want a President who would know what to do. That means instinct and intelligence. Experience comes as you do it. I don't want a man who jokes "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran" (a Freudian slip of gargantuan proportions), and who is angry and impetuous. And who demonstrates poor judgment in selecting an ignorant moron sports reporter (sorry Keith) as a running mate. I want someone who is thoughtful, calm, deliberative, and who has an idea of America's place in the world. Who doesn't have to put his hand on his heart, or wear a flag pin to love his country.

For me the choice is clear. That it is not clear to so many people I would have thought to be intelligent is frightening.


BaseballCoach said...

I look at it as "street smart" vs "book smart." Obama is clearly "book smart," but I don't think he is all that "street smart."

Ask most Americans if they want their leaders to be "street smart" or "book smart," the majority will answer "street smart."

"Street smart" only comes with experience.

I admire cultures (e.g. Japan) that revere the elderly for their wisdom, that only comes from their years of life experience. Contrast that with the view of the elderly here in the United States, where anyone over the age of 65 is assumed to be senile.

Charlie Tuna said...

First, I think you're wrong about Obama not being "street smart": he organized on the Chicago's South Side. Second, I think you're wrong about most people preferring street smarts to book smarts: look at the polls. Third, if you are running for president of the United States, you need to know that Spain is not a Latin American country. I'm not assuming he's senile, but maybe he would prefer that to incompetent. Because incompetence didnt make Bush too popular of a president