Sunday, September 18, 2011

Smart and Dumb in Politics

As usual, Kathleen Parker, lately of Parker/Spitzer on CNN but prior to that and still a Washington Post columnist, has insightful things to say.  She's supposed to be a 'conservative', but I don't know about that.  She certainly doesn't agree with much that the editors and writers of the Weekly Standard or the National Review normally say, because if she did, I wouldn't read her very much.  But as it is, I read her regularly.  I just think she's got good common sense.

In her WaPo column today, she writes about the issue of smart versus dumb in politicians, referring specifically to Gov. Perry vs. our brainy, Ivy-League educated President.
There are, of course, lots of ways to be smart and lots of ways to be dumb. We often talk about book smarts and street smarts, as though the two are mutually exclusive. We know from experience that brilliant book people can be nincompoops when it comes to common sense, while people lacking formal education can be brilliant problem-solvers.

We know these things, yet we seem to have fallen in love with the notion that only book smarts matter when it comes to the nation’s problems. At least Democrats have. Republicans, despite having a few brainiacs in their midst, have taken the opposite approach, emphasizing instead the value of being just regular folk. In GOP circles, being an ordinary American is viewed as superior to being one of those egg-headed elitists.

Distilled, this is really a brains-vs.-gut question — erudite theorist vs. plain-spoken doer — not that the two need be mutually exclusive. Would it be too much to ask that a well-read mind come packaged in a human vessel that also has had some experience in the trenches of ordinary life?
As for me, I will never again cast a Presidential vote for someone so young and so lacking in life experience of a practical kind. Of course, age and the accompanying practical wisdom doesn't guarantee anything--just look at Dick Cheney, for example. But in this age of celebrity, we can so easily be seduced by looks or personality or rhetoric that we easily pass over the most important factors that make an effective political leader.  True discernment is difficult but necessary.  Which means we're probably in a heap of trouble.


Maureen Dowd, columnist for the New York Times and a writer no one has ever thought was a conservative (though she seems an equal opportunity critic of every President), writes today about Rick Perry:
Traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to speak to students at Liberty University (as in Falwell, not Valance), Perry made light of his bad grades at Texas A&M.

Studying to be a veterinarian, he stumbled on chemistry and made a D one semester and an F in another. “Four semesters of organic chemistry made a pilot out of me,” said Perry, who went on to join the Air Force.

“His other D’s,” Richard Oppel wrote in The Times, “included courses in the principles of economics, Shakespeare, ‘Feeds & Feeding,’ veterinary anatomy and what appears to be a course called ‘Meats.’ ”

He even got a C in gym.

Perry conceded that he “struggled” with college, and told the 13,000 young people in Lynchburg that in high school, he had graduated “in the top 10 of my graduating class — of 13.”

It’s enough to make you long for W.’s Gentleman’s C’s. At least he was a mediocre student at Yale.

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