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Dare To Be Stupid

I’ve always been proud of my mind. I tend to be very quick-witted with quips, I have a frightening amount of trivia at hand, and I can do some rather complicated math (arithmetic and algebra) in my head faster than many people believe. It’s gotten to the point at work where people don’t bother looking for calculators if I’m around.

Typically, I always thought the smartest people ought to be running things. Government ought to be a meritocracy, and it seemed common sense that the most intelligent people would do the best job of running things.

I’m not alone in this belief. When the nation of Israel was founded, it first offered it’s presidency to Albert Einstein. He declined, saying he was “deeply touched by the offer but not suited for the position.”

Recently, though, I’ve been rethinking that belief. It seems to me that being highly intelligent (or, at least, regarded as such) isn’t such a great help in governing. In fact, the converse seems to be true.

Bill Clinton was a highly intelligent and educated man. He is a compulsive reader and learner, a Rhodes scholar, and does the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. Further, he is a moderately talented musician, which is often an indicator of high intelligence. As president, though, he let himself be distracted by trivial affairs (in the Lewinsky case, “affairs” is literal) and succumbed to the notion that government can solve all problems.

Jimmy Carter may have been a peanut farmer, but he was also a Navy veteran and a nuclear engineer. He survived and even prospered in the grueling work environment run by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the absolute dictator of all things nuclear in the navy. But as President, Carter let himself get bogged down in the absolute minutiae of the White House and let his idealism overwhelm the pragmatic realities of the world.

Richard Nixon was quite possibly the most politically savvy president we’ve ever had. He, like Clinton, came from humble beginnings. He served in the Navy, parlayed that into Congressional seat, a Senate seat, and finally the vice-presidency. After being defeated by Kennedy in 1960 and losing his run for governor for California in 1962, he withdrew and regrouped, then rode the public loathing for Johnson and the Vietnam War into the White House in 1968. But he let his paranoia and need for secrecy run roughshod over his better instincts, and spectacularly destroyed his lifelong dream with a “two-big break-in” to help sway an election he was already running away with.

On the other hand, we have the presidents who have been viewed as less than brilliant. Ronald Reagan was an “amiable dunce,” but revived the economy, won the decades-old Cold War, and was the first president to serve out two terms since Eisenhower. Eisenhower himself was viewed as a slightly out-of-touch grandfather figure who was given the presidency for his accomplishments in the previous decade. Truman was a failed haberdasher and viewed as a “drone” of the Democratic machine who not only kept the war effort falling apart with the death of President Roosevelt, but won it and oversaw the rebuilding effort, that led to Germany and Japan’s changing from mortal enemies to staunch allies. Also, through the Marshall Plan, he kept Europe from making the same mistakes it had made after World War I that led to the second war.

The current President Bush is widely derided as an idiot. A close examination of his record, however, shows that every time he’s dismissed as too stupid to win, though, he ends up triumphant (just ask Al Gore or Ann Richards for references). It’s too easy to mistake is inarticulateness for stupidity – he was a successful pilot of one of the more difficult fighters ever built. And go ahead and dismiss his admission to Harvard and Yale as “family connections” – those may get you INTO such institutions, but they don’t do much to get you THROUGH.

It appears that the more successful presidents are those who are derided by the intellectuals, but viewed as “one of us” by the average folks. One could partly attribute that to sheer numbers – there are a hell of a lot more average folks than intellectuals – but that doesn’t explain it all. There’s something about the “common touch” that seems to translate into success within the White House.

John Kerry and John Edwards don’t seem to have that touch. Kerry comes across as an effete elite, a Boston Brahmin whose sole conviction is his own prosperity. Edwards has the youthful likability going for him, along with his delightfully less-than-perfect wife that many women can identify with, but he remains a personal-injury lawyer in the public eye, and that sets him roughly even with Catholic priests these days.

Oh, crap. I just realized that the above argument tends to validate the total existence of Dan Quayle. I may have to re-think my opinion of that fatuous twit…

Nah. He’s still an overprivileged idiot, and his wife co-wrote an absolutely abysmal novel. He’s the exception that proves the rule.

J.


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Comments (16)

Good stuff, Jay, though I d... (Below threshold)

Good stuff, Jay, though I disagree with you about Quayle. Mostly he got unfair treatment from the press.

Character trumps all. Bush in 2004.

Clinton may have been a Rho... (Below threshold)

Clinton may have been a Rhodes scholar, but he was considered a "just one of us" type of president. He had the "aw-shucks" thing down, was overweight, and liked McDonalds. The victory of Clinton was seen as the triumph of the notion that "anyone can be president!"

What Clinton showed me was that I don't want just "anyone" being president.

I think that instead of say... (Below threshold)
Jack:

I think that instead of saying "being highly intelligent (or, at least, regarded as such) isn’t such a great help in governing. In fact, the converse seems to be true." what you are pointing out is that being of an intellectual bent is a detriment to governing. Both Reagan and George W. Bush are far more intelligent than the way they are commonly portrayed. As a matter of fact, there has been an examinination of how George W. Bush's speaking style (the folksy tone, the mispronouncing of words) has changed from his early political career up to the time he ran for governor of Texas. He came across as a serious, highly intelligent man. It is his mangling of words and phrases in the last six years or so that gives the appearance of lack of intelligence, but in this case he's "stupid like a fox" to bend a cliche.

It is a common failure of the intellectual bent to get distracted in the interesting details or the ideal philisophical aspects of issues and to lose track of the "big picture". Those of a less intellectual bent, while still being highly intelligent, can keep their eyes on the prize and ignore the distractions.

Finally, there is a huge difference between being logically intelligent and being emotionally intelligent. Ronald Reagan was an emotional genius, and Clinton has a high emotional intelligence to accompany his high logical intelligence. He wouldn't have survived to a second term if he did not have that emotional intelligence to aid in his campaign. By contrast, Al Gore has high logical intelligence, possibly higher than Clinton's or Carter's, but is an emotional moron which resulted in his loss of the 2000 election when it was widely viewed as his election to lose because of the apparently robust economy of the time.

This is what may be Edwards' greatest contribution to the Democratic ticket. He has a higher emotional intelligence than Kerry, although not as high as Reagan. Then again, despite attempts at portraying G.W. Bush as the heir to Reagan, at best he is only a dim reflection of the Great Communicator.

Reagan was NO DUMMY. He got... (Below threshold)
daniel:

Reagan was NO DUMMY. He got a BA (in 1928-9 or '30 or something) IN ECONOMICS, and he read all the greats his whole life: Hayek, Bastiatt, von Mises.

He wrote VIRTUALLY ALL his own speeches from the 1950's until he became president.

And Bush is no dummy either.

These are myths of the Left, an you should believe the Left as much on this account as when they point their fingers in the camera and say they "did not have sexual relations with that woman!" Or when they say "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

People who fail to recognize that tyranny and tyrants are bad and that terrorists are evil are NOT INTELLIGENT.

SH*T: these Lefties thought the USSR (and Marxism) was benign! HOW DUMB CAN YOU GET!?!?!?!

DON'T CONFUSE/CONFLATE LOQUACITY WITH SMARTS.

If loquacity was the most important quality for a president to have, we'd elect used car salesmen!

AND DON'T CONFUSE/CONFLATE SIMPLICITY WITH DUMBNESS

OR COMPLEXITY WITH INTELLIGENCE.

Remember Occam's razor. The truth is simple.

Here's a simple truth: the Left is too dumb to know that the basic premises of their creed are false.

And they fail to even accept that the individual is the only agent of human action, and that each human is a sacred soul. They still belive in collectivization even though it has failed everywhere it has been tried for the last 150 years.

Now that is DUMB.

You are DEAD WRONG about Da... (Below threshold)

You are DEAD WRONG about Dan Quayle. He had an accomplished career as a Representative and Senator when picked by George H. W. Bush for Vice President. He did a great job as VP during the Philippine and Panama episodes as well as many other times.

There are known and identif... (Below threshold)
-S-:

There are known and identified DIFFERENT TYPES OF INTELLIGENCE.

Intellectualism, the cult of intellect-as-superior-being phenomenon, is, actually, an indication of lesser intelligence, in my experience.

Allow me to explain a bit: people who make the generalized assumption about other human beings -- that, to be intellectual is to be superior ("superior" as in, most qualified, possessing mental capacity that exceeds the capacity of others), and/or vice-versa -- are, in fact, limited in scope, limited in capacity themselves to perceive the human world around them, indicating their limits in comprehending the social challenges in which they exist.

So, assuming that someone of evaluated intelligence -- quantified numerical evalution about intelligence capacity -- is therefore, also assumed to be of superior leadership or insight skill, is, in fact, missing the larger picture of other types of intelligence that can, in the face of various conditions and problems, exceed in problem solving the more quantifiably intellectual person.

There are many, many and obvious indications of individuals in human history (past and present) who appear with solutions and indicate paths to solutions (solve the problems, break the loggerhead, so to write), who are vastly underperceived, even undervalued, by society due to the appearance of lack of "intellectual" excess.

The key here is that intelligence is not merely limited to what is measured quantifiably, but can and does emerge through other means. When you're lost in the woods with an I.Q. of 150 ("it's been measured, I've taken the test twice!"), and a man on a horse mosies up, has never read The New York Times but knows the way the wind blows, what directions are what and how to find home, who, in effect, is "smarter?"

Dropped copy in above:... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Dropped copy in above:

This paragraph should have read:
So, assuming that someone of evaluated intelligence -- quantified numerical evalution about intelligence capacity -- is therefore, also assumed to be of superior leadership or insight skill, is, in fact, missing the larger picture of other types of intelligence that can, in the face of various conditions and problems, exceed in problem solving WHERE THE the more quantifiably intellectual person FAILS.

Same argument (^^) applies ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Same argument (^^) applies to survivers, over time: the ability to find food and secure food sources, secure shelter and successfully reproduce has and continues to mark actual intelligence, despite the fact that some in those numbers cannot read, write even, but, they do "know more" on the basis of intelligence measured as skill.

That is, preparation and ability to survive and ensure that your descendants survive, is and continues to be the most valuable "intelligence," no matter how many theories are written to the contrary, or about the disparities involved (the "smart" versus the "average" who do or do not survive).

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius understands limits."

Last thing here: the pheno... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Last thing here: the phenomenon of those who insist on pointing out the errors made by others, particularly the Spelling Retentive User, is an excellent example of lesser intelligence presuming to rule or to be superior. Is it more intelligent to communicate sense with misspellings, or, is it an indication of lack of intelligence to write anything without misspellings? You decide, but I already have.

I'm glad someone as highly ... (Below threshold)
StretchCannon:

I'm glad someone as highly intelligent as yourself would say something like:


"It's called pay your hosting bill...."

When someone is having problems with Fark. What exactly does that mean? I look forward to the intelligent things you have to say in the future.

Stretch, I believe I speak ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Stretch, I believe I speak for all of us readers and contributors here when I ask a simple "WTF?" in response to your comment.

Thank you Mr. S F... (Below threshold)
uncommon2u:

Thank you Mr. S

For that eloquent, if not rather longwinded explanation of the fact that an ounce of common sense, practical experience,and critical thinking,may just be worth a ton of scohlastic(lol) apptitude/"evaluated intelligence".

While I would be happy to engage the debate on who was, or is the smartest/dumbest of our most recent leaders,I don't think that this is the issue that will determine the victor in any modern political campaign, PERCEIVED INTEGRITY, SHOWMANSHIP/CHARISMA, and MONEY, seem to me to have been the deciding factors in most elections since Kennedy/Nixon.

"stupid like a fox",outfox americans once shame on you,outfox them twice shame on them.Come Nov. 2 we'll see if moderate Americans buy the "compassionate conservative" line.He, and/or Rove won't be underestimated again.Most americans could think of a mistake they made in the last three years.And most americans, I hope,wouldn't agree with appointing a lifetime fed. appeals court judge who's outspokenly said that"wives should be subordinate to their husbands",but admittably I could be wrong,either that or maybe most americans just don't get the truth about our leaders from the polluted main stream media sources they've SUBscribed to.

One last obvious contradiction/crisis of conscience for those right of center to resolve,the three headliners for the rncc: Mccain,Ahnauld,Guiliani-all pro abortion rights, and all pro gay rights.Hmmm....deceptive....or just another convenient coincidence.While the electorate may not be made up of the most intelligent of americans,recognizing hypocracy isn't really that hard.

O.K.- one more for daniel"they fail to recognize that every human life is sacred", courtesy of ron reagan,if you're going to assert that all life is sacred from the point of conception why are there no anti-abortionists outside the fertility clinics discarding,i'm guessing,thousands of conceived embryos annually.Could it be,oh I don't know....MONEY.Nah I'm sure there's some other reasonable explanation.And that whole"vengence is mine so sayeth the lord " thing, well that just doesn't apply to christian, zionistic, neoconservatives, now does it.Especially in TEXAS.Kill em first then destroy the evidence.kinda like the micro film.lol

It's interesting to see wha... (Below threshold)

It's interesting to see what "uncommon2u" finds important about this election campaign.

Wait, no. No, it isn't.

WTF? Uncommon2u? I believe... (Below threshold)
Corey:

WTF? Uncommon2u? I believe the discussion was about intelligence and not Moonbat political theory.

I know how easy it is to recognize hypocrisy, but it is apparently really difficult to spell. That was for your benefit -S-.

I know for a fact that intelligent people, even those quantifiably so, are not at any specific disadvantage when it comes to survival. What a ridiculous thing to say. Not all intelligent people are pasty bookworm pussies that have never been outdoors. Things such as simple machines were invented by those that were probably quantifiably smarter than your average neanderthal that knew how to procreate and kill things.

Just because you can't catch a baseball or throw a spiral doesn't mean there are no smart people that can do these physical tasks.

See? Misspellings always t... (Below threshold)
-S-:

See? Misspellings always tip-off issues, or, at least, people who obsess over how and what someone else writes, spelled however.

Here are the two giveaways on the Internet, in any and all interactions I've ever encountered, that someone has nothing to contribute: (1.) "your comments are long winded;" and, (2.) "you spelled [wackawackawacka] wrong."

Diversion tactics, people! I always marvel that anything "long" is a problem for some. Misspellings, I can understand to a point, but, most actually intelligent people read the content first and critique the format if they're looking for an angle.

About paying the hosting bill, I haven't a clue. Not a darned clue. I hope I spelled "darn" right. Yes, I think I did.

Someone explain what this m... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Someone explain what this means(following quote), and who wrote anything about hosting bills, or even paying them, much less "Fark" and problems (or not) "with Fark."

I'm smarter than most, not as smart as some, but, I can't figure out what this means:
-------------------------------------------------------


-->>"'It's called pay your hosting bill....'

"When someone is having problems with Fark."




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