Who’s the Adult?

Shannon’s arguments are arresting, thoughtful and useful. Since he’s a technological wizard and I’m a pretty run-of-the-mill liberal arts type, since I have the myopic tendency to draw conclusions from my anecdotal experience and he from broader & more objective sources, we see the world from quite different angles, but, in the end, we see the same world. I’m reassured that the private is full of examples of the public, the specific of the general. And some of it boils down to – who’s the adult? I hope (whenever we get this damn conference over) to offer some meditations that discuss how I slowly learned to be (intermittently I fear) the adult. But here’s the first installment and it isn’t all that personal. It is merely an observation.

Laura Bush went to college, supported herself, decided to go back and get another degree to retool for a job she found more attractive, got that degree, got that job. She was in her late twenties, supporting herself & prepared to do it for the rest of her life. She met a man, married him, and chose to blend their responsibilities, have children, raise them. Her choices were not always the ones I would have made. Still, looking at them, I see the mark of a grown up who felt the importance of self-reliance in her bones.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, set her eye on a smart, charming and ambitious classmate; for the perks that such a marriage gave her, she was apparently willing to make some sacrifices – move to Arkansas, cherish his charm and overlook his philandering. She was hired by a law firm because of its ties to her husband’s power & party. When she feared her rocky marriage might implode (leaving her with little money & threatening her status in Arkansas) she entered into a stock deal that, at the least, appears to have had little entrepreneurial risk. She thought she deserved protection from financial loss.

I suspect that is true of many on the left. They have never felt the strength that comes from being the adult, so they panic. They want a higher authority (the government, the UN) to sanction their child raising choices, their virtue. They need a cocoon. Getting a library science degree versus manipulating a stock transaction with political buddies: Which is the path of independence? Which the path of an adult?

To me, this sums up the difference between the two sides – one expects to be taken care of and one expects to take care of itself. Those on the right are optimistic about our capabilities – the great cheerleader is Glenn Reynolds with his “pack not a herd” advocacy. They are also, in the end, optimistic about human nature. It may take us a long time to get things right, but left alone, we will probably muddle through. They are, however, pessimistic about any one person’s ability to understand, control. They realize that biology, history, fate are far more powerful than our puny wills – wills we probably shouldn’t trust completely anyway. (Again, we should have learned that one long ago.) And they accept (how can we not?) that life is complicated and there are far more variables than we can understand, let alone control.

But the left is optimistic about the ability of the government to act. Only incompetence can explain the government’s reaction to Katrina – a good government knows all, protects all, supports all, rebuilds all. They think a government should be created that conquers biology, history, fate, the weather. Such an understanding of the world is foreign to those on a farm, whose daily triumphs and disasters are affected by biology, weather, the market. A farmer learns that he doesn’t “deserve” anything – but the left tends to feel that, in some mysterious ways, they’ve already paid their dues and deserve all.

76 thoughts on “Who’s the Adult?”

  1. There is certainly a kernel of truth in this division (although I think it would be better expressed without such a strong morally evaluative element – the left is regarded here with something like disdain approaching disgust).

    However, I think it is not so much a right versus left, liberal versus conservative division; as a pro-modernizing versus traditionalist division. The pro-modernizers (such a Instapundit, Viginia Postrel – William James would be an older example) are all the things that Ginny describes, and to which I personally aspire.

    But the traditionalists/ anti-modernizers are a much more diverse and less-coherent grouping since they include extreme-liberals, anarchists and communists and deep-green anti-growth environmentalists, but also many religious conservatives – especially in the large and hierarchical faiths such as Roman Catholocism and some types of Islam. In the UK one unfortunately influential anti-modernizatin coalition (called ‘Respect’ and ‘Stop the War’ and led by the appalling George Galloway MP) comprises Trotskyite leftists from the Social Workers Party and Radical Islamicists.

    The anti-modernizers don’t have a coherent positive agenda, but are held-together only by their opposition: to globalization, capitalist free-market economics, science, democracy and so on (symbolized by the USA, and also the UK).

    But modernization is an abstract aspiration, depending on a systematic understanding of phenomena. Most people prefer the results of modernization, but they don’t understand it. Popular books and blogs like those of Glenn Reynolds and Virginia Postrel have a very important role to play.

  2. Laura Bush’s an adult because, instead of setting her eye on a smart, charming, ambitious classmate, as Hillary did, she set hers on a dumb, lazy aristocrat?

    You’ve got to be kidding.

  3. Yeah, Hillary really did catch the big one. Too bad for her everybody else did, too.

    I’d also point out that Bush cleaned up his act, as we all should at some point, before he became President. I wonder what part Laura played in that. Co-dependent Hillary is still supporting Bill in his lifestyle of choice.

  4. An aristocrat so dumb and lazy that he earned an MBA, became a fighter pilot, and founded two companies, all before he was 40.

    (Oh, and those who have worried by about his IQ should check out the work by Steve Sailer and others looking at his military test. George W. Bush has an IQ of about 120, slightly higher than John Kerry’s.)

    I won’t say that anyone who believes those myths about George W. Bush is dumb — but I do think they might do a little more work before they come to silly conclusions.

  5. Wes: Must you be so insulting to the President? Can’t come up with a mature way to critize someone you obviously hate?

    I like what Christopher Hitchens said earlier this year about the continued use of Bush “stupid jokes” by the Left: “The joke only stupid people find funny”

  6. I think Charlton is right – both about my level of snark and modernization up to a point. It does seem more complicated, however.

    One thing about Reynolds and most of us on this blog is that we all recognize there are values in tradition and we retain some humility before those long traditions that have been developed to help us understand how we can live both better and happier lives. For instance, you don’t find much snark about religion on Reynolds nor here. And, in the end, in the two great paths that grew out of the Enlightenment, we clearly have more sympathy for the English – look at all the Anglosphere discussion here.

    The anti-modernizers do have complicated positions, since many believe we have nothing to learn from tradition, that man is a blank slate at birth and that society defines what we on the right are more likely to emphasize that biology does. That is why they are at once Luddites and revolutionaries and we are at once conservatives and modernizers. And, of course, both positions can encourage some good practices and both encourage some bad ones.

  7. Ginny, you make a good point.

    I work in a very free market with very experienced, brilliant people, yet on a daily basis it staggers me how difficult it still is to accomplish basic problem solving if it involves more than a few people or a few groups.

    That being the case, I’m astonished when I see people advocating the government take over care our biggest, most complex problems, emergency relief, healthcare, schools, etc. Given, for some of these people the only issue is power and they’d rather the government have it than the people, but for the rest, where power probably isn’t their over-riding concern, I can only assume they have very limited experience in problem solving beyond the personal level.

  8. I am surprised that so many bright people feel the need to make such snarky and insulting comments. Why not focus upon the post itself? In fact, Hillary managed on her very own to graduate Yale Law school. Not bad at all.

    The insults about the Left are just plain , well, silly. Is the poster suggesting that govt should stay out of things such as Katrina? Ok. Who takes care of it then? The insurance companies? Right. That th eBush group bungled the task does not mean it can best be done by a private group…the nature of that and other major natural disaster is such that govt–state and/or federal needs to be called in. As for man-made disaste4rs, though you would of course reject this I still believe that FDR in fact bailed out the nation when it was needed.

  9. Ginny – thanks for your comments. And BTW I think this is an excellent blog (I’ve been reading daily for about 6 weeks).

    My feeling about anti-modernizers (speaking as one of a couple of decades duration myself, up until about 7 years ago) is that they have lacked a coherent position since the collapse of Marxism in the last 1960s.

    Or rather, the only coherent anti-modernization position is a return to stone age hunter gatherer lifeways (I am not being sarcastic – this is coherent, and would probably be a better life for the majority of people. Of course, there is a cost to pay of a few billion lives.)

    BUT – anti-modernization (aptly named the the counter-culture) has all kinds of spontaneous human emotions and responses on its side, all kinds of evolved revulsions, aesthetic reactions, and interpersonal yearnings. For these reasons, I don’t think the counter-culture/ anti-modernization will ever go away.

    And it can serve as a useful constraint and corrective to the excesses of modernization, not systematically but on a point by point basis. For example, animistic New Age spirituality is an individualistic counterbalance and corrective to the imposition of abstract social conformity.

  10. However, I think it is not so much a right versus left, liberal versus conservative division; as a pro-modernizing versus traditionalist division.

    How nice, you’ve invented your own paradigm, that lets you aggregate trotskyists, hippies, Islamicists, and Catholics. I suppose if I tell you you’re full of bull puckey it only proves my intolerance?

    BUT – anti-modernization (aptly named the the counter-culture) has all kinds of spontaneous human emotions and responses on its side, all kinds of evolved revulsions, aesthetic reactions, and interpersonal yearnings. For these reasons, I don’t think the counter-culture/ anti-modernization will ever go away.

    Actually, I always thought “the counter culture” was anti-traditional, in that it had a strong rhetorical argument, at least against _real_ as opposed to manufactured traditional cultures, that there were no absolute moral systems, we had no right to be “judgemental” to say that one tradition or culture was better than another. Just because they were dishonest enough to not classify the moral system they’re selling under their “all moral systems are bad, or equal” banner doesn’t excuse them from being hypocrites, or suddenly make them upholders of tradition.

  11. Ginny: “But the left is optimistic about the ability of the government to act.”

    I used to think this, but observation has changed my mind. I’d say the Left looks to government to validate its own ideas. The goal of many on the Left seems to be legislation. That’s the end of the line. If ideas can be legislated, the Left feels vindicated, successful, and validated. It doesn’t matter if the legislation fails to achieve its objective because the real objective is simply legislation.

    Look at the successes the Left brags about. They highlight legislation and court decisions, not results. For example they highlight affirmative action programs, but never mention the continued poor academic performance of minorities. Today they are highlighting toothless Iraq resolutions.

    Above all else, the Leftst wants to be valued for his brilliant ideas. But even above that, he never wants to talk about the results of his brilliant ideas.

  12. I don’t hate Bush, I disagree with his policies. Do you hate Clinton?

    And when I say Bush is dumb, I don’t mean dumb compared with the average American, I mean dumb compared with Bill Clinton and every other president in our lifetimes, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan.

    And I make that assessment not based on ideological bias, but on the record of academic achievement. I’ll repeat: there are many, many very intelligent conservatives in America, but because of the political demographics of the country, the GOP prefers to elect relatively unintelligent leaders.

    Note that the party uses the mainstream media to convey the message that Democratic candidates are “too smart,” e.g. Gore losing a debate to Bush because he seemed to take a little to much joy in destroying Bush’s position. Note how many Democrats are dismissed as being too “wonky” to win the Presidency and note how many times Clinton was criticized for getting excited about government policy.

    To be fair, one can make a similar claim about Democrats and traditional morality. Mainstream and left-of-center Democrats express disdain for traditional morality in the same way mainstream and right-of-center Republicans express disdain for intellectual sophistication and academic achievement. So it is just as disingenuous for Democrats to complain about being labeled as weak on traditional values as it is for Republicans to complain about being labeled dumb.

    What I don’t get is why many of the posters here presume liberals are somehow uniquely crazy and/or morally flawed individuals. Where does this arrogance come from? What kind of fish bowl do these people live in? Get out, look around. There are millions of mentally healthy, intellectually astute, morally sound liberals out there. Reserve your vehemence for attacking their ideas rather than their presumed motives and personal morality.

  13. All right, I didn’t say it the first time, but I will now. It is dumb, incredibly dumb, to claim that a man who earned an MBA from the top business school in the nation does not have an impressive record of academic achievement. That degree is more impressive, for anyone who knows about the Harvard MBA, than a degree from a second rank law school (Kerry). And Bush has a far more impressive academic record than Al Gore, who dropped out of both law school and divinity school.

    Is it a more impressive degree than a Yale law degree? That’s harder to argue, but it is certainly far better training for an executive.

    What about the general argument that Republicans choose unintelligent leaders? Let’s consider some examples: Former Speaker Gingrich was .. a college professor. Former majority leader Armey was a . . . college professor. Former majority leader was and is a heart surgeon. Former Speaker Hastert does not have an exceptional academic record — but it is better than Nancy Pelosi’s. Compare them (and other leaders, including John Ashcroft, Bobby Jindal, and Mitt Romney) to their Democratic counterparts before you claim that the “GOP prefers to elect relatively unintelligent leaders”.

    Or just take a look at the winners of the “not a rocket scientist” awards. Last I looked, the Democrats almost swept them. (And, to my considerable embarrassment, the senior senator from my state, Patty Murray, has won that award more than once.)

    Going back to Ginny’s main point, there was an example from the 1992 campaign that supports it. In one of the debates (which I think were rigged against President Bush), one questioner asked how the candidates planned to take care of him, and others. (Or something similar.) That is, if I may say so, a child’s question.

  14. Former majority leader Frist is the heart surgeon I meant, of course.

    Oh, and speaking of surgeons, I was amused to see that President Bush received an endorsement in the 2004 campaign from American Neurological Surgery Political Action Committee, that is, the brain surgeons. It was their first endorsement ever. (Kerry did get strong backing from the porn industry, a group not famous for their academic achievments.)

  15. “Wonky” is a negative term, not because it connotes high intelligence and conservatives are suspicious of very intelligent people, but rather because it connotes hubris and a narrow intelligence that misses the big picture.

    Al Gore is an intelligent man, but it’s his hubris and not his intelligence that is the problem from my libertarian/conservative POV.

  16. Wes if you’re going to debate by caricature, you should at least attempt to make sure the caricatures are somewhat accurate and not so insulting.

  17. I don’t understand why rightists cannot find it in themselves to acknowledge that the Bush falls short of his peers, except Reagan, when it comes to academic achievements.

    As for the allegation that I’m debating by caricature, I will repeat for at least the third time here that there are many, many intelligent conservatives with the highest levels of academic achievement in a variety of fields, including politics. I have also spelled out at some length why its easy for some people to believe the unfair charge that conservatives are mostly dumb.

    But at the presidential level, the GOP has consistently nominated candidates with relatively poor academic records. Not making a big deal about that, just pointing it out. Maybe that pattern will change in 2008, but it is a pattern. I don’t understand why conservatives believe they have to deny it.

    I think its more than obvious that the only caricaturizing around here is of leftists by rightists. My views are among the most nuanced here, and it is no problem for me whatsoever to acknowledge the obvious contributions conservatives make to building a strong, dynamic culture and society. I only wish that many of the commentators here could find it in themselves to acknowledge the same about liberals.

  18. Wes: Who has defended Bush? This is the reflexivity of the Left.. If you dont go along with their drumbeat demonization of the country, of Bush, of Republicans, why that must mean you support Bush 100% and are part of the Haliburton Bushco Complex.

    Please. I have plenty to disagree with Bush over but since so many are good at pointing out every single flaw (real or not), I don’t feel the need to contribute.

    And need I mention, we’re at war, and I’m sickened how so many will undermine Bush no matter the consequences to world stability.

  19. Wes Turner,

    But at the presidential level, the GOP has consistently nominated candidates with relatively poor academic records

    Since WWII, Leftist have always stereotyped Republican Presidents as unintelligent. They also turn against Democratic presidents who cross the blue-zone Leftist elite. Eisenhower was described as a doddering figure even though he was a man who masterminded the European theater in WWII, could write Latin and Greek simultaneously with both hands and who masterminded a subtle, low violence and very successful Cold War strategy. LBJ was savaged beyond belief when it appeared he would compete with Robert Kennedy. Nixon was a thuggish idiot before being promoted to criminal mastermind following Watergate. Carter and Clinton were both denigrated as hicks from the sticks early in their Presidential careers. Reagan outraged Leftist massively. The guy didn’t even have a college degree! Leftist claimed Bush senior thought the way he spoke.

    This stereotype is simply part of Leftist subculture. It doesn’t have anything to do with an objective analysis of an individuals decision making capability or leadership ability. Leftist are articulate intellectuals and they value the talents and traits of articulate intellectual more than any others. They distrust politicians who do not pay due homage to the place of the articulate intellectuals in American society.

    I think its more than obvious that the only caricaturizing around here is of leftists by rightist.

    You should remember that this a very compact medium which uses sweaping generalizations due to constraints of space and time.

    However, you’re actually just seeing something extremely rare i.e. people not automatically granting Leftist automatic status as altruistic and insightful. Leftist feel that they their motives should axiomatically be above criticism. They believe it is okay for someone to argue they made a mistake but it is beyond the pale to suggest that they pursue selfish political agendas. This particularly galling for non-Leftist because Leftist so casual and routinely accuse people who disagree with them of venality.

    Leftist have fallen for the seductive fallacy that intelligence equals wisdom or that erudition indicates character. They have developed systematic flaws in their thinking that causes real harm. They must be called to account for it.

  20. Wes…”relatively unintelligent leaders”..”candidates with relatively poor academic records”..and “disdain for intellectual sophistication and academic achievement”…I think many Democrats, and particularly many self-defined “progressives” tend to inaccurately conflate a certain kind of glibness with true intelligence. See my posts The Smart-Talk Trap and Is John Kerry Smart?

  21. Some folks seem to think continued academic success should merit a special respect from the rest of us. It certainly should be respected, but no more than success in any other career field.

    I have yet to see a transcript that lists leadership, integrity, morality, innovation, imagination, stamina, loyalty, ambition, cunning, spirit, drive, humor, and common sense. And I have no reason to think they reside in the academy anymore than anyplace else.

    Intelligence may be necessary for academic success, but academic success is not necessary for intelligence.

    Bill Gates. Dropout. Academic failure. Do we measure his intelligence by academic achievement?

  22. Thanks Shannon, David and Elliot for providing ready examples backing up my assertion that conservatives tend to denigrate the worth of academic achievement and that many who comment here offer stilted, caricaturized views of leftists’ motives.

    As a liberal, and/or leftist, it is no problem at all for me to acknowledge that academic achievement isn’t everything and is not even close to being a guarantee of leadership ability. It is, however, among the best measures we have of conventional intelligence.

    I expect conservatives to favor objective standards and conventional intelligence, so it’s even more disappointing when right-wing ideologues dispense with that in favor of convenient apologies for their standard bearers.

    America is a vibrant, free, wealthy, open country that adapts to social, economic and political changes as well or better than any other. If liberal or leftist thinking were nearly as corrupt and misdirected as many here claim it to be, it would not thrive here.

  23. And Shannon: Reagan did have a college degree. Eureka, Illinois, I believe. BTW: had a chance to read through the Carter book yet? You might be surprised how balanced it is.

  24. renminbi thanks. I should have googled before I wrote. Unlike some of the other Chicagoboyz, I know next to nothing about the distinctions you make and appreciate your citation.


    You don’t appear to be reading the posts. Miller points to the quite high level of academic achievement among many of the Republican standard bearers. That some others remarked that such achievements are not necessarily the best preparation for leadership doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of it among Republicans. (One of the most conventionally well-educated is the vice president’s wife.) The right values doing rather than talking – but that doesn’t mean that it is not educated. The most conventionally educated pundit is probably VDH. I don’t see pundits on the left with the education of those on the right nor do the bloggers on the left seem to have the education of those on the right.

    Secondly, a lot of people around here are really irritated with Bush. I’m not one of them. Of course, he is not particularly eloquent and that has damaged his ability to motivate others. I suspect part of that is the frame in which his speeches were put by the MSM, but I would be foolish to argue that he is good at impromptu speeches nor delivery. On the other hand, I have long found his speeches (and how much he owes to Gerson, I don’t know, but Gerson’s role has been public and we haven’t had those silly exercises in which Bush pretends he is writing a speech himself – as we had with Clinton) moving and hooked into a solid and long historical tradition. The fact that those of us with some background in that area or with some of that context found them more eloquent than many commentators who really didn’t have a clue to the allusions says as much about the modern media as Bush. Others have more carefully demonstrated the level of thinking of men such as Eisenhower and Reagan.

    I don’t actually think the arguments are that the left is corrupt, but your responses consistently show your unwillingness to deal with the larger issues that Shannon raises in his comments and Miller does in his (and actually, several do). Policies of the left have consequences; just because the left is in denial about the economies and lives that have been destroyed because of their sometimes dilettantish speeches and actions doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

    Your responses throughout this have been a dramatic example of what the left does. You think you are being reasonable. I appreciate the effort that may have taken (or perhaps it is your natural disposition and if so that says even more good about your character): you are not nasty and try to appear balanced. Like the loaded television news shows, however, saying something bad about the other side doesn’t make for real “fairness & balance” – that requires tackling issues and viewing with context. You make generalizations about the commentators, but they aren’t ones that accurately describe them.

    Of course, I have trouble seeing someone who has taken the positions Carter or Chomsky have to be middle-of-the-roaders. That you do means, I suspect, that you either don’t actually care much about (or, more probably, don’t think much about) the misery and the death in places like Palestine, Vietnam, Iran, Cambodia, and Venzuela that have been caused by the policies of those on the left that you consider moderate.

    And, by the way, my initial point was that self-reliance and preparation for independence is an admirable trait and one that seems to me more often characteristic of the right. I don’t mind people wandering all around on the comments because I’m pretty discursive myself, but you seem to have little understanding of that as a bedrock value in some people’s worlds. It certainly is in mine.

  25. I would like to make the different point that when Democrat intellectuals say (and they do: repeatedly, vehemently) that GW Bush is ‘dumb’, this helps get Bush elected – it helps a lot.

    1. Whatever his precise level of intelligence, GW Bush is much more intelligent than the vast majority of the US population, and the US population know this.

    2. By calling GW Bush dumb, and by publicly *despising* him for being dumb, the Democrat intellectual pundits are calling the majority of Americans dumb, and despising them for it.

    3. This stops many people voting Democrat. I mean, why would you vote for people who despise you?


    Separate point, Milton Friedman – an intellectual genius by almost any standard, and who knew a few Presidents – regarded Ronald Reagan as an intelligent man who understood the issues in economics. But he regarded Richard Nixon as *much* more intelligent – indeed one of the most intelligent men MF had ever met (and he had met plenty).

    But Friedman regarded Reagan as much the better president, indeed MF regarded Nixon as a bad President who knowingly implemented damaging economic policies for reasons of short term popularity or by yielding to pressure groups.

    Presidents need to be intelligent enough to understand complex issues and know what is the best decision; but beyond that Presidents need courage based on conviction, which Nixon lacked.

  26. Bruce makes an excellent point: it’s to the GOP’s advantage to have a candidate Democrats will call dumb. I wonder if they’ll be willing to surrender that advantage in 2008. As I have said four times now, this makes five, there very many intelligent conservatives in America with very high level academic achievements. But they tend not to get elected, and Bruce does a nice job of explaining the resentments many Americans feel when their intelligence is questioned.

  27. I meant to write that “they tend not to get elected president.” (unassailably intelligent Republicans). As Shannon and others rightly point out, there are a lot of elected Republicans of immense intelligence. But at the national level, the party does have the resentment issue Bruce mentions to contend with. Again, will be very interesting how that’s handled in 2008. Will it hurt the party significantly to be robbed of he advantage Bruce notes?

  28. “I don’t understand why rightists cannot find it in themselves to acknowledge that the Bush falls short of his peers, except Reagan, when it comes to academic achievements.”

    Because it is not true? (By the way, I don’t call myself a “rightist”; I call myself a “cross-country skiing conservative”.)

    I’m not sure who you consider Bush’s peers, but he achieved more academically than either of his opponents, Gore and Kerry, and about the same as his predecessor, Clinton.

    Here’s a general suggestion for Wes Turner (and those who share his views): If the facts don’t fit your theory, then you should discard the theory, rather than ignoring the facts. The fact of Bush’s Harvard MBA is incompatible with your theory that he has weak academic achievements. (Similarly, the fact that he was a marathon runner, and an excellent one for his age, is incompatible with the theory that he is lazy. And so on.)

    But I tire of this, because it is clear that mere facts do not matter to Mr. Turner.

    Let me propose an alternative theory that other, more open-minded, readers may want to consider: Republicans give less weight to words than Democrats do — and more weight to deeds. For example, John Edwards — who achieved nothing in six years in the Senate — would not be taken seriously in the Republican party. But Republicans will accept leaders who are not eloquent speakers, if they have real accomplishments, as Bush does.

    This is, to return to Ginny’s original point, a more adult way of judging leaders. It is childish, or better, adolescent, to fall for sweet talkin’ guys, as Democrats so often do.

  29. Wes Turner: there are different types of intelligence and academic acheivement does not always lead to good decision making in ‘real world’ situations. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

    I work with medical residents and students, and while academic acheivement in medical school often tracks with good decision making in residency, when taking care of real patient issues, or in my case, looking at patient biopsies, but not always. In fact, I see a lot of very gifted academics who can’t seem to translate the academic part to good decision making in real time. Again, it depends on the person. As someone who practices in an academic hospital, I am continually amazed at how much you need the whole team to be on it’s ‘game’. What good is fixing someone’s hip if the patient slips on a dirty floor that wasn’t mopped properly? So this game where the right and left talk about who is more educated, has more degrees, or has a higher IQ is just kids stuff. It’s silly.

  30. Show me where a PHD is a qualification to be a CEO? It’s not. You know what is? Ability to execute. That’s all that matters. Taking Care of Business (TCB.) Whether someone has a PHD or a bachelors is really irrelevant. Hopefully between the time they got out of school and the time they run for president they’ve done some things to exemplify themselves and show that they can execute and TCB.

    You can have a PHD from Harvard and be quite useless when it comes to TCB. On the other hand, you can have a BS from some second tier school and be quite good at TCB.

    Again, this goes back to my comment earlier in this thread: If you’ve never TCB yourself, you probably don’t understand what it means, or appreciate how hard it is to really TCB. In that case you probably aren’t in a good position to judge who can TCB and who can’t. Still there are alot of people who have never TCB, so we can’t expect them to choose a candidate with that in mind, although, ultimately, TCB is a reasonably large component of a successful executive.

  31. EGG…some PhDs have made excellent CEOs, but many haven’t. I tend to agree with Peter Drucker’s assertion that a person needs to have significant management experience before they are 30 or so if they are ever going to be a really good manager, and the process of getting a PhD, combined with the after-graduation career path, makes this kind of early experience unlikely.

    Obviously, the statement about “before 30” is a general one, and I’m sure Prof Drucker would have agreed that exceptions exist.

  32. Yeah DF – I’ve had a CEO who was a PHD and he did a damn good job. I’ve also had PHD’s that I wouldn’t let within 20ft of a customer. My point would be that formal education can be indicative of alot of different things and there is no reason it would be an indicator of who has executive skills and who doesn’t. That’s why I was suprised at the focus of the comments in this thread. I wasn’t sure what people are trying to accomplish comparing various graduate degrees.

  33. Jim Miller writes: “I’m not sure who you consider Bush’s peers, but he achieved more academically than either of his opponents, Gore and Kerry, and about the same as his predecessor, Clinton.’

    Bush is President of the United States, his peers are other Presidents.

    Bush earned an MBA at Harvard. Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar who taught law. It’s obvious Clinton’s academic achievements are greater. As I said, Bush’s academic achievements are less significant than those of all his peers, except Reagan.

    And thanks again, MD, ElGaboGringo and David Foster for piling on evidence to back up my claim that conservatives often show disdain for the relevence of academic achievement.

  34. I don’t know how saying “Academic acheivement isn’t relevant to leadership or executive ability” is disdaining or denigrating academic acheivement unless you think something only has value in it’s ability to be relevant to leadership or executive experience.

  35. Clinton might a rhodes scholar. but what impresses me is that he was the first person elected President, to be impeached.

  36. Pacella has a point. And I repeat here Kristofferson’s observation: “I think between us, Bill Clinton and I have settled any lingering myths about the brilliance of Rhodes scholars.”

    What I want in a leader is someone who sees the world in proportion. In the long run, it could be Bush will have taken too many risks and misunderstood both Iraq and American support. But he pretty clearly saw what many of his detractors did not: that we couldn’t keep running those sorties over the Kurdish area forever, that once the sanctions were off Iraq would be out of control, that Iran was between the two pincers of Afghanistan and Iraq. He saw globally. Clinton more often thought politically – we need look no farther than the response of the Clinton administration to Rwanda. The fact that those on the left would rather talk about poll numbers than policies doesn’t say much about their sense of proportionality.

    Clinton certainly didn’t have the ability with words that Kristofferson has; he also never became quite as dysfunctional. Kristofferson would be a much much worse leader than about anyone I can imagine. Eloquence, intelligence – these charm but don’t lead. The fact that Wes can look at statements like that and say, ah, you are represented and want to be represented by dumb people makes rational discussion difficult.

    So, of course, this whole discussion is really silly. Wes just keeps saying those on the right don’t respect intelligence, then demonstrates his own obtuseness. Only someone who knows nothing about life, leadership, intelligence, education would make the arguments Wes has been making.

    But actually, I’m thankful for this thread. It has brought in some of our most interesting commentators and I’m looking forward to further discussions of leadership and adulthood.

  37. Ginny, I think what some of us are saying is that you have to be careful confusing intelligence with scholarliness. Some positive correllation there, to be sure, but we’d have to be careful there making that assumption on the whole.

  38. Oh for heaven’s sake Wes Turner: why would I be an academic physician, making half of what I would in private practice, if I didn’t have respect for academics? No, no, no. The issue is so complicated, and doesn’t lend itself to sloganeering.

    Look, in my environment, you get promoted by writing papers that are published in scholarly journals, right? And then, by virtue of your promotion, you become involved in decision making about the day to day running of a clinical department (in my case, a pathology department). The thing is, writing NIH grants and publishing in medical journals are not necessarily the same skills which allow you to run a clinical pathology laboratory efficiently and safely for patients. Some people can do it; others can’t. They are different skills! The incentives in academic medicine are a little wierd.

    My residents will get quite a chuckle out of the idea that I don’t have respect for academic or scholarly achievements…….I’ll have to tell them about this thread :)

  39. If I may get back to the original question: Who’s the adult? I find your comparison of the two first ladies interesting, but I’m not sure I agree. I’m willing to bet Hillary didn’t go to Yale Law School to get what used to be called an MRS degree and she probably had then the same expectations of life as Laura Bush did–to support herself and go on doing it for the rest of her life. But Bill Clinton happened and Hillary absorbed his ambitions and agreed to go to Arkansas, etc. not because she thought she would be taken care of but because she felt the two of them could tag team their way to greatness. The stock scam didn’t happen because she wanted a protective cocoon, but because of arrogance. She felt entitled to break the law because she saw herself as being above the law.

    I see this arrogance as being the chief difference between left and right.

    The left pushes for more government intervention, not because they themselves feel the need to be taken care of but because they feel they know better than the hoi polloi, who can’t be trusted to take care of themselves. Instead they must be guided by Philosopher Kings like Hillary into doing the right thing. And if Hillary wants to feather her nest by taking advantage of a few loopholes, well, she damn well deserves it–because she’s smarter than the rest of us. See all of Wes’s comments for further validation of this thesis.

  40. Yikes, sorry, Ginny, for ‘rising’ to the bait in the comments thread. I guess the whole idea that a particular degree or level of scholarship in one area means you should be deferred to in other areas really bugs me.

    As for Hillary vs Laura. Who knows who is more adult? I don’t know these people. I know who I’d prefer to spend the afternoon with, that’s for sure (hint: Laura). Even if I were still a Democrat, as I was in the 90s, I don’t think I’d much care for her. I was in med school when she tried to reorganize American medicine. She was not, uh, terribly popular with my fellow students and colleagues. We kind of wanted to have some say in the whole thing. How rude not to ask us, Hillary. That’s how we felt.

  41. Wes Turner,

    I think it fare to say that everyone in this thread agrees with you that Rightist do not hold academic achievement in as high a regard as Leftist. What you fail to grasp is that we are trying to explain to why this is so. You have never once bothered to explain why the Lefts obsession with academic credentialism is NOT a serious flaw in and of itself.

    Bush earned an MBA at Harvard. Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar who taught law. It’s obvious Clinton’s academic achievements are greater.

    And no juxtaposition could better illustrate Ginny’s original point. Clinton was indeed highly successful academically and his IQ is reliably placed in the 160-180 range. Bush by comparison has an IQ in the 120-140 range making him a bright normal or sub-genesis.

    And yet:

    Clinton, having obtained the highest position of power and influence in the whole of contemporary human existence placed his accomplishments and the hopes of all the people he supported, in jeopardy for the sake of mere immediate sexual gratification.

    That is the very definition of immaturity.

    Clinton’s intellect did not make him a good leader. In the first half of his presidency he was massively unpopular and widely hated even among the Left due to his inability to keep promises. Clintons slipperiness was so severe that Leftist cartoonist Gary Trudue opted to depict Clinton as a waffle in his cartoons. Even though he survived and exited office fairly popular, it is clear that his administration will be remembered for nothing but his impeachment.

    Say what you will about Bush but it is impossible to imagine him placing all he has strove for at jeopardy just for a blow-job. He played the child far longer than he should have. He did not grow up until the mid-80 oil crash violently ripped the silver spoon from his mouth but he did grow up something Clinton, for all his intellect and academic credentials never managed to do.

    Leftist as a subculture believe that intellect and education make a person a good decision maker. However, a large body of scientific literature on the subject shows this is not true. Emotional self-awareness makes for better decision making. An ability to place the needs of others before ones own makes for a better leader.

    Western social conservatives, like the members of all traditional societies, are correct when they place more emphasis on character than brilliance when selecting leaders. Until you can overturn that argument, anything else you may say is mere hot air.

  42. I wonder why no one is interested in answering my question about the valid point Bruce made. He argues that liberal claims that Bush is dumb help Repubicans win elections.

    My question, then, is can the Republicans afford to give up that advantage in 2008 by nominating someone who isn’t vulnerable to the allegation?

  43. Wes, wrt Bruce’s point, if Republicans nominate someone of high intelligence it won’t matter, the left will still find a way to alienate voters with their arrogance.

    Shannon – Well put, as always. As to why the left doesn’t value emotional maturity as much as the right does: similar to my first comment, they don’t have enough experience with it to value it or gauge it properly, at least IMHO.

    Ginny – you are right. Good topic to right on and respond on!

  44. Shannon – Do a Google search on “Clinton + IQ” and you will find that the 182 estimate comes from an internet fraud, specifically, the “Lowenstein Insitute” — which does not exist. There’s a Snopes article on it for those who want more. Best guess is that Clinton’s IQ is about 134, which is high, but not astonishing.

    To the best of my knowledge, he was not a Merit finalist, or even semifinalist, which is consistent with the lower estimate. (As those who are familiar with the way the Merit tests were conducted then would know, it would have been easier for someone from Arkansas to qualify when Clinton was in high school. I don’t know if they are still norming them by state.)

    His BS quotient, however, must be astonishingly high. (My apologies for the language, but no other term really seems to fit.)

    (In a day or so, I’ll have a post at my own site reviewing the academic achievements of the presidents from FDR through GWB.

    And I will probably bill Wes Turner for all this tutoring. Meanwhile, here’s a homework assignment for him: Find the answers to these three questions: Is winning a Rhodes evidence of academic achievement or of promise? What degree did Clinton earn while he was at Oxford? What did Clinton’s tutor at Oxford think of him as a student?)

  45. Truman: 2 yrs Kansas City Law School no degree
    Kennedy: bachelors Harvard
    Johnson: Bachelors Southwest Texas State
    Carter: bachelors USNA
    Clinton: bachelors Georgetown; law Yale

    Eisenhower: bachelors USMA
    Nixon: bachelors Whittier; law Duke
    Ford: bachelors Michigan; Yale law
    Reagan: bachelors Eureka
    Bush I: bachelors Yale
    Bush II: bachelors Yale; MBA Harvard

  46. I feel that there is too much ‘piling in’ to rubbish Wes here – he really is making some excellent, and probably original, points which warrant discussion.

    1. Maybe the Republicans should factor-in the advantages of choosing a presidential candidate who will attract the kind of ‘dumb’ accusation from Democrats that has helped Reagan and GW Bush to get elected and re-elected? Not that they really are dumb, they are not, but they attracted that criticism in a way that eg. Bush Senior did not.

    2. The question: why do Democrats over-value ‘quick witted’, elite-credentialled smartness, of the kind posessed by Clinton (or JFK)? I suggest that it is the liberal intellectual portion of Democrat voters (eg academics, media pundits, and public sector administrators – and nowadays liberal bloggers) who want someone elected of their own kind. Remember the ‘Camelot’ nonsense when JFK and Clinton were elected?

    IMHO The problem with this pro-intellectual bias is that it undervalues ‘charecter’ – a personality type which is sufficiently ‘simple’ and sustained to be predictable/ reliable in its actions over a 4-8 year timespan. This is vitally important to electability in a democracy.

    My impression is the Giuliani has the advantage of this kind of character – but I agree with Wes that because he does not come across as ‘dumb’ in the way that gets pilloried by liberal intellectuals, he would lose this element of electoral advantage.

    Hillary Clinton appeals to liberal intellectuals for her cleverness, but comes across as lacking character (this will not change), and I guess she would be unelectable (against a candidate of character). Obama is a public speaker of genius, I judge; his character is not yet apparent but I think he probably has it.

    So if it was Giuliani versus Obama, the electoral decision would be made on the bais of policy not personality, and the estimate of the key election issue: ie. strong on the war on terror, versus more economic socialism. The answer depends what the majority of voters want, and I would trust democracy to get the answer right more often than the analyists (which is precisely why democracy is the best known system of politics).

  47. Well, I suspect it would be good for the country if an election were really battled out in terms of ideas – but I’m not sure how some of the news analysts would handle that. Even at the time when I voted for Clinton, I got irritated at the “horse race” nature of the coverage. I may have changed sides, but it was through watching these issues battled out in other arenas.

    I remembered an interesting if quite short & generalized analysis of Bush & Gore’s speeches by Pinker – and with Google, here it is.

  48. Elliot’s description of Carter’s academic work leaves out some important details. From his biography at nobel.org:

    He was educated in the Plains public schools, attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received a B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946.

    In the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant. Chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the nuclear submarine program, he was assigned to Schenectady, N.Y., where he took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics, and served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine.

    President Carter is the author of 19 books, many of which are now in revised editions: Why Not the Best? 1975, 1996; A Government as Good as Its People, 1977, 1996; Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President, 1982, 1995; Negotiation: The Alternative to Hostility, 1984; The Blood of Abraham, 1985, 1993; Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life, written with Rosalynn Carter, 1987, 1995; An Outdoor Journal, 1988, 1994; Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age, 1992, Talking Peace: A Vision for the Next Generation, 1993, 1995; Always a Reckoning, 1995; The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer, illustrated by Amy Carter, 1995; Living Faith, 1996; Sources of Strength: Meditations on Scripture for a Living Faith, 1997; The Virtues of Aging, 1998; An Hour before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood, 2001; Christmas in Plains: Memories, 2001; and The Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, 2002. In 2003, he published his first novel, The Hornet’s Nest, a story of the American Revolution, and in 2006, Peace not Apartheid.

  49. Shannon constructs a false dichotomy between character and academic achievement. They are in no way exclusive, although Bruce and some others here do seem to suggest that relatively low academic achievement is a political plus for Republicans. (It’s interesting that Democratic voters don’t seem to vote based on the corrolary resentment about the ubiquitous assertions by the right that leading liberals have character flaws.)

    Shannon writes: “You have never once bothered to explain why the Lefts obsession with academic credentialism is NOT a serious flaw in and of itself.”

    Sorry Shannon, but you are criticizing my posts without reading them. Had you read my post on this very subject, you would have encountered the part where I said:

    “As a liberal, and/or leftist, it is no problem at all for me to acknowledge that academic achievement isn’t everything and is not even close to being a guarantee of leadership ability.”

    How then, do you come up with idea that I’m “obsessed” with academic “credentialism?”

  50. A Guiliani/Obama race will be interesting. For one thing it will pit academic pedigree vs. real world accomplishment. Which, I think, was one of the contrasts Ginny’s original post wanted to make.

  51. Ginny said:
    Well, I suspect it would be good for the country if an election were really battled out in terms of ideas….”

    I have often thought that, if a strict interpretation of the words of the first amendment were held to, prohibition of electronic media (EM) campaigning and EM news coverage of political campaigns could force elections to be contested only in printed forms and, therefore, tend to make it more a battle of ideas that Ginny would wish for.

    After all, “speech” was, at the time the amendment was adopted, people or persons physically talking to one another in person; it didn’t contemplate electronic broadcasting (consider the bull- horn equiped person broadcasting down a street at 3AM in the morning- prohibitions are possible). A candidate is free to say what he will but, technically, a law prohibiting the “broadcasting” of political campaigns would, strictly speaking, be possible without damaging the integrity of the constitution.

    “Press” (freedom of the press) contemplated when it was written, the written word, literally the “pressing” of inked type onto paper. Revising, or interpreting, the phrase to read “no law restricting the the freedom of speech, or of the written word” and a law prohibiting visual EM coverage of campaigns (radio coverage might be more acceptable) coverage would do it, I think.

    This would be a serious improvement: more rational elections, a more erudite electorate, less emotion, less money required to run a campaign, etc. etc.

  52. I think any law restricting the donations to political candidates and any law regulating political speech to be a violation of the 1st Amendment.

    I do support full disclosure.

    I think these restrictive laws are what is cause the perputual fund-raising that many people criticize congressmen for. Since they can’t rely on wealthy patrons, they have to beg for many many small amounts and it takes longer to raise money.

    Let a Congressman get supported by a gazillionare and let the disclosure laws allow people to assess what the meaning of that is as it relates to their appraisal of the candidate. It’s naive to think that the gazillionare were it not for restrictions doesn’t have influence on the candidate already.

  53. Wes Turner,

    Shannon constructs a false dichotomy between character and academic achievement.

    No, I said just the opposite. I argued that since academic achievement doesn’t correlate in anyway with character, Rightist do not consider academic achievement an important indicator of political leadership potential.

    It all has to do with priorities. Each side wants leaders who are intelligent and of good character. However, we are often forced to prioritize which attributes we find most important because individuals often do not express both in equal measure. Speaking broadly, Leftist rank intellect (and indicators of intellect) over character whereas Rightist rank character over intellect. It’s as simple as that.

    The Republican’s benefit from the Left’s emphasis in intellect because it appears very elitist. (Which I think is part of the appeal to Leftist.) The Republican’s don’t seek out poorly educated candidates nor do they downplay candidates academic achievements. It only appears that way because Democrats simply gush over their candidate supposed brilliance. Instead, Republican’s merely point out the Democrats emphasis on intellectual elitism and say to the voters, “he thinks he’s better than you. He doesn’t think like you and he doesn’t represent

    “As a liberal, and/or leftist, it is no problem at all for me to acknowledge that academic achievement isn’t everything and is not even close to being a guarantee of leadership ability.’’

    Unfortunately, we are not talking about you but rather an entire sub-culture composed of millions of individuals. I am sure that every Leftist in the world would agree with your statement if ask directly but then they would immediately turn around and begin mocking the intellect of the rightwing leader du jour.

    The Chinese say that, “fish are not aware of water,” and we are often not aware of the biases and stereotypes of our own subcultures. I don’t really think you can see the phenomenon we are describing because it is so much a part of the background hum of you existence. I really doubt that I would have made these arguments had I not made the transition from Leftist to libertarian and began looking at my former beliefs with new eyes.

    For example, I suggest you reflect on whether a book called, “Peace not Apartheid” can really be an accurate description of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the title alone. If your biases is that Israel holds the majority of blame for the conflict then title might seem perfectly unbiased. If you do not, however, blame Israel almost exclusively then the title itself is obviously biased.

  54. Shannon: In a false dichotomy you are presented with two choices, when in fact there are more than two choices. I think you’ve misunderstood my use of the term.


    Shannon writes:
    “Republican’s merely point out the Democrats emphasis on intellectual elitism and say to the voters, “he thinks he’s better than you. He doesn’t think like you and he doesn’t represent..”

    It’s bracing to hear a rightist acknowledge that Republicans vote on the basis of personal emotional needs. I wonder if you realize how insulting that analysis is to the Republican electorate. I wonder if you would admit to voting against a Democrat because he or she “doesn’t like you.” Talk about juvenile.

    Shannon is, however, absolutely correct on that point. A key element of the Reagan strategy, as retooled by Karl Rove, is to stir resentment about “educational elitism” among the Republican’s less educated base of voters. The strategy does not so much lure new voters as it “immunizes” the base against voting for Democratic candidates that more closely represent their economic and geopolitical interests.

    This has worked brilliantly in the past two presidential elections, but with the war in Iraq, slow job growth and even slower wage growth, there’s a good chance the “immunization” won’t be potent enough this time.

  55. Jim Miller: Speaking of easy questions, here’s one for you: would you vote for a Republican just because you thought the Democratic candidate had insinuated in some way that you weren’t intelligent?

  56. Wes,
    You must have been one of those guys who thought What’s the Matter with Kansas? was an intelligent book.

    You don’t seem to understand some basics about human interaction. If a guy keeps telling you he’s intelligent, either he isn’t or he’s ridiculously insecure about something. A guy who is comfortable in his skin is not likely to care about what others think about him; he’s more interested in what they think. That’s the kind of guy whose decisions we are more likely to trust; that’s the kind of guy that can see the bigger picture and is less likely to be handicapped by problems with his ego. It’s hard to grow up – I’ve gotten fairly old and my ego still gets in the way. But it is a characteristic that I want in someone who is making the big decisions.

    By the way, pride in academic accomplishments is not unreasonable – they are usually bought with considerable time, sacrifice, and work. Nonetheless, the people who are most likely to put Dr. on their checks, etc. (other than medical doctors) in my acquaintance have been those that got theirs from teacher’s colleges. (Perhaps I see what I want to see – but that has certainly been my impression.)

    You seem to accept as a given that people like the standard bearers of the Democratic party lately are more intelligent than those of the Republicans. Intelligence isn’t all that quantifiable in an abstract form – and I actually do believe that IQ tests, College Boards, etc. show something, unlike many liberals who feel that differences reflect class and not intellectual skills. This is not a given that the rest of us on this blog are going to give you. But you toodle along as if we had. You find someone saying that people don’t like being condescended to and you assume that is because the person doing the condescending is intelligent. No, he’s a jackass.

    This is not a new subject to this blog nor to human history. You might contemplate Robert E. Lee’s comment: “A true man of honor feels humbled himself, when he cannot help humbling others.” Or you might consider Benjamin Franklin (who was quote often the smartest guy in the room) observation about making an argument in a more subtle manner if achieving a good end was your aim rather than achieving a fleeting acclaim.

    A refrain on this blog is Acton’s great observation: Power tends to corrupt and and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The average American is quite aware that the worst trait a leader can have is arrogance. Arrogance matched with insecurity is deadly. You will notice that that is returned to repeatedly in the comments above, but I’m not sure if you understand that it is the arrogance of the left, not its intelligence, that many of us don’t just despise but actually fear. And we should fear it. Franks is so sure that he knows more than the farmers out there – but he might pause for a moment and perhaps contemplate that those farmers have seen what farm collectivization, what government farming did in the twentieth century; it wasn’t exactly good for anyone, but most especially the farmers. There is a reason that my brother-in-law goes to the Ukraine every year to discuss agricultural methods and preach the no-till gospel. That is because their farming techniques are generations behind ours, not because their land isn’t rich or the people weren’t willing to work.

  57. Wes Turner said in this comment….

    It’s bracing to hear a rightist acknowledge that Republicans vote on the basis of personal emotional needs. I wonder if you realize how insulting that analysis is to the Republican electorate. I wonder if you would admit to voting against a Democrat because he or she “doesn’t like you.’’ Talk about juvenile.

    Most people have their own prism issue, the one subject through which they view politics. Mine is protecting innocent people’s lives.

    The Democrats have consistently advocated laws which restrict the private ownership of firearms. They do this even though it has been proven by no less an authority than the National Academy of Sciences that such laws have no benefit in reducing criminal violence, which is the major justification for their actions. In fact, there is evidence that banning private gun ownership leads to increased levels of violence and death.

    One can look at this any number of ways, but it seems most likely that the Democrat strategy is a cynical move to garner support from those who have a knee jerk emotional dislike of guns, no matter how many people they put at risk. If any Democrat politician actually ignores the evidence and believes in the anti-gun arguments themselves, then they must be in thrall to their own knee jerk emotional spasms.

    There have been instances when politicians have expressed a dislike of gun owners and their property. Since there isn’t any rational justification for their stance, I would have to say that they are claiming that they don’t like those of us who go armed. They certainly seem to care little about the lives of innocent people, which means they will never get my vote.

    Does this mean that I am driven by my own emotions? You betchya! My efforts to protect innocent lives certainly doesn’t bring me any payoff except for an emotional one, and I even have to make some serious sacrifices to keep at it.


  58. Ginny, I have made a few simple, direct points and you haven’t responded to any of them. I don’t mind if you have separate views you want to express about why liberals are bad people but I’d appreciate it if you take a little more care to refrain from mispresenting my views.

    I have restated five times previously, this makes six, that there are very many intelligent Republicans, including elected officials. I have restated twice, this makes three times, that intelligence isn’t by any means a guarantee of leadership ability.

    Still, you and Shannon persist in misrepresenting my view as being “obsessed” by “academic credentialism,” and that I somehow don’t understand that intelligence isn’t a guarantee of leadership ability.

    Ginny writes:
    “You seem to accept as a given that people like the standard bearers of the Democratic party lately are more intelligent than those of the Republicans.”

    That’s a highly misleading fabrication. I have clearly, repeatedly said that, as measured by academic achievement, Republican presidents in our lifetime fall well below Democratic presidents. Moreover, I have provided direct evidence to back up my claims. You have responded with a torrent of assertions, misdirection and mischaracterization, as I demonstrate above.

    “You find someone saying that people don’t like being condescended to and you assume that is because the person doing the condescending is intelligent. No, he’s a jackass.”

    You should take that up with Bruce and others who said, plainly, that voters go Republican because Democrats say Republicans are stupid, an insult these voters take personally.

    I wonder, are you accusing Al Gore of being a jackass? Apparently, GOP voters found him “condescending.” What do you mean by jackass? Can you explain why you’d apply that label to him? And if not, who are you talking about? Clinton? Carter? Barack?

  59. Wes,
    I think Shannon understands your problem: you swim among people who agree with you and you don’t read very carefully.

    I didn’t say that you didn’t think there were some intelligent Republicans. However, your immediate remark is that you believe the standard bearers for Democrats were more intelligent than those for Republicans. And you believe you have proved that. You have repeated it. If it isn’t important to you, then I don’t know why you keep bringing it up. As Jim Miller pointed out most clearly, that is not a supposition most of us are willing to accept. The fact that you keep repeating it seems a bit strange, frankly. You seem to imply that it does have to do with leadership – but, I’m sure you are wise enough to know that is true only in broad terms. You acknowledge that. Then you bring it up again.

    Secondly, you seem to think that condescending is the attitude of an obviously intelligent person. I suspect that I am not the only person on this thread that would argue that it is generally an indication of a stupid one. That people are insulted when someone condescends to them goes without saying; part of the reason they are insulted is because they have observed that the person who is condescending to them is not very bright. Certainly that would apply to Al Gore; his debating style was that of someone who asserts facts he thinks he “knows” and which turn out not to be facts. People were not turned off because of his intelligence but his lack of it. And the fact is that Gore doesn’t seem to realize he doesn’t know.

    But, he appears not to be a bad person. I don’t think I was thinking of him as a jackass; I can’t, however, take him seriously. Actually, Clinton’s great charm comes from the fact that he doesn’t condescend and Carter’s limited charm comes from the fact that he takes himself so seriously he is seldom bothered to condescend (except to Bush at formal occasions). Clinton and Carter do, however, suffer from extraordinary arrogance. Clinton’s takes the form of a sense of entitlement that is, at least, lively; Carter’s is a sadder form but it probably occasionally propels him to do good (build houses, hunt down disease in Africa); it more often leads him to contribute to harm. But then Clinton can assume that a lot of people like him. They do. Carter is still suffering from the 1980 election and it clearly drives him. If you want to argue that Bush Sr is not very articulate, I would agree with you. But clearly, his reaction to losing an election was far more mature than Carter’s. This indicates a sense of proportion.

    You keep treading the same ground and circling around – not realizing that you are contradicting yourself within the same comment. It could be that you should take a rest from our blog.

  60. Wes: “I have clearly, repeatedly said that, as measured by academic achievement, Republican presidents in our lifetime fall well below Democratic presidents. Moreover, I have provided direct evidence to back up my claims.”

    You have indeed repeatedly said that, but you haven’t provided direct evidence. Can you help us out a bit, and tell us what you see as the evidence? The list of academic degrees earned by presidents doesn’t support your claim. And your list of books by Carter shows that all but the first two were published after he left office.

    Perhaps it’s a function of the “lifetime” you mention. Exactly what period are you considering as “in our lifetime?” I suspect we have a wide variety of lifetimes represented here. And exactly which sets of Democratic and Republican presidents are you comparing?

    Is there something you include as academic achievement other than degrees granted? If so, what is it?

  61. Ginny takes her most direct on the self-evident yet with her claim, that my view suffer because I “swim with people who agree with me”

    Chicagoboyz is more than obviously not a forum where a liberal would go to swim with people who agreed with him.

    Note that Ginny and Shannon didn’t even bother to ask anything about what I read, where else I post, what else I write, what I do for a living: nothing. Yet they feel safe, somehow, nakedly assuming, diametrically opposed to the evidence, that I “swim among people who agree with me.” And these same people blame others for being condescending. Unbelievable!

    Interestingly, I do note that Shannon and Ginny spend a lot of time here at chicagoboyz, sharing opinions among people who agree with them. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with that, mind you, it’s just not the way I choose to spend my time on the Internet, Ginny’s hilariously false allegation notwithstanding.

    I post here because I’m absolutely certain that my views require correction and because I happily conform my views to whatever facts and logic are available to me. I fear nothing less than an opposing view and I seek nothing more than facts that would prove me wrong.

    And then there’s this closer from Ginny: “It could be that you should take a rest from our blog.”

    Indeed. Moments after accusing me of not exposing myself to views such as your own–as part of an exchange of views with you, absurdly enough–you conclude with the suggestion that I should refrain from exposing myself to your views. Or are you suggesting that I refrain from exposing you to my views? Which is more condescending? Hard to tell, isn’t it?

    Like all Al Gore says is in his Academy Award winning film (eat your heart out, righties!): What we don’t know isn’t nearly as dangerous as what we’re sure about that’s wrong.

  62. Wes can’t help himself to continue to insist his arrogance is geniune..this line says it all:

    Like all Al Gore says is in his Academy Award winning film (eat your heart out, righties!)

    I didn’t know I was supposed to take any one’s winning of an Academy Award personally.
    I’m not sure what is more shallow, the award ceremony itself, or Wes’s contention that I should be distraught about it.

  63. Okay, I’ll admit it. I was tired last night and I said the inappropriate thing. You are welcome Wes and I’m glad you are here. It has made me think. And your stubbornness is the other side of a trait I have long found quite useful, perseverance.

    I am not sure you have challenged my assumptions – your arguments have not grown nor brought in evidence I haven’t seen before. (I was, of course, aware that Carter had published books. So did Kennedy. So, of course, did Nixon. Amd the Clintons. I’m not sure what that was all about.)

    Nor are your arguments original. Everyone from Roseanne Cash to Al Gore have argued they have taken their political positions because they know more than those on the other side. But, of course, those on the other side feel that they have taken their positions through reasoned thought as well. Your assumption – from the first comment on this thread on – is that we will agree with some things are self-evident (that Bush is a dumb, lazy aristocrat) your assumption. Even that first argument ignored the thesis of the post, but all of us are pretty discursive around here. Your arguments have not defined your terms – what is a reasonable approach, what makes a good leader, what is intelligence, what are the motives of those that find a condescending leader unacceptable.

    You do make several arguments that appear to tell us what those assumptions are: a reasonable approach is that by Carter, Chomsky, et al. Intelligence is defined by what you seem to consider self-evident acts, but you don’t deal with the fact that others do not consider those self-evident nor the other fact – that the opponents of those you cite have approximately the same credentials. If voters don’t vote for a man they find condescending, you see that as proof they are anti-intellectual.

    The reason I thought you didn’t often argue with others was because you don’t seem to take other arguments into account nor listen when you don’t hear what you want to hear. But, of course, we are all like that to some extent. Good luck, however, with trying to convince your opponents that way.

  64. Wes Turner,

    I have clearly, repeatedly said that, as measured by academic achievement, Republican presidents in our lifetime fall well below Democratic presidents. Moreover, I have provided direct evidence to back up my claims.[emphasis added]

    Let me state this very dramatically so you do not miss it: EVERYBODY ARGUING WITH YOU AGREES WITH YOUR ASSERTION! You don’t seem to grasp this. I don’t know why.

    It’s as if you said that, “the flowers in your garden are PURPLE!” and we said, “Yes, we like purple flowers,” and you reply with, “but they’re PURPLE!” We might innocently conclude that you do not like purple. We try to explain to you why we like purple but all you can say is, “The flowers are PURPLE!”

    Likewise, you say that Democratic candidates have more academic achievements than Republican candidates!” We say, “Yes, that is generally true and here is the reason why,” then you reply with, “but you didn’t admit that Democratic candidates have more academic achievements than Republican candidates!” Therefore we innocently concluded that you believe that Republican relative inattention to academic achievement is a bad thing. We try to explain again why this is true but to no avail.

    Did we misunderstand something?

  65. Since I posted the degrees earned by the presidents, it’s only fair to post the degrees earned by the losers. So, here is the combined list. Since 1948 twelve Democrats have run for president, and five became president; nine Republicans have run, and six became president.

    It’s arguable that Truman, the president with the least academic accomplishment in the last 130 years, was the best president. I would certainly never judge his relative intelligence by his lack of academic credentials. I wouldn’t judge the intelligence of anyone on the below lists by academic credentials.

    Truman: 2 yrs Kansas City Law School no degree
    Kennedy: bachelors Harvard
    Johnson: Bachelors Southwest Texas State
    Carter: bachelors USNA
    Clinton: bachelors Georgetown; law Yale

    Eisenhower: bachelors USMA
    Nixon: bachelors Whittier; law Duke
    Ford: bachelors Michigan; Yale law
    Reagan: bachelors Eureka
    Bush I: bachelors Yale
    Bush II: bachelors Yale; MBA Harvard

    Stevenson: Bachelors Pinceton; Law Northwestern
    Humphrey: Bachelors Minnesota; MA LSU
    McGovern: Bachelors Garret; PhD Northwestern
    Mondale: Bachelors Minnesota; Law Minnesota
    Dukakis: Bachelors Starthmore; Law Harvard
    Gore: Bachelors Harvard
    Kerry: Bachelors Yale; Law Boston College

    Dewey: Bachelors Michigan; Law Columbia
    Goldwater: 1 year U 0f Arizona no degree
    Dole: Bachelors Washburn; Law Washburn

  66. It is the proper function of political parties to do what it takes (within the letter and spirit of the law) to get elected – essentially by putting forward the kind of people and policies which will get them elected.

    The political process can go wrong when parties don’t do seriously try to get elected. In the USA the Democrats are currently not seriously trying to get elected, which is why they keep choosing poor candidate for President. And do not have coherent policies – they are simply hoping to get elected by the Republicans being rejected, and this has worked for Congress and the Senate.

    We have seen this in the UK. When Mrs Thatcher was elected in 1979 the Labour party chose Michael Foot as their leader – a kind of ultra-left, aristocratic human-scarecrow. They kept on with this kind of self-destructive line until John Smith then Tony Blair whipped them into shape and won the 1997 election; after which the Conservatives imploded and made some disasterous leadership choices (notably Iain Duncan Smith) while rejecting Michael Portillo who was probably the most gifted leader since Thatcher aside from Blair. The Conservatives have still lack coherent policies, although they now have an electable leader (David Cameron).

    My point? Party members (whether in the UK or the US) are not always trying to get elected as their main priority. Much of the time they do things that make them feel good, feel morally pure, but do not appeal to the electorate – and they just hope that the electorate will get sick of the ruling party, or that the ruling party will makes mistakes or just be unlucky. Clearly this remains the implicit strategy of both US Democrats and UK Conservatives.

    In this frame of mind, party members indulge themselves by choosing leaders who make party members feel good, but do not appeal to the electorate. Eg. Leftists choose intellectuals, rightists chose nationalistic fanatics.

    When the Democrats eventually decide they want to win a Presidential election, and are prepared to make the necessary compromises, then we may see them choose a Presidential candidate on the basis of their broad personal appeal and a clear simple program.

  67. Shannon, here’s what Ginny just wrote:

    “the opponents of those you cite have approximately the same credentials.”

    then you wrote:

    “Let me state this very dramatically so you do not miss it: EVERYBODY ARGUING WITH YOU AGREES WITH YOUR ASSERTION! You don’t seem to grasp this. I don’t know why.”…“you say that Democratic candidates have more academic achievements than Republican candidates!” We say, “Yes, that is generally true and here is the reason why,” then you reply with, “but you didn’t admit that Democratic candidates have more academic achievements than Republican candidates!” ”

    Shannon, can you work this one out with Ginny, the two of you seem to disagree about whether Democratic candidates have, on average, higher academic credentials. (But please note that my claim is that presidents in or lifetime divide that way.)

    I’ll let you two work that out…meanwhile:

    Some here have asserted that “character” is a better indicator of a person’s suitability as a president.

    “Character” is far too subjective and too diffuse as a concept to provide a reliable guide to presidential performance.

    Take the current crop of presidential candidates. By all appearances, Dennis Kucinich is a man of sterling character. You may not like his personality, his speaking style, his haircut or his dietary choices, but, as far as I know, his character is unassailable. Yet I’m relatively certain that Shannon, Ginny and most of the other regulars here would expect disaster from a Kucinich presidency.

    Let’s look at Guiliani. He dropped out a senate race against Hillary, surely a moment of great shame for conservatives, in no small part because he was he was trying to move his wife and daughter out of the mayor’s mansion so he could move his girlfriend in. Yet I would hazard a guess that Shannon and Ginny would walk over ground glass to tell us how much better a president Giuliani would make than Kucinich. Fair enough.

    A moron can possess superb character and many, if not all, of the greatest leaders through history achieved much despite possessing significant character flaws: Churchill comes to mind and, while I would argue that Nixon’s character flaws overwhelmed his leadership ability, I suspect many who read this believe they didn’t.

    Newt Gingrich is divorced twice and reportedly visited his wife in the hospital while she was dying of cancer to tell her he was filing for divorce, though we don’t know whether he mentioned he was having an affair with his office assistant. Personally, I couldn’t care less. I’m willing to let the man figure out his own personal life: he may well have had very good reasons for divorcing and remarrying with a colleague. I just don’t care. Rather, I don’t like Gingrich’s policies, it really is as simple as that. His “character” is irrelevant to me.

    As portrayed in the mainstream media, reporting on the “character issue” in presidential politics is a monumnet to lazy journalism. It is very hard work to write compelling stories about candidates political positions, track records, financial/lobbying connections and so on. This kind of stories requires extensive factual research and, even more difficult, very careful news judgment about how the mass of facts can be arranged to make clear why they are important to readers.
    Writing about “character” is much, much easier.
    By introducing the “character issue,” a journalist can, in one swoop, shifts the focus to emotion and personality and away from objective fact.

  68. Wes, I will admit that Shannon was not speaking for me. Though your idea of your “lifetime” is not clear to me – how old are you? What are you talking about?

    The idea that San Marcos is a training ground for intellectuals is a bit of a reach, as is the belief that someone that manages to drop out of both a seminary and law school is superior to someone who gets an MBA. Though I’m quite sure Boston College is a fine law school, it is not exactly Ivy League. You seemed to see books published as a criteria for Carter’s intellectual reach. While I come from a culture that rewards people for books published, I don’t think it is the best criteria for anything other than promotions and pay raises.

    Frankly, I can think of no one on the right that(though I have no doubt there are some) has the remarkable vacuity of Kucinich. Someone who doesn’t bother to understand what is going on in Iraq any more than he does and has the termerity to run for president does, indeed, have a major character flaw – as attractive as his idea of the three pillars of civilization may be.

  69. Thanks, Elliot, for the additional data on presidents, contenders and academic achievement.

    It’s interesting that the losers appear to have, on average, higher credentials than the winners. The margin is quite small, though, and could vanish, depending on how you count experience like Carter’s study of nuclear physics as a naval officer.

    Evidence that secondary degrees are a political liability would support the case made by some here that there is a measurable “academic resentment” vote that tends to swing to the right. It also also meshes with the mainstream media analysis saying Gore lost to Bush because voters thought he was condescending.

    Having met Gore, I can say that he’s as sincere as any career politician. Having just seen his film, I have to agree that he can come off as condescending. But it would never even occur to me to consider that a reasonable indicator of leadership ability or lack of it.

    That appears to be a clear difference between liberals and conservatives in America. Whereas conservatives seem forever aggrieved at being talked down to, you hardly hear liberals complain about the moral condescencion coming from conservatives in the media, politics and religion.

    Look at the rhetoric here, calling liberals jackasses, “vacuous,” unprincipled and on and on. Talk about condescension! Yet as a theme, liberal aggrievement just hasn’t caught on. Wonder why?

  70. Mr. Turner – If you want to be taken seriously, then I would suggest that you do two things. First: admit that the slurs in your first comment on this post have been disproven. A man who runs marathons is not lazy; a man who earns an MBA from Harvard — and I suspect you didn’t know that — is not “dumb”; a man who grew up in quite modest circumstances is not an aristocrat. (How modest you can see just by looking at the Bush homes in Midland, or checking the elder Bush’s funny story about their neighbors in their first house in Texas, which was a cheap “shotgun” house. And the Bushes just had half of it.)

    Second, respond to the subject of this post, rather than trying, again and again, to move it off topic. Your arguments may interest you, but they are too ill-informed to interest me, whereas Ginny’s argument is interesting and, I believe, well-founded.

    In short, admit that you were wrong (and perhaps slanderous), and stay on topic. (And if you aren’t willing to do those two things, I would suggest that other commenters treat you as a troll, ignoring you and perhaps banning you if you persist.)

    (I am reluctant to do this, but since you have gone on at such length about politicians not talking down to the voters, I will simply tell you that the idea is very old one, at least as old as the ancient Greeks. I used it in this post on Senator Patty “not a rocket scientist” Murray, but I didn’t mention its long history because I thought that every person who was even modestly informed about politics knew that.)

  71. Wes,

    I’m not sure I know of any examples of successful leaders who condescend to their followers. There may be managers who do that, but not leaders. There is a difference between the two.

  72. Jim: Did the Greeks have a saying about glass houses and throwing stones?

    The fact that you start off a post condemning condescension with the line “If you want to be taken seriously,” pretty much says it all about the limits of your self awareness. Likewise, you counsel staying on topic, but your post includes not a single word about the subject of this post: Who’s the adult?

    Juvenality is indeed a worthy topic, especially as regards the condescension that’s dripping from your post about me. You resort to the classic childish rhetorical device of arrogating to yourself the unearned role of group spokesman. How do you know whether others take me seriously? People take the time to respond, as you have, so the evidence is pretty clear that they do take me seriously enough. Yours is the lowest form of condescension there is.

    When I say Bush is lazy, I mean intellectually lazy. That should be obvious enough, but I will indeed admit that it wasn’t. Your point about marathons is absurd. Bush’s job is supposed to be to think, not run.

    When I say Bush is stupid, I mean relative to other recent presidents, i.e. his father, Clinton and Carter. (Reagan’s a close call, as I have mentioned.) Bush has difficulty forming simple sentences and even more trouble combining them into complex ideas. We can have a reasonable debate about whether this is some kind of specific, limited disability, or evidence of limited analytical skills. But when I add the other evidence: limited knowledge of major world affairs, an aversion to science and an attraction to fundamentalist religion, I come down on the side of Bush’s mangled sentences showing exactly what they appear to: limited intelligence.

    That’s where I come down, Jim. If you want to debate the subject, bring it on. I’m open minded about the evidence. But, please, remember you’re among people who say they despise condescension.

  73. Oh, and there’s my description of Bush as an “aristocrat,” I thought I was being exceedingly kind in characterizing the fact that he relied heavily on family connections to avoid military service in Vietnam by entering the National Guard, to fund an oil venture he subsequently ran into the ground and to recover from that by buying a baseball team, again using family connections.

    True, in the most literal meaning of the word, Bush is far from an aristocrat.

    from wikipedia: The Ancient Greek term aristocracy originally meant a system of government with “rule by the best”. The word is derived from two words, “aristos” meaning the “best” and “kratein” “to rule”. Aristocracies have most often been hereditary plutocracies (see below), where a sense of historical gravitas and noblesse oblige demands high minded action from its members.

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