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Smart 'Bama

By Michael J. Smith on Tuesday November 11, 2008 08:18 PM

I happened to overhear an elevator conversation recently, between two of my neighbors. They were talking about the election -- when, I wonder, will anybody on the West Side start to talk about anything else?

Neighbor A: "At least Obama is intelligent. Bush was such a... dummy."
Neighbor B: "That is SO true. Thank God!"

Got me thinking. I've heard this intelligence trope a lot. What does it presuppose?

You want your lawyer to be smart. If you hire a computer programmer, you want him or her to be smart (unless the job includes Javascript, which a smart person won't write). And so on.

Wanting a smart president, then, goes along with another trope: that the presidency is a "job." And of course (unlike people who actually make hiring decisions, in the real world) we want the best man -- or woman, as the case may be -- for the job.

What exactly is the job description? Administrator of the global empire, right? Required skills: bland hypocrisy, experience with mass murder....

All of which makes me think I'd rather have a "dummy" in the job. It's not, actually, a job I want to see done well.

I made this point recently to another neighbor of mine -- call her Lyle. West Siders are nothing if not quick. Lyle shot back, "You just had eight years of the biggest dummy in US history. Did that make you happy?"

Now factually, I don't think she's right about Bush. She's deceived -- as New Yorkers often are -- by the hick accent. Who knows what Bush is really like? But the carefully-contrived persona to which both she, and the people who voted for him, are responding, is not that of a dummy, but of a sly and crafty peckerwood anti-intellectual, quite a different matter. Lyle mistakenly believes that a peckerwood anti-intellectual must be dumb -- it's her New York provincialism coming out. And it must be noted that if this Administration was run by dummies, it nevertheless strangely succeeded -- with a good deal of help from the Democrats, to be sure -- in doing exactly what it wanted to do.

Still. Let's grant Lyle's point, arguendo. I didn't have a response ready at the time, but pondering the matter later, I realized that I wasn't all that happy after the presidencies of the two officially-certified Brainiac presidents in my lifetime, Carter and Clinton. (Nixon was smart too, but poorly educated and crazy as a bedbug, so he's in a class by himself.)

Smart as they undoubtedly were, they left very unsatisfactory records behind them -- unsatisfactory to me, anyway, happy though others may have been -- and more to the point, these two mighty intellects paved the way for Reagan and Bush II respectively.

So how important is intelligence in a president? It depends, I suppose, on what you're looking for. Here I must return to a favorite theme: to wit, that people like Lyle and my neighbors in the elevator, when they go to vote, are mostly looking for someone they can recognize as a person like themselves. In the case of my neighbors, this would be a smart person, with a reasonably good education (as these things go), with some regard for culture, and above all -- no fucking hick accent.

Comments (8)

I think this principle generalize to policy as well. What's important is *how* business is conducted not *what* business is conducted. That at the core of the fanatical Obama supporter's enthusiasm is the promise that he will efface all of the nasty things, because if one looks at the demographic these are people fairly well-off; they are not overtly suffering (though doubtless there are ways in which they suffer). But outside of this demographic, among the working-class, this enthusiasm doesn't exist (Which is not to say people are pessimistic--in fact I've discovered the most exploited often to be the most optimistic; and they are certainly doing the most constructive work. In fact, there have been several major labor victories at my company.); one would never overhear this conversation in my building here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (I live on the "South Side", which is mostly Hispanic and Chasidic).


Obama may not be the ultimate triumph of style over substance (those laurels currently belong to Michael Bay) but he's certainly passed up every political contender for the title since Estes Kefauver lowered the boom on comic books.


the system works

it self corrects

the two line struggle
has two parties to work thru

endless zig zags between
lessers and greaters

qualitative developments ??

yup as party a becomes its opposite
and party z do too

take the fiscal/tax /budget cluster fuck
over the last 154 years
each party has tried its hand on each side
of each dimension of this nexus
more then twice at least

but the three stage morph
madly exspansionist settler republic
to imperial hegemon
required both to play
their varied
inter temporaly self contradictory

but that is in the aggregate
at the unit level much more complex motions obtain obviously

including even
total escape
from the combined
mutually co ordinating clutches
of this morbid duality

as in my case

ps /nb
my great transformation
yankee republican
to post industrial maoist
came by way of
mucho chaotic hip hops
not one great leap

among other way stations
jfk and ...milt rosen


It's like when I'm driving in my car and I have a choice between listening to the same market-tested oldies over and over again, or switching over to some twangy shit on the country station. And that's just the choice on the FM side. I can't even imagine how bad it must get inside an elevator.

Obama just sold more ice to the Eskimos, and just as the blizzard of the (at-least-)half-century was setting in.

An the fresh bergs were shipped in on a sled stolen from the match-striking Reverends Wright & King.

Somebody keeps blowing out those matches...

The West Side Eskimos know not what fire might be. Slush scares them.

As op-san, says, the system works.


check out this amusing exercise in delusional, gliberal gymnastics penned by ourfuture.org's robert borosage:


the last 2 paragraphs say it all:

"On issue after issue, moderates stand with liberals, not conservatives. This is a center-left nation.

"Republicans are not only an aging, monochromatic, regional minority party. They not only must now suffer the circular firing squad that follows defeat. They not only struggle to find a compelling leader or a relevant agenda. They swim against the tide. They are a largely conservative party in a center-left nation. Obama's mandate is clear. And they'd be well advised to get out of the way."

talk about swimming against the tide!

"the'd be well advised to get out of the way"?

my dear mr. borosage, they've retaken the throne in grand fashion only you're too willfully blind to see it.

borosage does manage to get one thing right, o-bomb-a's mandate is clear...only it bears no resemblance to regressive flights of fancy.


No Monkey, hath thou cast thine Muffins into thine visage, thus rendering thouself blind, unable to see that Albright, Biden, Emanuel, Summers et al are not rock-ribbed members of the center-right establishment, but rather avatars of the liberal-left vanguard, boldly paving the way to the glorious future?

Oh, it is going to be a long keen season for SMBIVA. Our skills in untwisting pretzels will reach unparalleled levels.

The mandate IS there. The flush was next, as always.

It's quaint how big-ego pundits continue to think ordinary people get a say in this land.

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