pageok
pageok
pageok
More on Palin and Measuring the Intelligence of Political Candidates:
Todd's post below on Sarah Palin brings up some good questions about how we measure the intelligence of politicians. I wanted to offer a few thoughts.

  It seems to me that when we talk about a candidate's "intelligence," we usually mean a mix of several different things. We might mean raw intellectual candle power, the sort of mind that we might expect to excel in an academic setting. We might mean charisma, the ability to impress and inspire observers. We might mean judgment, a person's ability to chose wisely among different options. We might mean articulateness, a person's ability to communicate effectively. There are some other options, of course, but those are a few of the different kind of judgments that usually factor in how we assess intelligence.

  My sense is that all of these factors are usually considered when assessing a candidate's intelligence, with the caveat that we often end up filtering these questions through the lens of how much they agree with us. Politicians who agree with us are necessarily intelligent. After all, they have the raw candle power and the judgment to see that we are correct! And politicians who don't agree with us are presumed to be much less intelligent: They either lack the candle power or judgment to "get it." These sorts of intuitive judgments mix together with some of the more objective evidence (academic pedigrees, great writing or speaking skills) to form our judgments of a candidate's intelligence.

  How might this work with Sarah Palin? If you agree with Palin's views, you're likely to figure she is obviously reasonably sharp (smart enough to get the issues) and has good judgment (she gets then right). Further, her political success proves that she has charisma (popular Governor, beat the incumbent). And if she isn't the most articulate person, well then she's just not glib. On the other hand, if you disagree with Palin's views, you're likely to think she isn't intelligent (no impressive academic degrees), she lacks judgment (she's wrong on the issues), and she's inarticulate (see Couric interviews). And if she's a charismatic person, well then it's just an empty and misleading charisma.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Palin and Measuring the Intelligence of Political Candidates:
  2. Glibness v. Intelligence:
WF (mail):
We might mean charisma, the ability to impress and inspire observers

Really?
10.21.2008 1:22am
HC1 (mail):
I like your discourse.
10.21.2008 1:22am
Waldensian (mail):
If she's a young-Earth Creationist (and I should add that's far from clear), then it becomes pretty difficult to argue that she's really intelligent.

Young-Earth Creationists are deluded, even more so than theists generally. Young-Earth Creationists have fundamentally bizarre, superstitious, and nonsensical views about the most basic aspects of the world we live in.
10.21.2008 1:44am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
If she's a young-Earth Creationist


She made a statement to a named witness on the subject of dinosaurs.
10.21.2008 1:46am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
So, what's the "evidence" that Biden's intelligent? You know, Mr. "couldn't get a fact right" in the VP debate.

For that matter, what's the evidence that Obama is actually intelligent? He was a "law professor" for 12 years at the University of Chicago. What intellectual accomplishments to he produce there?

Not "what people did he impress", what intellectual accomplishments did he produce? Papers? Articles? Participation in debates where he cleaned other's clocks?
10.21.2008 1:52am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
She made a statement to a named witness on the subject of dinosaurs.

And you believe this claim because?

IOW, do you have any proof other than this one person's claim?
10.21.2008 1:54am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Jukebox,
Given the amount of media attention on Palin, this one uncorroborated witness is the best you've got?
10.21.2008 1:54am
epeeist:
To Waldensian re Young-Earth Creationists:

That was my view also, until discussions with a co-worker, who turned out to be what you would call a YEC. Smart, supported things including things like free speech much more than the "non-theists" who had problems with "offensive" speech, a better lawyer than those others, did lots of pro-bono work (not limited to Christians!), etc. Merely because someone has particular beliefs which one may, in isolation, consider "deluded" does not mean that person is "deluded" in other areas. You have to look at the whole picture.

A good example of that is Bill Maher (film "Religulous") who has problems with "superstitious" religious types -- but who himself believes things like vaccination doesn't work (I don't mean he opposes mandatory vaccination, which for all I know might be a libertarian position, I mean he thinks that Pasteur was wrong, you can't vaccinate people against diseases, and he believes homeopathic medicine works -- which I think is pretty stupid of him, with my scientifically-trained mind...). To take a hypothetical, who would be worse as say Secretary of Health: someone who is a YEC and has issues with evolutionary theory, or someone who thinks vaccination is bad and homeopathic medicines work well? What if someone's religious beliefs incorporate notions of "don't torture detainees", someone else is more utilitarian? (of course Pres. Bush apparently has no problem with torture, under his own "don't ask, don't tell" policy).

Incidentally, I am what you would call a "theist" so perhaps that affects the view you will take of my post...
10.21.2008 1:58am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
greg:

what's the evidence that Obama is actually intelligent?


Gosh, dunno. Look at this wacky thing that Lindgren said:

Barack Obama is smart enough and writes well enough to be a tenured law professor at any law school in the country.


But we know he just said that because he's in the tank for Obama.
10.21.2008 2:01am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
do you have any proof other than this one person's claim?


Given the number of assertions here that are typically based on zero person's claims, I think one witness isn't too bad. Especially since it's consistent with lots of other things that we know about here. Like accepting a blessing from a witch-hunter, and saying "teach both" when asked a question about creationism (before she backpedaled the following day).
10.21.2008 2:01am
JDS:
There's an optimum IQ for political leaders... People who are too smart get confused.

As the Yiddish proverb says, "When a wise man goes to seek a bride, he should bring a fool along to advise him."
10.21.2008 2:01am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Oh, BTW, I'm not denying that Obama is "intelligent". At the time he was attending college, the average IQ of college students was 120. That's "intelligent." But it's also "nothing special".

So, Obama defenders, is Obama merely "as bright as the average college student"? Or is he "something special"? Is he "bright as the average Mensa member"? (Which, BTW, would mean there are ~6 million Americans as bright or brighter than he is.) Is he a triple 9 (top 0.1%)? And what is your proof for your claim of his intelligence?

My thoughts on this start here.
10.21.2008 2:03am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Like accepting a blessing from a witch-hunter

Because everyone knows the proper way to behave in that situation would to scream like a girl and run away?

So, what do you think of the intelligence of people who read horoscopes? Practice Wicca? Talk about "the Earth being Your Mother"? Think Michael Moore isn't a lying propagandist?
10.21.2008 2:07am
Cold Warrior:
Cold Warrior c. 1980: A president must, at a minimum, be smart! I cannot vote for Reagan!!

Cold Warrior c. 1988: Intelligence isn't all it's cracked up to be; good judgment and knowing one or two big things, like Reagan, is more important in a president than "intelligence."

Cold Warrior c. 2000: Gore seems smarter, but I learned my lesson in the 80s ... I'm voting for W!

Cold Warrior c. 2008: A president must, at a minimum, be smart! I'm voting for Obama!!
10.21.2008 2:09am
ChrisIowa (mail):
By the time any politician reaches a statewide office, they have proven intelligence, regardless of party or ideology, whether they are from Alaska or Delaware. Anyone labeling a politician at that level as "stupid" is only reflecting their own lack of intellectual abilities.

What is needed in an executive position (like the Presidency) is not knowledge or intelligence, it is skills. Executive SKILLS. No President has any hope of having all the knowledge needed to handle the position. Any of the three Pres &Veep nominees have the intelligence. The President has a cabinet and other advisers to provide the knowledge. What the executive needs is not knowledge, but the skill to sort conflicting information and advise and act when not enough of either is available. The skills needed can only be developed through practice. None of the three Senators has had any position to develop those skills. Sarah Palin as Mayor of a town of 5,000 had more opportunity to develop those skills than all three of the Senators. I do not advocate going from Mayor of a town of 5000 to President, but she is a Governor, and served on a major executive board. That is more experience developing skills needed to be President than all the three Senators combined.

At this time it is not a question of more or less intelligence, all the candidates have enough intelligence to be President. It is at this point a matter of skills and ideology. Palin has the advantage on skills.
10.21.2008 2:11am
Cold Warrior:

By the time any politician reaches a statewide office, they have proven intelligence, regardless of party or ideology, whether they are from Alaska or Delaware.


Jesse the Body Ventura, anyone?
10.21.2008 2:14am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Uh, jukeboxgrad, that quote is less than well supported, seeing as it's essentially identical to one that was published under the heading "Fake Palin Rumors" and explained as purposeful satire.

If you're going to promulgate these things, and you ahve any inellectual honesty qhatsoever, check factcheck.org, snopes.com or my own palinrumors.com.
10.21.2008 2:16am
David M. Nieporent (www):
She made a statement to a named witness on the subject of dinosaurs.
Typical Jukebox "analysis," which consists of calling everyone he dislikes liars and then knee-jerkedly accepting everything bad about those people. For instance, he has argued we should ignore what Alice Palmer says about Obama because she doesn't like him. But then here, rather than accurately saying that someone claims that Palin said something about dinosaurs, he endorses it as true that she said it, even though he has no way of knowing it to be true. (By his own definition of "dishonest," that's therefore a dishonest statement.)
10.21.2008 2:17am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
greg:

what's the evidence that Obama is actually intelligent?


greg:

I'm not denying that Obama is "intelligent".


I don't think I'm intelligent enough to keep up with you.
10.21.2008 2:19am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
greg:

Because everyone knows the proper way to behave in that situation would to scream like a girl and run away?


Are you making a special effort to sound sexist, or is it something that comes naturally?

Anyway, maybe you can tell us what you think the proper behavior is when you hear someone talk about "the wealth of the wicked," and about "the Israelites, that's how they work. And that's how they are, even today." Let me guess: show your approval by happily accepting a blessing from them?

what do you think of the intelligence of people who read horoscopes?


Do you really want to know? The Reagan's interest in astrology is one of a long list of reasons I was never impressed with them.
10.21.2008 2:19am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
I do not advocate going from Mayor of a town of 5000 to President, but she is a Governor


Alaska has roughly the same population as Baltimore, Charlotte, Austin or Memphis. The whole state is only about three times larger than the district Obama represented when he was a state senator.
10.21.2008 2:20am
cd:
Greg Q: It is implausible that, when Obama was in school, he was no smarter than the average college student. The average college student does not get in to Harvard Law School, let alone do well enough to make the law review and graduate magna cum laude. I don't believe that doing well at a good law school suggests he would be a good president, but it does suggest that he is fairly smart.

Also, the NY Times article you link to in your blog post doesn't say that "Obama never intellectually engages with those who disagree with him." It suggests that, while in law school, Obama was reticent about his own views, but that is not the same as being disengaged.
10.21.2008 2:26am
pmorem (mail):
I used to think I was pretty smart. Maybe I am, relatively speaking.

As I've learned more, I've come to realize that I am an idiot.

We recently had an incident in which a large number of very 'intelligent' people with Ivy League educations built a lot of nifty-neat models and wagered lots of money on them. The price tag for that 'intelligence' appears to be nearly a trillion dollars (AIG + FNMA + Bailout = approx. 0.96T$). Brilliant. Don't worry for them, though. With the bailout, they're back in business again.

I don't worry too much about dumb people. Everyone is.

I worry more about the people who don't know they're dumb. They're the ones who are delusional.
10.21.2008 2:27am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
charlie:

that quote is less than well supported, seeing as it's essentially identical to one that was published under the heading "Fake Palin Rumors" and explained as purposeful satire


The existence of a phony dinosaur quote doesn't negate the fact that there is a named witness who heard Palin talk about dinosaurs.

If you're going to promulgate these things, and you ahve any inellectual honesty qhatsoever, check factcheck.org, snopes.com or my own palinrumors.com


Snopes and factcheck say nothing to deny the validity of the witness quoted by LAT. And as far as your own site, you're joking, right? It's still packed with false statements, even though on multiple occasions I've pointed out a bunch of them to you (like here and here).
10.21.2008 2:28am
Mike& (mail):
Is he a triple 9 (top 0.1%)?

I'm a regular reading of a blog written by a Triple Nine. And is he not the type of person I would turn to for advice on much of anything.

Hell, I'm willing to guarantee that at least four Conspirators have higher IQs than I have. Yet I would not trust any of them to run this country. Two of the smartest have the whackest ideas. I don't want to name names.... But would we want anyone from the VC running the country?

Incidentally, I went to a Mensa meeting. Only one. I had never before (and have not since) met more losers in my life. Half of the people were driven to the meeting by their moms. I never again went anywhere near "high IQ" societies.

IQ is not everything. Or even the most important thing.

In fact, the people who go on and on about IQ usually do so because they have nothing else in their lives to talk about. Stephen Hawking doesn't need to tell us his IQ, since his real-world accomplishments are evidence enough of that.

When you've accomplished nothing, all you can do is talk about your IQ. Which should impress us... why?

None of the above is to say I think Palin is intelligent. I don't think that she is. Does anyone here really imagine her house having a huge library? Does she even read anything other than the Bible or think about policy issues - or anything else that smart people would think of?

I can't imagine Joe Biden being much of a reader or thinker, either. Obama? It's not hard to imagine him having a nice library, and thinking about philosophical issues while talking a long walk.

If we want to know if a person is smart, let's start asking them what the last book they read was. Why aren't we asking those questions?

Bill Clinton would have always had an answer. He was a reader. He was also a fantastic president - who would have been better if he hadn't been so prurient.
10.21.2008 2:30am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

Alaska has roughly the same population as Baltimore, Charlotte, Austin or Memphis. The whole state is only about three times larger than the district Obama represented when he was a state senator.


And has the biggest area of all the states, a very high proportion of minorities, a multibillion dollar oil industry, and the longest international border of any state.

It's also comparable in population to Delaware; Palin has executive responsibilities, however, while Biden is just one of three members of congress.
10.21.2008 2:32am
Mike& (mail):
As I've learned more, I've come to realize that I am an idiot.

I always ask the self-professed geniuses why they aren't working at Fermilab. I mean, if you're a genius, there is nothing outside of your comprehension. So why are you selling insurance? Or why aren't you at least working paradoxes after hours?

I've met enough intelligent people in my life to give me some intellectual humility. I don't believe in false-modesty. But when you've met people who are *that* smart, you sort of realize that you ain't sh1t.
10.21.2008 2:33am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
No, but the fact that it so closely corresponds to the known fictional version means a little corroboration would be nice.
10.21.2008 2:34am
Loophole1998 (mail):
We might not have to be speculating about Palin's intelligence or lack thereof if she were willing to subject herself to a press conference or go on a Sunday morning intervew show like every other vice presidential candidate in the modern era. The fact that she won't do so (or is not be allowed to do so) says more about her lack of intelligence than anything else.

Also, the fact that she can so easily mock Mr. Obama's lack of experience and ideas while at the same time blinding touting her own weak qualifications is disturbing
10.21.2008 2:36am
oldhudson:
It seems that nowadays, intelligence, as a term, may mean anything or nothing.

Intelligence tests would seem to be valid when examining the results of Europeans or certain Asian groups, but are deeply flawed when looking at the scores of most persons from, or with ancestors from, Lesser Developed Countries.

Of course, Sen. Obama is intelligent from an intelligence testing perspective, which just shows how unreliable the whole concept is, thus, the moves afoot amongst many formerly competitive universities to eliminate standardized testing in favor of more appropriate factors, e.g., volunteering to help with the community, "passion", "involvement", and so forth.
10.21.2008 2:38am
Cold Warrior:
Loophole1998, that's the real issue with Sarah. A sit-down hour with Russert (RIP) and I'd have a much better sense of what's in her head.
10.21.2008 2:39am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
nieporent:

he endorses it as true that she said it, even though he has no way of knowing it to be true


This is what I said:

She made a statement to a named witness on the subject of dinosaurs.


I think you're saying it would be better like this:

According to a named witness, she made a statement on the subject of dinosaurs.


I see little or no difference in meaning, but if you like the second version better, then I suggest you ignore the first version.
10.21.2008 2:44am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
charlie:

the fact that it so closely corresponds to the known fictional version means a little corroboration would be nice


Art imitates life, and vice versa. There's nothing surprising about the existence of a joke that's similar to reality.

Anyway, you have a peculiar attitude about "corroboration." Your site hosts statements that are not just uncorroborated: they're demonstrably false. And you leave them that way, even though you've been told, multiple times. So when you ask me if I "ahve any inellectual honesty qhatsoever," you can hopefully see why I get a big kick out of that.
10.21.2008 2:50am
OrinKerr:
This may be the best blog comment ever at the VC:

For that matter, what's the evidence that Obama is actually intelligent? He was a "law professor" for 12 years at the University of Chicago.
Talk about a question that answers itself, to the extent magna from HLS doesn't.
10.21.2008 3:04am
Roger Schlafly (www):
If Obama is such a smart law professor, then why doesn't he ever talk about his legal ideas in his campaign speeches? He sounds like someone who has never even been to law school.
10.21.2008 3:22am
David Warner:
OK,

I think you've hit it on the head, though this sort of thing used to be called "prejudice". I've tried to look sympathetically on all 4 candidates this go round, for tit-for-tat/innocent until proven guilty reasons as well as concern with the record low levels of approval for our elected representatives across the board. I doubt the influence they thereby lose accrues to the people.

This has been easiest with McCain/Biden, since they're already such known quantities that new information is relatively discounted. Given the unusual newness of Obama, and even more Palin, every nugget of new information is amplified, making it difficult to maintain proper perspective or to integrate that information into such a fluid picture.

I think the filters may be the result of mere information overload.
10.21.2008 3:26am
OrinKerr:
Roger asks:
If Obama is such a smart law professor, then why doesn't he ever talk about his legal ideas in his campaign speeches? He sounds like someone who has never even been to law school.
Because he wants to be elected? Or do you have reason to think that geeking out about legal theory goes over big with undecided voters in swing states?
10.21.2008 3:26am
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
Prof. Kerr: I have no problem with your analysis, so far as it goes.

What it ignores is accomplishments once in office. That's certainly important in measuring a public servant's effectiveness, and it at least indirectly reflects a public servant's intelligence in the way most pertinent to public service.

I don't know if Gov. Palin has read Reinhold Niebuhr. I haven't; David Brooks and, apparently, Barack Obama have. But I do know that Gov. Palin has cut a half billion in unnecessary spending passed by a state legislature controlled by her own party through line-item vetoes, and she's made the vetoes stick. She led a complete reorganization of the state's most important tax structure, its severance tax on oil &gas extracted from the state, and did so in an open, bipartisan fashion to replace the previous version that had been negotiated by an ethically challenged predecessor in closed-door meetings with ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP. She broke a logjam of more than 30 years by getting the legislature to pass enabling legislation for, and signing a contract to begin, a cross-state natural gas pipeline that will do more to bring energy independence to not only Alaska but the Lower 48 than any other single politician can claim to have done in my memory.

In the meantime, Reinhold Niebuhr notwithstanding, the most significant bill of his own authorship and primary sponsorship that Barack Obama has been able to see enacted into law during almost four years as a U.S. Senator has been a relief bill for the Congo. Oh, and after Gov. Palin pointed out his lack of major legislative accomplishments (not counting co-sponsoring others' bills) at the RNC, he's managed to also write and pass a bill restricting sales abroad of elemental mercury, although when last I checked it hadn't been signed into law. (Huge fight, that one was: Passed both chambers without a single opposing vote, just like most of the bills others have written that he's taken credit for co-sponsoring.)

To the extent that doing one's job as a public servant, then, reflect political intelligence, please count me among those more impressed by Gov. Palin's brand than Sen. Quicksilver's.
10.21.2008 3:43am
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
Ah, I ought to have updated my research before writing: Pres. Bush has indeed signed into law Sen. Obama's blockbuster legislation, the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008.

Sen. Quicksilver, indeed!
10.21.2008 3:52am
someone:
What does it mean if I'm a Republican, and I still don't think she's all that smart?
10.21.2008 4:00am
Asher (mail):
If you agree with Palin's views, you're likely to figure she is obviously reasonably sharp (smart enough to get the issues) and has good judgment (she gets then right).

But not necessarily. I was going to vote for McCain until he picked Palin. And I think I agree with most of her views, inasmuch as I can make them out from her mangled remarks. I don't buy that Obama's a socialist, and I find a lot of McCain's policy proposals to be pretty weak, but I certainly agree with her on policy more than I do with Obama. Nevertheless, it's crystal clear to me that she's dumb and mildly dangerous to our democracy to boot.
10.21.2008 4:23am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
[Deleted by OK on civility grounds. Greg, no need to insult other commenters.]
10.21.2008 4:38am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
cd,

It suggests that, while in law school, Obama was reticent about his own views, but that is not the same as being disengaged.

Well, depends on what you mean by "disengaged". Do you have any examples of him arguing anything in a written form? I've been following this for a while, and I've yet to find any examples of Obama's "brilliance".

Jim Lindgren wrote:

According to those I spoke with, a tenured offer would have been problematic because — despite his intelligence, teaching ability, and success in law school — Barack Obama may not have had any scholarly publications (at least they were not aware of any).
Now, in a later comment he wrote

Barack Obama is smart enough and writes well enough to be a tenured law professor at any law school in the country. I wish I wrote as well.

To which I say: how would you know? What writing? Two books about himself that may very well have been ghost-written? No "scholarly publications"?

I'm not the trusting sort. Don't tell me how wonderful Obama is, show me the proof. He's 47 years old. He was President of the Harvard Law Review, and a"law professor" (of some sort) for 12 years. I find it hard to believe that someone with those credentials, and a high quality brain, could have gone this long without writing any thoughtful, insightful articles about something other than himself.

So, where are they?
10.21.2008 4:52am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Mike&,

I agree with everything you say about intelligence and qualifications for office. So, I'm happy to know that you will happily beat on any Obama supporters who blather about how "unqualified" Palin is because she isn't "intelligent".

However, WRT Palin your ignorance is showing:
None of the above is to say I think Palin is intelligent. I don't think that she is. Does anyone here really imagine her house having a huge library? Does she even read anything other than the Bible or think about policy issues - or anything else that smart people would think of?

She is, in fact, a bookworm, and did a lot of reading while growing up.
10.21.2008 4:58am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
OrinKerr,

This may be the best blog comment ever at the VC:
For that matter, what's the evidence that Obama is actually intelligent? He was a "law professor" for 12 years at the University of Chicago.

Talk about a question that answers itself, to the extent magna from HLS doesn't.

No, it doesn't. Argument from authority is, after all, a classic logic flaw.

Barack Obama has never put out his thinking for us to judge. I don't care if that's because he's been running for President his entire "adult" life, and is afraid that if he lets us see how he thinks, we won't vote for him, or if it's because he has a relatively mediocre mind, and hasn't wanted to show it. In either case, it's a strong negative.

Because if Obama's convinced he won't get elected if we know how he thinks, I can't possibly think of a better argument for why we shouldn't vote for him.
10.21.2008 5:06am
OrinKerr:
Greg Q,

I realize you're not a lawyer, so you don't know what counts as an impressive credential in the law or what counts as a sign of intelligence or not. However, it turns out that your suggestion that perhaps Obama isn't smart is ridiculous to anyone who understands the significance of his academic credentials and accomplishments.

You can keep saying that you're unconvinced, and I trust you will. But to be candid, it only emphasizes your ignorance.
10.21.2008 5:10am
devin chalmers (mail):
Disclaimer: I am an Alaskan.

There are a few talking points the VC commentators need to disabuse themselves of when discussing Sarah Palin.

1. Beating "The Incumbent" when "The Incumbent" is one Frank Murkowski is about as left-handed a compliment as you can give to a politician. Frank Murkowski might as well have been the world's most incompetent lichen by the time his term was through. Hubert Humphrey would have had a hard time losing to Frank Murkowski.

2. An 85% approval rating in Alaska with oil at $100+ a barrel sort of comes with the territory. "Do you like me? Here's $3,200. What about now?"

2a. Governing the state of Alaska, with oil at $100+ a barrel and the highest federal outlay per capita of any state in the nation, is perhaps not a cakewalk but at best not as hard as splitting the check for a party of seven.
"Should I spend this huge budget surplus on schools?"
"Hell no!"
"How about a bridge to nowhere? You love those!"
"Hell yeah!"
"Oh jeez, just kidding. Well, here's $3,200, I guess."
"Hell yeah!"

I was briefly seduced by Palin's straight-talking, free-money-for-everyone governorship. But the only thing she ever had going for her as an Alaskan politician was her seemingly principled stand against corruption and politics-as-usual. Now that it's become obvious that she's just another politician, lying and stumbling her way through abbreviated press conferences and ready to sell out her principles for power without a blink, there is no reason to applaud her anymore.

Sarah, seriously: ask John McCain about levying windfall oil taxes and spreading that wealth around a bit. See if he doesn't have an immediate coronary event.

It seems like even now most Alaskans are too star-struck to realize the degree to which Sarah has sold out her state to become John McCain's shallower half. (Don't blame us, though; before her, we elected Frank freaking Murkowski. We're not exactly a state of William F. Buckleys.)

Sarah Palin was a pretty decent governor (as long as you didn't have to work for her, of course). As a candidate for the national executive she is simply a vacuum.
10.21.2008 5:28am
devin chalmers (mail):
Sorry if that came off a little strong, I'm just tired of seeing my state used as such a blunt rhetorical tool. It really isn't the Gattaca-style, polished white well-oiled machine of industry and policy that everyone seems to be making it out to be. It's a really big cold uninhabited place which is difficult to drive across and kind of sucks in a lot of ways. There are some beautiful mountains, a lot of great wildlife, some really fantastic kayaking/skiing/hiking to be had; there are a lot of dying languages to learn, if you're interested, and a lot of stories. There are collapsed gold mines, some bullet marks in the oil pipeline, and seemingly endless roads from town to town, usually covered by some kind of precipitation. You can follow the Alcan down through the even more sparsely populated Yukon, and keep driving all the way to South America.

Where I'm from we get millions of tourists on cruise ships every summer, who buy postcards that say things like "Alaska: Eight Good Men for Every Woman" and souvenir condoms from the Red Dog Saloon and order Alaskan Amber that day instead of Budweiser, and they complain about the rain, unless it's sunny and then they just don't say anything while they take the $5 shuttle to the glacier.

There have been some really dreadfully beautiful poems written about the place; look into Robert Service, if you've never heard. He can be kind of schmaltzy and sing-songy but really gets it right sometimes.

Like,

There are strange things done in the Midnight Sun
by the men who moil for gold.
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
that'll make your blood run cold.
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights
but the queerest they every did see
was the night on the marge of Lake LeBarge:
I cremated Sam McGee...

or

...
No! There's the land. (Have you seen it?)
It's the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it's a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there's some as would trade it
For no land on earth -- and I'm one
...

[continues]

Sarah Palin really has very little to do with the place, is all I'm trying to say. Don't break your arms patting her on the back.
10.21.2008 6:04am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
OrinKerr,

I realize you're not a lawyer, so you don't know what counts as an impressive credential in the law or what counts as a sign of intelligence or not.

I know lots of people with impressive credentials. Many of them are impressive people, some are not.

When all is said and done, the simple fact remains that Obama has, all his life, "kept his light under a bushel." What did he do as an undergrad? We don't know. He's refused to release any information about it.

He went to Harvard Law School. While he was there, he did his best to hide himself from all those around him, to the point that everyone appeared to think that he agreed with them. He wrote one thing that was published in the law review, and did his best to hide that during the campaign. Happily, it came to light. Unhappily, it's a pedestrian piece of writing that shows no sign of legal brilliance, great understanding, etc.

He was some sort of "law professor" at U of C for 12 years, and did not produce a single piece of legal scholarship in that time.

He took part in an education reform effort in Chicago. It was a failure. (Go read Tom Maguire for the details.)

He was first elected to office in 1996. He's been in elective office since then. In that 12 years, he has not accomplished a single thing worth bragging about. In his 4 years in the US Senate, the most significant thing he's accomplished was getting a database of (some) earmarks. He hasn't had a single bill that he pushed and fought for (i.e. that was interesting and / or controversial enough that there was actually a fight over its passage).

He's been running for President for 2 years. In that time he's yet to come up with a single issue / reason to vote for him. He's for "Hope" and "Change". We're two weeks out from the election, and he's still a blank slate.

What is Barack Obama's mandate? If he's elected President, why is it that the American People will have elected him?

There's two possible reasons for why you can't answer that question. The first is that he's a second rate thinker who offers us nothing because that's what he is, and what he has to offer: nothing.

The second is that he believes that if he were honest with the American people about what he wanted to do as President, he wouldn't get elected.

Can you offer another reason why this 47 year old brilliant thinker / great legal mind would still be such a blank slate? Esp. considering the signal lack of accomplishments (other than winning elections) in his life?
10.21.2008 6:27am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
devin chalmers,

Interesting. Well, let's go down the list.

1: She beat Murkowski in the Republican Primary, then beat former Gov. Knowles in the General election (he was former Gov. because term limits forced him briefly out of office, not because he'd been beaten).

I was briefly seduced by Palin's straight-talking, free-money-for-everyone governorship.

She's vetoed $1/2 billion in spending, and made it stick, despite the big money floating around. You find "free money" for the citizens, and not for the people who can buy themselves a legislator, a problem?

Sarah, seriously: ask John McCain about levying windfall oil taxes and spreading that wealth around a bit.

Hmm, you're such a "well informed" "Alaskan" that you don't know the difference between a "windfall profits tax" (i.e. a tax to punish a company for "making too much money") and a severance tax that let's a State get a cut of the value of the resources being extracted from that state?

Interesting.
10.21.2008 6:43am
A. Zarkov (mail):
According to modern psychometric theory, we do not have different kinds of intelligence-- there is only one. All indications (tests) of mental ability are correlated, and the correlation matrix has only one dependent column as verified by factor analysis. This result has been replicated over and over for decades, and enjoys universal acceptance within the field. It has become the reining dogma of psychometrics. The media generally ignores this result, relying mainly on one throughly discredited and dishonest work, the book The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen J. Gould.

How does intelligence relate to the presidency? Obviously it's a necessary, but not sufficient condition. Jimmy Carter is highly intelligent as evidenced by his academic and Naval career. The military is not shy about IQ testing and all officers must take the AFOQT (or equivalent) and score well. Carter qualified for submarine duty, and Rickover selected him for the nuclear submarine program. Rickover did not accept mediocre people into this program. No affirmative action types for Rickover, and certainly not for the US Navy in those days. Despite all this, Carter was not a successful president and made a number of poor decisions. He also failed to get a second term.

It's difficult and probably impossible to predict how good a president any of the candidates will make. Lincoln looked like a bad bet, but most people would agree that he was one of our most successful presidents. Of course Lincoln could be that rare exception. It would be nice to have a candidate with significant executive experience. This means governor of a populous state, head or a large corporation, or a General. Alas we get none of this with this bunch. The voter will have to decide on the basis of policy, and that's not easy because you can't rely on campaign promises. I personally am inclined to a "none of the above," decision. I can afford that luxury because I live in a one-party state-- California. BTW CA has the fourth lowest average IQ of any of the continental states. Only Mississippi, Alabama, and New Mexico score lower.
10.21.2008 7:20am
devin chalmers (mail):
Greg: I think it's interesting that you're assuming bad faith right off the bat, and on such a tangential point. Is it so hard to imagine that an ""Alaskan"" (see what I did there?) would be disappointed in his politicians? (As I mentioned, we don't have a very good track record in that regard. Gravel '08!) Also, when did I call myself "well informed"? We can leave that one in scare quotes, if you like.

To your specific comments: she did defeat Tony Knowles in the general election, but that's not the talking point I was referring to. Personally, I have long favored both the PFD (did you miss the part where I like free money?) and higher taxes for oil companies operating in Alaska. I consider those, and the spending cuts you mentioned, some genuine accomplishments of Palin's stint in office.

The current oil tax rate is pegged to the price of a barrel, making it both a severance and a "windfall" tax. I don't really care what you call it. Sarah Palin still sold herself and her state out when she joined the McCain ticket.

She's not dumb, just shallow.
10.21.2008 7:47am
gerbilsbite:
If you agree with Palin's views, you're likely to figure she is obviously reasonably sharp (smart enough to get the issues) and has good judgment (she gets then right). Further, her political success proves that she has charisma (popular Governor, beat the incumbent). And if she isn't the most articulate person, well then she's just not glib. On the other hand, if you disagree with Palin's views, you're likely to think she isn't intelligent (no impressive academic degrees), she lacks judgment (she's wrong on the issues), and she's inarticulate (see Couric interviews).

I'll be sure to tell Peggy Noonan, Kathleen Parker, Christopher Buckley, Colin Powell, Ken Adelman, Michael Smerconish, Wick Allison, Doug Kmiec, and the Chicago Tribune that all of them are secretly left-wingers. :)
10.21.2008 9:09am
RM (mail):
I think of intelligence as being divided into hardware and software. The former, what Orin calls candlepower, I'm fairly confident Governor Palin has plenty of. What I think people object to (and I'm still going to vote for McCain-Palin) is that there's no indication that she has the proper software to be a leader on the national level - that she's read or learned or thought or discussed any serious issue of any importance.
10.21.2008 9:16am
Mike Keenan:
It seems self-serving for the law professor to use as an argument for how smart someone is -- that they are a law professor.

Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Reagan were smart enough to be effective presidents (not exactly the intellectual giants of the 20th century), so how smart do you have to be?
10.21.2008 9:16am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I have known three extraordinarily intelligent women, one of whom I married. Valedictorian in high school, honors college or whatever their respective colleges called it, attractive, advanced degrees.
I know a little bit about one of the two I didn't marry. She got a high quality MA in English and an Ivy MBA. One masters for each side of the brain, her brother commented. She also married a loser/cheater (everybody said so before the wedding and maybe should have kept their yaps shut) and was divorced in a year. She's had a couple of relationships and now, at the age of about sixty, is living in a small apartment running an on-line business.
She was calendar-model beautiful and must have had a million guys competing for her attention.
Nada.
Apparently something besides raw IQ is necessary. Or something besides raw IQ and the capability to perform adequately in the classroom is necessary.
10.21.2008 9:17am
hawkins:
Greg Q:


In that 12 years, he has not accomplished a single thing worth bragging about.


It seems this is your actual argument, and it is a legitimate point. So why keep arguing about Obama's intelligence? Intelligence does not necessarily translate into political effectiveness, which is, after all, what we really care about with politicians, no?
10.21.2008 9:22am
hawkins:

She is, in fact, a bookworm, and did a lot of reading while growing up.


Nancy Drew dont count
10.21.2008 9:22am
TyWebb:
When facts are no longer important, everything "depends" on one's ideological bent. It is categorically absurd to conclude that Sarah Palin is an intelligent person. Full stop.
10.21.2008 9:30am
Brian Mac:
Can we all at least agree that she looks great in a skirt?
10.21.2008 9:54am
Floridan:
ChrisIowa: "What is needed in an executive position (like the Presidency) is not knowledge or intelligence, it is skills. . . .What the executive needs is not knowledge, but the skill to sort conflicting information and advise and act when not enough of either is available."

I believe this is called judgment.
10.21.2008 10:08am
Hoosier:
It is categorically absurd to assume that TyWebb is a prudent person. Punkt.


hawkins: Nancy Drew dont count

Wrong. In "The Mystery of the Soiled Undergarment" she counts all the way to fourteen.
10.21.2008 10:13am
Sarcastro (www):
This is a very important debate since only intelligent people make good Presidents.

And by intelligent, I mean agreeing with me.
10.21.2008 10:16am
hawkins:

Wrong. In "The Mystery of the Soiled Undergarment" she counts all the way to fourteen.


Somehow missed that one. I'll have to catch up.
10.21.2008 10:21am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
greg:

a severance tax


You're citing Bill Dyer. I'm not going to plow through what he said about that, because I've plowed through what he's said about Troopergate, and it's enough to conclude that nothing he says should be taken seriously. Here are a few examples.

Wooten was found … to have used his Taser on his own ten-year-old stepson, "just to show him what it would feel like to be Tasered."


Dyer said that here and here. Small problem: the quote is phony. Good luck trying to find a proper source for it.

Dyer also said this:

The trooper's boss who Palin later replaced when she became governor, Walt Monegan, had reduced Wooten's suspension without pay from ten days to down to five.


Monegan did not become Commisioner of Public Safety until 12/06. Wooten had been investigated and disciplined by a previous administration, under the previous Governor and the previous Commissioner of Public Safety. The sentence is confusing, but it sounds like Dyer is saying that Monegan "had reduced Wooten's suspension." But that's false. Monegan had nothing to do with Wooten's suspension.

Dyer also said this:

Were I to guess, however, I suspect that Judge Suddock would agree with me … Does the record of this divorce case include anything from which we might infer his views? Like the details of the domestic violence order, which was based on a court finding of an immediate threat of irreparable harm if Trooper Wooten didn't stay a specified distance from his ex-wife and her family?


Dyer is doing exactly what Palin has done on many occasions: point to the DVPO as proof of violent behavior by Wooten. But this is false. The DVPO wasn't based on "a court finding." It was a 20-day ex parte protective order based strictly on uncorroborated allegations made by Wooten's wife. And at the first hearing a few weeks later, it was dissolved because the judge found no evidence of violence. And the judge apparently did not treat the Taser incident as an example of child abuse, but this doesn't stop Dyer from repeatedly accusing Wooten of child abuse.

So instead of reporting the readily available facts, Dyer tells us what he is inclined to "guess," "suspect," and "infer," even though it's the opposite of the truth.

And the DVPO wasn't granted to "his ex-wife." It was granted on 4/11/05, the day Molly filed for divorce.

The wiki article (google troopergate) has about 175 references, including many to primary documents like transcripts of police interviews with witnesses. Read that, and read Dyer, and you'll notice many other examples of him twisting the truth.

There's no reason to think his claims about "a severance tax" are more credible than his claims about Troopergate.
10.21.2008 10:40am
Vandy Law 2010:
Greg Q:

If law professors aren't smart, why do you bother reading this blog?
10.21.2008 10:52am
SeaDrive:

Barack Obama has never put out his thinking for us to judge.


Oh, the books and standing in front of a microphone talking for whole year don't count?

I have rarely seen such a loony thread on VC. There have been so many straw men the the fire marshal may make me shut down my browser.
10.21.2008 10:55am
Crust (mail):
I agree with WF in the first comment. Charisma is a favorable attribute but I find it puzzling to refer to it as a component of intelligence. Does anyone care to defend that point of view?
10.21.2008 11:11am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Crust
Yeah. We've had some troubles with people who are charisma personified.
10.21.2008 11:16am
byomtov (mail):
What about "knowing something about the matters she's going to have to deal with and being willing and able to learn?"

I don't see how anyone can argue that this ill-informed, shallow, and unreflective person is even remotely qualified to be VP.
10.21.2008 11:36am
Crust (mail):
Richard Aubrey, nice play on my word choice.

Regardless, hopefully my point is clear. I just don't see where Orin is coming from in saying that when one talks about "intelligence" one might plausibly mean "charisma".
10.21.2008 11:37am
Joey Plummer (mail):
"Smart" presidents in last 80 years: Hoover, Nixon, Clinton;
"Not-so-smart" presidents in last 80 years: Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan, GWB.

Obama is, beyond any reasonable doubt, "smart"
Palin is not "smart", also beyond any reasonable doubt.
I think that McCain and Biden are both, at best, average.

What does it all mean?....not sure
10.21.2008 11:39am
Sarcastro (www):
Roosevelt: Harvard, Frequent trips to Europe. Crazy rich.
He's like Joe President!

Kennedy: Prep school, Harvard, wrote a book. Whatta specimen of common man!
10.21.2008 11:48am
geokstr:
"I don't buy that Obama's a socialist"

Then you don't know much about Obama's past. He may not be a "socialist" per se in the strict dictionary definition, but his entire life has been spent immersed in Marxism and radical circles that are far to the left of "socialism". He felt quite comfortable in those associations and alliances since he was a teenager, and they were very comfortable with him, as evidenced by his rapid rise through their ranks, and their solid support for him every step of the way.

He admits in his own book, about his years at Columbia:
"To avoid being mistaken for a sellout,I chose my friends carefully.The more politically active black students.The foreign students.The Chicanos. The Marxist Professors and the structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets."

He has been heavily involved with ACORN for decades, as has been coming out steadily over the last month. ACORN was founded by Wade Rathke, a leader of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the largest and most violent of the 1960's radical groups (until Ayers and Dohrn split off because they didn't think the SDS was violent enough.) ACORN is not only heavily into vote fraud, in the interests of "community organizing", they also engage in the Jackson/Sharpton racial extortion racket in a big way, including the expansion of the subprime lending that led to the current financial meltdown.

And these are just two of the many, many far-left people and groups Obama was surrounded by his entire life, all by his own choice. If he was not very comfortable with their philosophies and tactics, and is now someone who is really only a "moderate liberal", he was able to con a lot of people for a very long time. (Sort of like he is doing now to a lot of people in the whole country.)

Which brings us back to this "intelligence" issue. Can we agree that in an assessment of a person, "intelligence" however defined must also be considered in the context of how it is being applied? I am not an expert on Hitler, but a quick google seems to suggest that he was also very "intelligent", but I think I can assume that none here would vote for him for president despite a high IQ.

If Obama is able to direct his "intelligence" and considerable charisma to leading this country in the direction his entire background and life history strongly imply he will take us, I vote for Palin/McCain out of sheer terror for where it is likely we are headed if Obama wins.

Especially with a super-majority at his fingertips. I predict right now that the "Fairness Doctrine" will be one of the first things passed to take out talk radio, and strong intimidation of dissenting (read: critical of Obama) views on the internet is sure to follow as well. This site will not escape; there are too many "intelligent" people here that will not like being reigned in.

The only satisfaction I will be able to derive from this is to get to say "I told you so."
10.21.2008 11:51am
Ben P:

Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Reagan were smart enough to be effective presidents (not exactly the intellectual giants of the 20th century), so how smart do you have to be?


There's the catch.

The discussion on this thread is predominately about intelligence.

There's certainly an argument that what makes a good president is not necessarily intelligence, it's being a good leader.

I think you can make the case that being intelligent is a big part of being a good leader, but there's far more involved. A person of only slightly above average intelligence can be a good leader, but a person of very high intelligence (Re Mensa meetings) can be a totally dysfunctional person that you wouldn't trust to lead you out of a paper bag.

That's why I'm relatively pleased with this election. In all honestly, I think Both McCain and Obama would be good leaders. I'll accept that Obama probably has more "candle power" than McCain, but if you look at McCain's record, even at the Naval academy where his grades were infamously bad, he easily moved into the position as a social leader. Likewise, in running his campaign, Obama seems to have cultivated an atomosphere that's unlike most other political campaigns and lends itself to being very effective. On the other hand, the Atlantic story on the Clinton campaign documents that was published in August shows she was not a particularly efficient leader.

Presidents can always get "Candle power" smart people to advise them. But a really effective president has the ability to manage and deal with his advisors so he gets the best information and has the ability to evaulate that information in an effective manner.
10.21.2008 11:54am
Hoosier:
Sarcastro--Kennedy wrote a book?
10.21.2008 12:03pm
Joey Plummer (mail):
An awfully interesting sociolgical phenomenon, though...
When Palin was unveiled the first thing I thought of was the movie, Dave, with Kevin Kline and how often one heard the notion at that time that if only we had a decent normal person like Dave in charge, we'd be better off.

We see today a TV commercial imagining how things would run if firefighters ran things and how efficient and wonderful things would be.

How much do people really care about intellectual achievement?; how much should they care?
10.21.2008 12:07pm
Elliot123 (mail):
[Deleted by OK on relevance and civility grounds.]
10.21.2008 12:16pm
Connecticut Lawyer (mail):
Obviously Gov. Palin is an intelligent, thoughtful politician with great political skills. I don't see how anyone can deny that.

It is true that she has no experience in national security and foreign policy and hasn't spent a lot of time thinking about those issues.

It is also obvious that Sen. Obama is an intelligent and unusually glib politician who has spent about 2 years more thinking about national security and foreign policy issues than Gov. Palin. To those of you who insist that he is brilliant and eloquent, please give me just one phrase, one line, from one of his speeches that is burned into your memory. Take your time, and no cheating on Google, either.

Finally, it is absolutely clear that Prof. Kerr is right that none of the candidates has a clue what to do about the economoy. Obama's knowledge of economics started and ended at Marx and McCain's didn't even get that far. G-d help us all.
10.21.2008 12:20pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
geo:

his entire life has been spent immersed in Marxism and radical circles


Somehow I had the impression that U of C law school was not a hotbed of Marxism. Likewise for HLS. I guess I must have been wrong. Then again, maybe the word "Marxism" doesn't mean what it used to mean. Kind of like the word "conservative."

ACORN is not only heavily into vote fraud


Is there proof that ACORN's work has ever led to a single fraudulent vote? Surely you must have some, given the statement you just made.
10.21.2008 12:27pm
wfjag:

I don't see how anyone can argue that this ill-informed, shallow, and unreflective person is even remotely qualified to be VP.

byomtov, please keep on thread. Biden isn't being discussed here.
10.21.2008 1:00pm
OrinKerr:
Mike Keenan writes:
It seems self-serving for the law professor to use as an argument for how smart someone is -- that they are a law professor.

Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Reagan were smart enough to be effective presidents (not exactly the intellectual giants of the 20th century), so how smart do you have to be?
Isn't this clearly a red herring? No one is claiming that you have to be very intelligent to be an effective president. You might want the thread to be about a different topic, but I was just writing about the topic of this one.
10.21.2008 1:05pm
Brian Mac:

I think that McCain and Biden are both, at best, average.

Granted, McCain didn't exactly excel in his academics, but his IQ was 133. And as for Biden...
10.21.2008 1:22pm
beandip:
Coming into the conversation a little late, but I think Christopher Hitchens perhaps phrases it best in stating that Palin lacks "intellectual curiosity" as opposed to simply lacking intelligence.

On the other hand, I think the very awkward manner in which Palin stumbles through both difficult and simple questions, is not a reflection of her inability to b.s. or be glib (although I think Prof. Zwycki underestimates the extent to which the ability to b.s. is a reflection of intelligence), but more basically a reflection that she doesn't know what she is talking about. This doesn't mean she is not intelligent...it just means she doesn't have the interest/time/desire/need to become informed to the level that one typically expects of candidates for Vice-President.
10.21.2008 1:27pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
>We might not have to be speculating about Palin's intelligence or lack thereof if she were willing to subject herself to a press conference or go on a Sunday morning intervew show like every other vice presidential candidate in the modern era.

Palin has been more accessible the press than Biden and Obama combined.



"In the past two days alone, Palin has answered questions from her national press corps on three separate occasions. On Saturday, she held another plane availability, and on Sunday, she offered an impromptu press conference on the tarmac upon landing in Colorado Springs. A few minutes later, she answered even more questions from reporters during an off-the-record stop at a local ice cream shop."

"By contrast, Biden hasn't held a press conference in more than a month, and Obama hasn't taken questions from his full traveling press corps since the end of September."


Is it Palin's fault that there's very few members of the press following her campaign?
10.21.2008 1:42pm
theobromophile (www):
Can we all at least agree that she looks great in a skirt?

Isn't that the problem? Anyone ever notice how exceptionally beautiful women are often thought to be airheads, especially if also bubbly and warm?

Women do this just as much as men - they'll call women slutty, demean them, marginalise them - anything to show that this person did not win the genetic lottery.
10.21.2008 1:50pm
SeaDrive:

"Not-so-smart" presidents in last 80 years: Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan, GWB.


The great quote about FDR (I don't remember who said it) was "Deep down, he's pretty shallow", the point being that he had wide interest but was not an expert in anything in the academic sense.

He was certainly an expert in communication and political leadership.
10.21.2008 1:54pm
Nunzio:
I think we could make McCain and Obama look pretty dumb if we started asking them questions about economics, which, let's face it, we should be asking them.

At the very least:

As a percentage of GDP, how much should the federal government spend?

The first stimulus package passed earlier this year did not achieve the desired effect. Why do you think that is, and why do you think a second stimulus package would work?

Why has the real GDP of France and other Western European countries remained stagnant over the last 15 years while the U.S. real GDP has boomed, and how does this influence your thoughts on what the United States should do in the future?
10.21.2008 1:56pm
byomtov (mail):
Why has the real GDP of France and other Western European countries remained stagnant over the last 15 years while the U.S. real GDP has boomed, and how does this influence your thoughts on what the United States should do in the future?

According to this data your premise issimply false, at least since 2000. No matter what the idiot right-wing France-bashers say, the French economy has hardly been stagnant.
10.21.2008 2:06pm
Nunzio:
byomotov,

I love France and Europe, but under 2 percent growth in real GDP during the W. years, especially given their very high unemployment makes for a stagnant economy.

And my premise was a measurement over the last 15 years, not the last 8 years, so I don't see how it can be "false" when the facts are otherwise. I picked 15 years because the U.S. GDP has doubled in the last 15 years. I'm not cherry-picking a number to make the Europeans look bad.

For a guy who picks on Sarah Palin's intelligence, you probably should read more closely, become better informed on the issues, and not jump to conclusions.
10.21.2008 2:15pm
MarkField (mail):

Can we all at least agree that she looks great in a skirt?


De gustibus non disputandam est.
10.21.2008 2:23pm
David Warner:
Seadrive,

"The great quote about FDR (I don't remember who said it) was "Deep down, he's pretty shallow", the point being that he had wide interest but was not an expert in anything in the academic sense."

Bingo. He was a fox, as is Obama. I get the sense that Palin's been more of a hedgehog, burrowing into Alaska issues. She did pick those up pretty quickly, and accomplished a great deal as Governor, so believing she could do likewise as VP is not absurd.
10.21.2008 2:24pm
Hoosier:
He was a fox, as is Obama. I get the sense that Palin's been more of a hedgehog

If you think FDR and Obama were foxes, be my guest. I think Palin is much foxier. But I'm not judging you.
10.21.2008 2:29pm
Whadonna More:
OK -
[...] we often end up filtering these questions through the lens of how much they agree with us.


The filter you mention is a huge problem - it's the same mechanism that makes most people believe that the people on the other side of any issue must be either liars or fools. The key indicator I've seen of immunity from this kind of binary worldview is the ability to acknowledge that the "other side" has some good points.

In this election, BO has done that a bit. JMc hasn't done it on the merits, but at least he's objected to some of the villification of the wingnuts. Neither Biden nor Palin have been so generous to the other side in the election, but I might give Biden some credit for his centrist positions.
10.21.2008 2:31pm
wm13:
The economies of France and the other major European countries have dramatically underperformed the U.S. economy over any recent period you care to specify. To me, anyone who can't or won't admit that simple fact, and go from there, is intellectually on a par with the people who believe in homeopathic medicine, astrology, or that the earth is only 6000 years old.
10.21.2008 2:32pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Hoosier Profiles in Courage, 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by John F. Kennedy.]
10.21.2008 2:35pm
Sarcastro (www):
wm13 has a great point! In fact, I'd go so far as to say all of Europe, AND France are objectively worse than the US in all ways.

Because GDP is the true judge of any society.

Furthermore, our awesomeness extends not only throughout the modern era but into the future. The important thing to concentrate on is hubris.
10.21.2008 2:44pm
Brian Mac:

The economies of France and the other major European countries have dramatically underperformed the U.S. economy over any recent period you care to specify. To me, anyone who can't or won't admit that simple fact, and go from there, is intellectually on a par with the people who believe in homeopathic medicine, astrology, or that the earth is only 6000 years old.

So viewing the UK as a major European country is now on a par with being a young-Earth Creationist? I mean I know we lost the Empire and everything, but it still seems a bit harsh...
10.21.2008 2:49pm
Nunzio:
Brian Mac,

Very funny. Maybe he only meant the countries that adopted the Euro as its currency.

I am not a young-Earth Creationist, but I still love the Flintstones and was probably about 12 before I realized that dinosaurs and cartoon characters didn't inhabit the earth at the same time.
10.21.2008 3:24pm
Sarcastro (www):
12 year old Nunzio for President! He's from the real America!
10.21.2008 3:27pm
Mike Keenan:
How much of a perceived lack of intelligence is due to the speaking style -- the accent and the teenager mannerisms. She isn't a Valley Girl, but she does have some baggage.

I disagree that we perceive her as less intelligent because of her political views. I don't do that in my personal life, so I don't see why I would do that with a political figure. Do others view close friends and associates as less intelligent if they have different political beliefs?
10.21.2008 3:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
theo:

Anyone ever notice how exceptionally beautiful women are often thought to be airheads, especially if also bubbly and warm?


It is actually sometimes the case that women who are exceptionally beautiful, bubbly and warm also turn out to be airheads. Often a lot is revealed when the person begins to speak.
10.21.2008 3:59pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mike:

I disagree that we perceive her as less intelligent because of her political views.


Indeed. For example, I have no problem seeing Krauthammer as very intelligent, even though I disagree with his political views and think he's a dishonest jerk.
10.21.2008 3:59pm
Floridan:
"The only satisfaction I will be able to derive from this is to get to say "I told you so.""

Please to be informed that running-dog phrase "I told you so" is reserved for party apparatchik following election.
10.21.2008 4:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mike Keenan.

Yeah. People whose political views are substantially different from mine must be less intelligent. Because they ignore reality. For example, a number of people think Obama is going to fix the economy but they, when asked, don't know how he's going to do it, nor do they have any recollection of what he said he was going to do about it. To believe from that basis that O will succeed is simply irrational.
Now, it is possible, for the sake of discussion, to think that O does know how he's going to do it and has laid out the plans and that the plans look pretty good. Not the point. The people I know that I refer to earlier don't know this stuff. They know nothing about O and his economic plans but insist he'll fix the economy.
I suppose it's possible to say you can be intelligent but irrational or delusional. It is, just as long as your delusions don't contact the real world.
10.21.2008 4:15pm
byomtov (mail):
And my premise was a measurement over the last 15 years, not the last 8 years, so I don't see how it can be "false" when the facts are otherwise.

I clearly limited my comment to the last eight years, because the data I found was for that period, not to cherry-pick anything. Granted, the growth was slower than the US, and hardly impressive, though perhaps "stagnant," a less than well-defined term, overstates the case. I'd be inclined to use that word to describe something like US median household income over the past eight years.

For a guy who picks on Sarah Palin's intelligence, you probably should read more closely, become better informed on the issues, and not jump to conclusions.

Thanks for the lecture about my intellectual failings. Still, growth has varied considerably across European countries, so you your staement about how all of Western Europe has been stagnant suggests you might do well to follow your own advice.
10.21.2008 4:16pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

When facts are no longer important, everything "depends" on one's ideological bent. It is categorically absurd to conclude that Sarah Palin is an intelligent person. Full stop.


That's one of the most lovely examples of self-demonstrating statements I've ever seen.
10.21.2008 4:26pm
MikeS (mail):
The people running the McCain campaign are afraid to let Palin talk to the press, lest she be savaged by sharks like Katie Couric. Why should I dispute their estimation of her abilities?
10.21.2008 4:27pm
theobromophile (www):
It is actually sometimes the case that women who are exceptionally beautiful, bubbly and warm also turn out to be airheads. Often a lot is revealed when the person begins to speak.

(Emphasis my own.)

What's your point? I never said anything to the contrary.
10.21.2008 4:34pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
jukeboxgrad writes:
Anyway, maybe you can tell us what you think the proper behavior is when you hear someone talk about "the wealth of the wicked," and about "the Israelites, that's how they work. And that's how they are, even today." Let me guess: show your approval by happily accepting a blessing from them

No, I think you should make that person your spiritual mentor for 20 years, get married by him, raise your children to his hate filled sermons, then toss him under the bus when the rest of America finds out about him.

Do you really want to play this game? Because I'll be happy to trade Rev. Wright quotes with you all day.
10.21.2008 4:34pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mike S.
Problem for you is, she's talking to the press.
10.21.2008 4:35pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Props to Cold Warrior for a very good post way back at the beginning.
10.21.2008 4:40pm
Michael B (mail):
"She made a statement to a named witness on the subject of dinosaurs." jukeboxgrad

The witness in the article you link to is a well known ideologue, a "progressive" in Alaska whose name is Phillip Munger. He's a music teacher who has written such things as this (also here and here), an encomium and veneration of none other than Rachel Corrie and contains lines such as the following:

4. Song: God the Synecdoche in His Holy Land in memoriam Rachel Corrie

Around you the father gods war. This
Father. That father. The other father.
What more dangerous place could
A woman stand, upright, than on that sand, as if
She were still antiphon to that voice, the other
Mind of that power. The very idea!
Crush her back in to her mother!
Crush her. Crush her. Consensus. War.

Iow, Phillip Munger is an ideologue of the first order, given to fundamental deceits as long as they serve his cause. A perfect match for the jukeboxsneers of the world, given your own penchant for both subtle and more blatant forms of deceit - but beyond that he cannot be recommended as the witness to anything political, certainly not the sole witness.

Iow, when it comes to things political and ideological, Phillip Munger has about as much integrity as all the other jukeboxsneers in the world.
10.21.2008 4:49pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Greg Q:

Hawkins points out

In that 12 years, he has not accomplished a single thing worth bragging about.
It seems this is your actual argument, and it is a legitimate point. So why keep arguing about Obama's intelligence?


Because that's the topic of the post. And because the two are tied together: Intelligence is valuable if and only if it enables you to do valuable things.

But (thoughtful) people judge your intelligence based on what you've accomplished, not based on what "social cues" you give off, or what "credentials" you have.
10.21.2008 4:52pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Me: Barack Obama has never put out his thinking for us to judge.

SeaDrive: Oh, the books and standing in front of a microphone talking for whole year don't count?


Let's see, he's written two admittedly fictionalized, and possibly ghostwritten, books about himself. Do they count as scholarship? No.

Do they contain in depth arguments about politics, or how the country should be governed? No.

So no, they don't count.

And yes, Barack Obama has spent the last two years in front of a microphone talking to us.

Has he given a thoughtful speech about anything? What? Name the speech. Quote for us the best parts of it.

His empty, vapid campaign is one of the great black marks against him.
10.21.2008 4:59pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Vandy Law 2010 asks

If law professors aren't smart, why do you bother reading this blog?

Hmm. Oh, I don't know. How about "because several of these particular law professors write interesting things"?

Individuals, and their accomplishments, can be valuable.

Groups, group memberships, and credentials are worthless.
10.21.2008 5:02pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
I think Christopher Hitchens perhaps phrases it best in stating that Palin lacks "intellectual curiosity" as opposed to simply lacking intelligence.

The problem is that he has no basis for his claim, and no proof that either of the Democrats are better.

How do you know she has no "intellectual curiosity"? Because the MSM were able to, by careful editing, make her look bad in two interviews? Because she talks with an accent and style different than yours? Because she doesn't know everything under the sun about issues that you have decided she should know about?

How do you know that Barack Obama is "intellectual curious"? He was at the U of C for 12 years, and never bothered to discus issues with those who disagree with him. He wrote two books, both about himself. He's published no legal scholarship. He spent 20 years in the pews of a hate spewing "Reverend" because it helped him politically. He's run a 2 year political campaign full of "hope" and "change", and singularly lacking in actual ideas or thoughts.

Where is your proof that Barack Obama is intellectually curious?

Then there's Joe Biden. The guy who's spent 35 years in the Senate, claims to be a "Constitutional Scholar", and doesn't know that Article 1 of the US Constitution is about the Legislative Branch. The guy who thinks that voting in the Senate is an Executive function. The guy who believes the US and France kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon. The guy who graduated in the bottom 11% of his law school class, and has the gall to tell questioners to shut up because "I'm smarter than you are". Forget "curiosity", do you have any evidence that Joe Biden is even "intellectually competent"?

Again, we're looking for actually evidence, not mere "social signals."
10.21.2008 5:22pm
c.gray (mail):

His [Obama's] empty, vapid campaign is one of the great black marks against him.


When you think about it, it's actually a giant mark against the Bush administration and the contemporary Republican party that such a campaign could be so successful.
10.21.2008 5:22pm
Jarmon (mail):

Well, the most objective measurment of intelligence IQ.

According to Time; McCain has an IQ of 133, quite above the average. We don't know the IQ scores of Obama, Palin or Biden. I also remember reading that Bush had a higher IQ than both Gore and Kerry based on analysis of SAT/college admission tests.

By the way, I am voting for McCain, not because of his relatively high IQ score, but because he picked Sarah Palin.
10.21.2008 5:23pm
Kellie (mail):
Whats the IQ score of somone (Biden) who thinks J-O-B-S is a 3-letter word? Just curious.
10.21.2008 5:25pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
i thought sorenson admitted that he wrote profiles in courage?
10.21.2008 5:29pm
Spitzer:
Interesting series of posts.

I'm led to a more general question: to what extent is the contemporary focus on a politician's "intelligence" a consequence of the progressive/bureaucratic concept of technocracy - that is, just as with the growing use of unelected "city administrators" vested with near-plenary authority, that the federal government is really just an application of non-political, technical administrative functions and decisions best handled by someone with appropriate expertise in a given field? In short, the question is whether we should simply conceive of the president as "Chief Bureaucrat" and see the policy-making elected and appointed (and political) offices turned over to the civil service.

If government is appropriately and entirely bureaucratic, such that important policy decisions should be made (as well as implemented) by high-level bureaucrats with appropriate technical expertise, then it stands to reason that elections are really just an over-long civil service interview, and most of the decision can be best made by looking to the resume.

If, on the other hand, one conceives of government (or at least the policy-making levels) as non-technical and appropriately political in nature, then elections turn on charisma, perceived judgment, and political statements rather than on perceptions of bureaucratic or technical expertise.

In one sense, we ("we" meaning "we in the West") have been having this debate since the early 19th century, when Europeans began seriously to consider applying Chinese conceptions of bureaucratic government to their own governments. If I recall correctly, the British experienced a lively debate over the "sinification" of their (highly political) civil service, and of course the United States adopted substantially the same reforms after the Civil War. The essence of the debate was whether the administrative benefits of a professional, technically-expert bureaucracy outweighed the risks it posed to policy-making government (as exposed to some limited extent by the late imperial Chinese experience). Naturally, the pro-bureaucratic argument won the day, but that fact did not resolve the essential question itself, which I believe we continue to face today: how and where to draw the line between the political and professional sides of government, especially in a world where the non-delegation doctrine is a dead letter.

Food for thought: if government is appropriately professional and technical, such that it is best operated by technically-expert bureaucrats and not by fly-by-night, dilletante politicians (all politicians, of whatever stripe, are essentially generalists and dabblers, jacks of all trades expert at getting (re)elected but not necessarily masters of any issues), and if the concept is such that most if not all important (and not-so-important) policy decisions should be made by the experts and not by the amateurs, then why not dispense of elections altogether?
10.21.2008 5:31pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
greg:

I'll be happy to trade Rev. Wright quotes with you all day.


Feel free. What you're missing is that the country already spent several days/weeks watching the Rev. Wright channel, virtually 24/7. Been there, done that. All that information is already known, and factored into the evaluation that voters have made. On the other hand, very few people have heard about Palin's wonderful anti-Semitic witch-hunter. So please go ahead and yell about Wright, because that only creates more of an opportunity to raise awareness about Muthee and Bruckner. I'm sure those stories are playing especially well in Florida.

credentials are worthless


Please tell your kids not to apply to Harvard. It will make admission a teeny bit easier for some other kids I know.
10.21.2008 5:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
aubrey:

Problem for you is, she's talking to the press.


Too little, too late. There are only two weeks left. The campaign badly mismanaged her. Everyone has already made up their mind about her, based on what they learned about her via Couric and Fey. So reporters are not particularly interested in asking her tough questions right now, because nothing she could say could possibly top the news value of the idiocy she produced last month.
10.21.2008 5:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
michael:

The witness in the article you link to is a well known ideologue


English translation: 'don't believe anything you hear about Palin unless you can confirm that the source is a friend of hers.'

blatant forms of deceit


Don't you think that by now you should be able to come up with an example? What's taking you so long? What's "blatant" is that you're showing this many examples: zero.
10.21.2008 5:35pm
Ed Scott (mail):
Charlie (Colorado):

"Alaska has roughly the same population as Baltimore, Charlotte, Austin or Memphis. The whole state is only about three times larger than the district Obama represented when he was a state senator."

I almost fell for that comparison also and then realized that (using common sense rather than intelligence) the reference was to the comparative populations in number but not in diversity. Compare the complexity of Alaska's population to that of Obama's state district. Compare governing as opposed to representing.

The area of the state of Alaska, 656,425 square miles, is 11.33 times the size of the area of Illinois, 57,918 square miles
10.21.2008 5:39pm
gab:
"Obama's knowledge of economics started and ended at Marx..."

Paul Volcker will be stunned to hear...
10.21.2008 5:46pm
a reader:
Sarcastro - I thought Ted Sorensen wrote Profiles in Ghostwriting?
10.21.2008 5:56pm
SeaDrive:

He may not be a "socialist" per se in the strict dictionary definition, but his entire life has been spent immersed in Marxism and radical circles that are far to the left of "socialism".


It would be fair to quote him spouting some Marxist theory, and it would be fair to point that some part of his platform is Socialist - like nationalizing banks or something - but it's lame to argue by association. He may not be "asphaltist" per se in the strict dictionary definition, but his entire life has been spent in cities with asphalt streets.
10.21.2008 6:19pm
Michael B (mail):
For an antidote to jukeboxsneer and similar pretenders: most fittingly, an Amazon recommendation, On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt. Despite impressions, it is a learned book and does review a kind of taxonomy of both subtle and less subtle forms of bullshit, a worthy read that is both philosophically and more practically attuned.
10.21.2008 6:20pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm led to a more general question: to what extent is the contemporary focus on a politician's "intelligence" a consequence of the progressive/bureaucratic concept of technocracy


I think it pre-dates the 19th C. From Federalist 57: "The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society...."

The idea that merit, rather than birth, should rule is inherent in republican government. Indeed, it's pretty much the whole point.
10.21.2008 6:30pm
bad imitation (mail):
Probably too late to attract any eyeballs but I offer an analogy regarding the fit between credentials and intelligence. Those in the biz will admit that the assumption is that the "intelligent" law grads went to the big firms and the less intelligent joined up somewhere else, right? Fine. But now spend some time reading Jury Verdicts or whatever they're calling it now. Turns out that in jury trials, maybe 75% of the time the "dumb" lawyer, one that couldn't have gotten an interview at those big firms, wipes the floor with the prestige firm lawyers. People like Spence or Jamail or Shernoff or Cotchett lick their lips at going up against a megafirm in trial. So what went wrong? Was it the initial assessment of intelligence (via transripts)? The identification of the type of intelligence needed? Could Orrin Kerr do this? If not, is he actually dumb?
10.21.2008 6:33pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ed:

The area of the state of Alaska, 656,425 square miles, is 11.33 times the size of the area of Illinois, 57,918 square miles


Yes, Alaska has a lot of land. Trouble is, it doesn't have a lot of people. Only North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming have a smaller population. When we're figuring out how complicated the governor's job is, I think population matters more than land area.

By the way, you thought you were quoting charlie, but you were quoting me.
10.21.2008 6:55pm
Spitzer:
MarkField: thank you for the response. However, I think we are at cross-purposes. The question of technocracy is unrelated to the question of merit per se, for, as you know, there are many kinds of "merit" (a Supreme Court justice may have merit in his or her field, for instance, but that does not indicate that they have any merit in an unrelated field, such as medicine or economics or automobile repair). Moreover, the merit v. birth distinction does not capture the issue of technical expertise v. political rule. One may believe that technical expertise is precisely the merit that warrants political power, or one may believe that technical expertise is unrelated to whether a particular politician should be elected and govern.

My original point was a bit different from this - and for the sake of clarity I shall reiterate. I was left wondering how much of the contemporary focus on "qualification" and "intelligence" (esp. in the context of Gov. Palin, but it is a tradition that hearkens back to Reagan and Truman, to name a few) derives from the fundamental assumptions of technocracy - that is, that government is essentially a non-political administrative body best served by placing those with appropriate technical expertise in the right positions to operate the government's machinery. Apparently many people believe this to be true, including many cities and towns who have surrendered much of their quotidien governing functions to appointed, unelected administrators (whose technical expertise and protection from direct electoral politics is presumed to render them objective, fair, and competent to operate the government), and including those localities and governments that appoint - rather than elect - their judges and/or prosecutors and/or sheriffs/police chiefs. But if one believes this to be true at the highest levels of the government - the federal government, that is - and if one believes that even the policy-making offices are essentially one of bureaucratic expertise, then one might be expected to apply the sorts of standards that one uses to assess candidates for specific bureaucratic offices (see, e.g., the foreign service) to political candidates.

On the other hand, if one thinks that technical expertise is fine (or not) for the professional civil service, but that it is essentially unrelated to political office, then one would normally be expected to apply a different set of standards in evaluating candidates for political offices than for evaluating candidates for particular bureaucratic offices. That is, one might think that the sort of expertise or demeanor expected of a member of the foreign service might be fundamentally unrelated to the qualities for which one looks in selecting politicians.

In short, someone who adopts the essential presumptions of technocracy might apply a different set of standards when evaluating candidates for political office than one who rejects the technocratic viewpoint and presupposes instead that government is essentially political. Many politicians may not survive the "cut" if one applies technocratic standards, but of course many technocrats themselves may not survive the "cut" if one applies a more openly political set of standards to candidates for political office.
10.21.2008 7:02pm
Ed Scott (mail):
Greg Q:
OrinKerr, "I realize you're not a lawyer, so you don't know what counts as an impressive credential in the law or what counts as a sign of intelligence or not."

Greg Q, your assessment of Obama is the definition of Andrew C. McCarthy's (a lawyer) reference to Obama as a tabula rasa.

Intelligence (also called intellect): The capacity to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language and to learn.

On this forum intelligence seems to be, like love, in the eye of the beholder.
10.21.2008 7:03pm
David Warner:
MarkField,

"I think it pre-dates the 19th C. From Federalist 57: "The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society....""

Neither wisdom nor virtue is identical with intelligence.

"Common-sense to an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom."

- Coleridge

Palin's virtue is another discussion entirely.
10.21.2008 7:05pm
Ed Scott (mail):
jukeboxgrad: "When we're figuring out how complicated the governor's job is, I think population matters more than land area."

That was my reason for suggesting: "Compare the complexity of Alaska's population to that of Obama's state district. Compare governing as opposed to representing."
To expand the last sentence, compare governing a diverse, scattered population with representing a culturally homogeneous district population.
10.21.2008 7:22pm
gerbilsbite:
The Vice President runs the Senate?

I don't think glibness was the problem there...
10.21.2008 7:51pm
Michael B (mail):
"Compare the complexity of Alaska's population to that of Obama's state district. Compare governing as opposed to representing." Ed Scott, echoing jukebox

Ok. Do so.

For example, in terms of applied or practical intelligence. What legislation sponsored by Obama, either while he was a state representative or a U.S. Senator, commends him? Empirically, in substantiated terms, what sponsored legislation commends him?

At the national level I'm aware of one solitary, prominent piece of legislation he has sponsored: his January 31, 2007 legislation that would have, among other things, undercut David Petraeus's surge strategy in Iraq without even giving it a chance. But perhaps that's an exception that runs counter to his applied, practical intelligence, so if you're not bluffing, make a case for the contra position. Applied or practical intelligence can be roughly correlated with wisdom and virtue, so make the case.

Persuade in intelligent, substantiated, cogent terms.
10.21.2008 7:53pm
Commodore:
Michael B:


Persuade in intelligent, substantiated, cogent terms.


Mike, don't you think that's asking a bit much of this crowd? Lower your expectations in order to reduce the probability you'll be disappointed: at first, just ask for people to refrain from ad hominem attacksor condescendingly suggesting that it's somehow beneath them to respond to your point. (I say this, by the way, as someone who thinks it's pretty obvious that Palin isn't as bright as the other candidates, though I don't see how such fine gradations of IQ matter in this context.)
10.21.2008 8:07pm
nicestrategy (mail):

What legislation sponsored by Obama, either while he was a state representative or a U.S. Senator, commends him? Empirically, in substantiated terms, what sponsored legislation commends him?


This post has plenty of examples of Obama's legislative work. The nuclear nonproliferation law and the ethics reform laws have been mentioned repeatedly throughout the campaign. I wonder why you haven't heard of them?
10.21.2008 8:17pm
agum:

Although I'm not familiar with Biden's response to the question about the VP's functions, I suppose that when the VP votes in the Senate it's "Legislative" because it's designated in Article I. So technically, he's wrong, although those responsibilities could easily have been spelled out in Article II.

In contrast, Sarah Palin on the VP's functions (granted, she's speaking to a third grader; still, there's no reason to permanently stunt his education with disinformation):


[T]hey're in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom.


"In charge" of the Senate? Make policy changes -- how?

What?
10.21.2008 8:27pm
MarkField (mail):
Spitzer: I see your point better now. I agree to an extent. I suspect there's some overlap, and that your categories aren't mutually exclusive. I assume you'd agree.


Neither wisdom nor virtue is identical with intelligence.


Agreed, though given the change in era, Hamilton's use of "wisdom" comes close.


Palin's virtue is another discussion entirely.


Been reading the National Enquirer again? I've warned you about this....
10.21.2008 8:34pm
agum (mail):
Anyone ever notice how exceptionally beautiful women are often thought to be airheads, especially if also bubbly and warm?

Exceptionally beautiful women are primarily given social reward for being attractive and high-status. Having (or developing) a warm personality helps bring in the rewards, too.

So even if such a woman is intelligent -- in the sense of IQ -- there are fewer social incentives for her to apply her intelligence, to be curious about the world, to become informed.

Unless such women have strong character, work ethic, or place a high value on education, sadly, many do not bother. Thus the stereotype of the "airhead."

It's apparent from Sarah Palin's artificially limited interview exposure, and her general familiarity with Alaskan issues in contrast with her complete unfamiliarity with national issues, that while she is of reasonable innate intelligence, she has never taken the trouble to become informed.

As a national leader, uninformed incuriosity is a deal-breaker.
10.21.2008 8:47pm
Michael B (mail):
agum,

The V.P. is in fact the President of the Senate, that's the official designation and title in that role. There's the additional fact that Palin was responding to a question posed by a grade-schooler at the end of an interview that was winding down, so she was putting it in brief, simplified terms.

Remember, the theme is intelligence, not glibness and not bullshit. It's both telling and interesting just how often that confusion makes an appearance in this thread.

Commodore,

Yes, I'm aware of the irony; it's like Diogenes, looking for an honest man.
10.21.2008 8:56pm
Michael B (mail):
"... uninformed incuriosity is a deal-breaker." agum

And your own selective incuriosity, we're to assume that's deemed to be a plus?
10.21.2008 9:00pm
nicestrategy (mail):
About the VP question in the VP debate, neither candidate made much sense, but Biden's answer was still way better than Palin's:

The Vice President in mentioned in both Article I and Article II of the US Constitution. That does not mean the VP is simultaneously considered to be "in" both the legislative and executive branches, despite Dick Cheney's bald assertion of uncheckable power to that effect. The title "Vice President" and method of election or impeachment clearly place the VP in the executive branch.

In practice, the VP had a very small role in either branch for most of US history. Recent VPs have been major advisers to the President, diplomats on his behalf, and lobbyists to the US Congress on behalf of the President's legislative priorities, which build a pattern of the VP acting as a liaison from the executive toward the legislative, as part of the executive branch.

Article I, Section III of the United States Constitution says:


The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.


The tiebreaking vote isn't considered a major power. No VP since the Reconstruction era has cast more than 10 votes in the Senate. (Senate.gov)

The Senate President pro tempore provision clearly anticipates the absence of the VP from daily deliberations in the Senate chamber. VPs have rarely presided over or worked worked live in the Senate chamber, although recent ones have lobbied the Congress behind the scenes, trying to persuade legislators to vote in accordance with the President's agenda. In practice, the Presdient pro tempore (the pro tem) doesn't have the most authority in the Senate, although he is next in line to the Presidency after the Speaker of the House. The Senate Majority Leader is the most important Senator from a legislative point of view. The Senate has a long institutional history of valuing the equality of its members, and is unlikely to accept an expansive view of the VP's legislative role and Constitutional powers even if that VP was of the same party.

Palin says:


"No, no. Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are."


No, you are not expected to take that position very seriously also. You might be expected to lobby and/or campaign for the McCain agenda, but the 55-58 Democrats in the Senate would reject a Democratic VP trying to read the Constitution to "allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate," much less a Republican one. Ridiculous answer. She goes on to agree with Cheney's view that the VP is in both branches at the same time. Yeeech. Did she misspeak or does she think that highly of herself and her future powers?

Biden said, "I would be the point person for the legislative initiatives in the United States Congress for our administration" and goes on to describe a robust role for himself in an Obama administration more or less along the lines of Gore.

Biden's 2nd answer:


Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.


No, Article I is the legislative branch. He probably meant to say Article II. That makes more sense, but it could be construed as if Biden didn't realize the Vice President was mentioned in both Articles. (The Senate is mentioned in Article II's "advice and consent" clause on Presidential appointments, but that doesn't mean the Senate is also "in" the executive branch.)

So did Biden misspeak or did he really not know the text of the Constitution? Here's where Biden's resume makes him bulletproof in a way Palin's doesn't. Of course he misspoke. He went on to say:


And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.


I agree with all of this except the last sentence. The Constitution is somewhat vague about the VP, and assigns the office few formal powers, and describing it as "explicit" marginalizes the importance of historical precedent in framing the role of the VP.

The final part of Biden's answer cited the "unitary executive" doctrine as dangerous. Agree or disagree, he had a clear opinion that the VP, the office he is seeking, has less power than Cheney or Palin claim for it.
10.21.2008 9:04pm
Michael B (mail):
nicestrategy,

That link has been around the block awhile and I'm familiar with it.

Firstly, note again that I indicated "in intelligent, substantiated, cogent terms." As far as the nuclear legislation you high-light, see here, excerpt:

"It would be nice if the press would bring just one reporter back from Alaska to look into Senator Obama's legislative claims. If you'll bear with me, I think a few details on "signature" Lugar-Obama legislation bear fleshing out because The One is being an out-and-out fabulist.

"In one of Obama's television ads, and in countless press interviews, Obama claims that he "reach[ed] out to Senator Lugar...to help lock down loose nuclear weapons." Not true."

[...]

"This amendment didn't start any work on securing nukes, nor did it finish it. It doesn't even mention nuclear weapons. In fact, you could argue that it diverted us from securing "loose nukes.""

But the entirety (it's brief, but too long to excerpt in full) needs to be read to more fully appreciate just how empty and ingenuous that claim is.

Again, given the subject of the thread and given the glib and smarm and facile arrogations evidenced herein, that is posing as "intelligence," I specifically emphasized "in intelligent, substantiated, cogent terms."
10.21.2008 9:12pm
Michael B (mail):
I obviously had intended disingenuous, not ingenuous, in the prior comment.
10.21.2008 9:25pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ed:

representing a culturally homogeneous district population


Obama's state senate district had significant numbers of whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics. It was not "culturally homogeneous."
10.22.2008 12:07am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
michael:

As far as the nuclear legislation you high-light, see here


Gosh, that's funny. Yet again, you're quoting Power Line (a highly unreliable source, as I have proven here and here). They, in turn, are quoting someone they describe as "a highly knowledgeable source." And you're expecting us to accept the uncorroborated claims made by their unknown, unnamed "source." You just haven't explained why any reasonable person would do such a thing.
10.22.2008 12:07am
first history:
I don't know if Palin is smart or not (as a VP candidate I'd half to say no, but I know nothing of her Alaskan career), but one thing she is is a smart dresser--so smart that she got someone else to pay for it.
10.22.2008 12:52am
LM (mail):
Mike Keenan:

How much of a perceived lack of intelligence is due to the speaking style -- the accent and the teenager mannerisms. She isn't a Valley Girl, but she does have some baggage.

I disagree that we perceive her as less intelligent because of her political views. I don't do that in my personal life, so I don't see why I would do that with a political figure. Do others view close friends and associates as less intelligent if they have different political beliefs?

No, I don't. But you assume we judge politicians on the same terms we do people in our own lives. Unfortunately I disagree. We're much more generous to those in our immediate surroundings. We routinely make allowances for the kind of shortcomings and foibles we hope others will forgive in us. When we evaluate public figures, we view them almost as a different species, and we hold them to very different standards. Here are a few reasons:

(1) National political leaders are generally smarter, better looking and more charismatic than the average person. It stands to reason we'd raise the bar for measuring those traits in that group.*

(2) We know these people through television, so I think we perceive them like TV characters, who are essentially archetypes, not human beings. TV characters are always doing something relevant, and every word they say serves a purpose. The ones we root for embody every important positive quality, and the one we root against are evil personified. Contemplation, ambivalence, stumbling over syntax -- those are all fine to have done offstage. But when cameras roll there's no time to watch somebody think or make mistakes. And that's the almost-meaningless-in-the-real-world standard we apply to public figures.

(3) Distance (physical and media filters) lets us perceive these people as "others," allowing us to demonize the ones we oppose. Like we do to one another here. Giving politicians (and each other on the internet) the same benefit of the doubt we'd give a new next door neighbor apparently takes effort.

I could add more to the list and make it longer, but I doubt I could make it more annoying, so I'll stop here.

----------------

* Of course that doesn't mean they're smarter, better looking and more charismatic than the people in your life. Some of us have to be the elite, right?
10.22.2008 4:27am
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
I'm willing to be considered ignorant on the "taught at UChicago Law School" argument. I'm not contesting, but I'm asking. I doubt my experience is unique. In my acquaintance are more than a dozen professors at a prestigious med school, and more than a dozen profs at a not-so-prestigious law school. I know professors in a variety of graduate and undergraduate programs, including some of the country's most notable schools. I have an uncle who taught bankruptcy at UCalDavis and a brother who taught at Smith. None of these people are stupid, but not all of them are that high in candlepower.

The Obama argument usually takes the form of "Well, I agree that he's intelligent in one sense but he's not (fill in the blank.)" Orin's statement was that being a UC lawprof is automatic proof of the first part of that statement. Is it really? I have considered that credential to be a probable but not definite indicator of intelligence.

My admitted bias is that if his LSAT's or SAT's were any good, they would have leaked out. They haven't. As an affirmative-action applicant at Columbia and Harvard, speculations on his ceiling would be as high as anyone's but his floor might be lower than others. I have yet to see convincing evidence that Obama is more than about 1SD above average in candlepower. Am I wrong?
10.22.2008 8:39am
Hoosier:
Sarcastro
[Hoosier Profiles in Courage, 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by John F. Kennedy.]


The irony? You missed my sarcasm. JFK's name was on the cover. Check out Herbert Parmet's (1980) bio of Kennedy. He's has said this:

There is no evidence of a Kennedy draft for the overwhelming bulk of the book[;] . . . the choices, message, and tone of the volume are unmistakably Kennedy's [but the research and writing were]left to committee labor. . . The literary craftsmanship [was] clearly Sorensen's, and he gave the book both the drama and flow that made for readability.
10.22.2008 8:57am
Hoosier:
By the way, my IQ comes out to 170!!! (I took the test three times, and added the results together. Does that still count?)
10.22.2008 8:58am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

Yes, Alaska has a lot of land. Trouble is, it doesn't have a lot of people. Only North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming have a smaller population. When we're figuring out how complicated the governor's job is, I think population matters more than land area.


Why?

Of course, it's worth noting that Alaska has a population comparable to Delaware, too, so it would seem that Biden comes off badly in that comparison.
10.22.2008 10:47am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Why?


If government was mostly a matter of governing acres rather than persons, we should grant electoral votes based on the former. But it's not, so we don't.

Alaska has a population comparable to Delaware, too, so it would seem that Biden comes off badly in that comparison.


Your comparison would be more impressive if the durations were equal. But they're not. Palin has been governor for about 1.7 years (measured up to the time that she started being more of a candidate than a governor). Biden has been a senator for 36 years. That's 21 times longer. A big difference.

Now that I've answered your questions, you should answer this one: when are you going to fix the falsehoods on your site?
10.22.2008 11:45am
David Warner:
Charlie,

You're not participating in a good faith discussion. You're being cross-examined.
10.22.2008 12:36pm
MarkField (mail):

My admitted bias is that if his LSAT's or SAT's were any good, they would have leaked out. They haven't. As an affirmative-action applicant at Columbia and Harvard, speculations on his ceiling would be as high as anyone's but his floor might be lower than others. I have yet to see convincing evidence that Obama is more than about 1SD above average in candlepower. Am I wrong?


Yes, you're wrong. Obama's accomplishments include graduating magna cum laude from HLS (top 10% of his class). The number of people in the US who could do that is very small and certainly does NOT include most commenters here (probably not even some of the posters). That accomplishment tells us much more about his "candlepower" than any single test.
10.22.2008 12:38pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
warner:

You're not participating in a good faith discussion.


We already know that charlie is "not participating in a good faith discussion." Someone "participating in a good faith discussion" takes responsibility for their false statements. Charlie doesn't.

And we already know you're "not participating in a good faith discussion," either. Someone "participating in a good faith discussion" substantiates their allegations, when challenged. You don't.
10.22.2008 1:39pm
ravenshrike:

The number of people in the US who could do that is very small and certainly does NOT include most commenters here



You should perhaps amend that to would and stipulate that it be an average class. Because in my experience, the level that people are capable of, and the level they tend to operate at is wildly different. A friend of mine is going to med school. According to most intelligence tests out there I am more intelligent than she is, and yet in the normal course of things, I would never do as well as she has because she has a much greater drive.
10.22.2008 2:11pm
Hoosier:
It's all smoke and mirrors with Obama, of course.

His name is an anagram for Husk a caesarian bomb .

As if that is "just a coincidence"!
10.22.2008 3:20pm
LM (mail):
What are we to make of "Professor Hoosier" being an anagram for "soirees for pro hos?"
10.22.2008 4:39pm
Hoosier:
LM--

What are we to make of "Professor Hoosier" being an anagram for "soirees for pro hos?"

Well, I don't get paid well here. So I gotta "supplement." As to "soiree," I just want to keep it classy, as befits a man of my position and standing in the community. Plus I'm at the office until 5pm.
10.22.2008 4:48pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
jukeboxgrad,

If you think every undecided (or potentially undecided) voter knows about Rev "God damn America" Wright, you're nuts.

If you want to remind them of him, and tell them his influence on Obama, and Obama's willingness to spend 20 years listening to him is important, I will be happy to work with you.

Please tell your kids not to apply to Harvard. It will make admission a teeny bit easier for some other kids I know.

MIT maybe, Harvard never.
10.22.2008 8:42pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
nicestrategy,

Let's consider that nuclear non-proliferation" law that "Obama supported".

1: The nuclear non-proliferation parts preceded him.
2: The shoulder-launched weapons part was entirely non-controversial. It would have been there with or without Obama, and would have passed with or without his presence.

Obama is entitled to no credit for that law.

Here, let me make it simpler for you: on what issue has Obama made a difference, in a positive way?

In Ill, he helped stop Born Alive laws, so he managed to help kill some babies that "parents" otherwise "would have been punished" with. SO, if you wish, you can claim that as a positive.

Anything else?
10.22.2008 8:52pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
nicestrategy (BTW, with tactics like yours you really should be using the name "badstrategy")
About the VP question in the VP debate, neither candidate made much sense, but Biden's answer was still way better than Palin's:

Well, let's consider what Biden said:
Vice President Cheney has probably been the most dangerous Vice President we've had in American history. He has the idea...he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the Vice President of the United States. That's the executive. He works in the executive branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

Article 1, in fact, defines the Legislative Branch. Since, as he said, it also defines essentially all the duties of the VP, Biden was entirely wrong in his attack on Cheney. Fail 1 for you.

As Jack M. has pointed out over at Ace's place, the power of Presiding over the Senate can be quite useful. Fail 2 for you.
The tiebreaking vote isn't considered a major power. No VP since the Reconstruction era has cast more than 10 votes in the Senate. (Senate.gov)

Which is to say, individual VPs have changed as many as 10 votes because of their vote in the Senate. How many Senators have cast more "deciding votes"?
The Senate President pro tempore provision clearly anticipates the absence of the VP from daily deliberations in the Senate chamber.

Which doesn't mean that Palin couldn't be over there, screwing with Reid on a regular basis. Fail 3.

Palin says:
"No, no. Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are."

No, you are not expected to take that position very seriously also. You might be expected to lobby and/or campaign for the McCain agenda, but the 55-58 Democrats in the Senate would reject a Democratic VP trying to read the Constitution to "allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate,"

Do you read this stuff before you write it? As you said, the VP does not often go over and Preside over the Senate. As she said, she can do that, regardless of what people have done in the past. Fail 4

Below you demonstrate the dishonesty so characteristic of Democrats:

Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

No, Article I is the legislative branch. He probably meant to say Article II. That makes more sense, but it could be construed as if Biden didn't realize the Vice President was mentioned in both Articles. (The Senate is mentioned in Article II's "advice and consent" clause on Presidential appointments, but that doesn't mean the Senate is also "in" the executive branch.)

So did Biden misspeak or did he really not know the text of the Constitution? Here's where Biden's resume makes him bulletproof in a way Palin's doesn't. Of course he misspoke.

As I said above: wrong. Because all of the VPs duties are defined in Article 1.

We have here yet another example of "credentials" vs. "reality." The reality is that Biden is an idiot and a buffoon, and the only reason he's getting a pass here is because he's a Democrat. Biden's argument is fundamentally incoherent. Your ignoring that is fundamentally dishonest.

Palin wins, Biden loses.
10.22.2008 9:16pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
jukeboxgrad utters a pearl of cluelessness:

Obama's state senate district had significant numbers of whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics. It was not "culturally homogeneous."

This is because, as we all "know", people with different ethnic backgrounds can't possibly share the same culture!

Thank you "jukeboxgrad" for making the moral poverty of the left so clearly evident.
10.22.2008 9:35pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Sarah Palin's reading habits (From "Sarah", pages 21 - 22 in the paperback, hardback published April 2008)

Sarah had two childhood traits that her family says played pivotal roles in her life. From the time she was in elementary school, she consumed newspapers with a passion. "She read the paper from the very top left-hand corner to the bottom right corner to the very last page," said Molly. "She didn't want to miss a word. She didn't just read it - she knew every word she had read and analyzed it."
Sarah preferred nonfiction to the Nancy Drew books that her classmates were reading. In junior high school, Heather - a year older in school - often enlisted Sarah's help with book reports. "She was such a bookworm. Whenever I was assigned to read a book, she'd already read it," Heather said.

So, all you "Sarah's an ignoramus" snobs. You might want to try displaying a little bit of intellectual curiosity yourself once in a while.
10.22.2008 9:51pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
For thos who need their information in small bites:

Biden claimed that all of the VP's duties are defined in Article 1 (essentially true) and that Article 1 was about the Executive Branch (utterly false).

If Biden had been wrong in the first half, and the VP's duties were defined in Article 2 (the Article that defines the powers of the Executive Branch), his failure would have been an amusing little gaffe of no real import (saying "one" when he meant to say "two"). But that's not what he did.

He correctly stated that all the VP's duties were defined in the article that defines the Legislative Branch of the US Government, then said that meant that the VP wasn't part of the Legislative Branch.

That's not a "minor little gaffe you can ignore because of his resume." That's "Biden is a clueless buffoon who has no idea what he's talking about."

And that's "all of Biden's defenders are clueless buffoons, too." Because there's no honest way to defend what he said.
10.22.2008 10:02pm
Hoosier:
That's not a "minor little gaffe you can ignore because of his resume." That's "Biden is a clueless buffoon who has no idea what he's talking about."


Now wait just a darned minute! Are we talking about the same Sen. Joe Biden? The one who gets to ask questions of Supreme Court nominees? (You know--Those people who interpret the Constitution.) And then he votes on them?

That Sen. Joe Biden?
10.23.2008 12:26am