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Sarah Palin, Ignorance, and Stupidity:

I have often emphasized that political ignorance is not the same thing as stupidity. For most voters, even quite intelligent ones, being ignorant about politics is perfectly rational behavior, since there is very little chance that their votes will make any difference. I am happy to see that liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson has made use of a similar ignorance-stupidity distinction in analyzing Sarah Palin. Robinson argues that Palin is not stupid, but merely ignorant about some important political issues:

My view of Sarah Palin has changed in the two months since John McCain named her as his running mate....

I thought Palin was a lightweight; she's not. I thought she was an ingenue; she is, but only as long as her claws are sheathed. I thought she was bewildered and star-struck at her sudden elevation to national prominence; if she ever was, she isn't anymore....

That she wasn't ready to meet the national media became clear when she sat down with Katie Couric for those embarrassing sessions. But compare the bunny-in-the-headlights Sarah Palin of just a few weeks ago with the much more poised and confident Sarah Palin of today. Ignorance isn't the same thing as stupidity. When Palin talks about economic policy these days, her sentences don't meander into the Twilight Zone the way they once did. She has more to say about foreign policy besides the fact that Russia is just across the Bering Strait. She has learned much in a very short period.

Like Robinson, I too thought that Palin's ignorance is a strike against her. And I still think so. However, as Robinson points out, ignorance is more easily remediable than stupidity. An intelligent but ignorant person can quickly assimilate new information. A stupid and ignorant person might be able to do so as well, but only with much greater difficulty.

Palin, I think, falls into the "intelligent but ignorant" category. As Fred Barnes shows, people familiar with her and her political career (including many of her longtime political enemies) generally believe that she is smart and capable. That said, I still think that her ignorance is a problem. After all, there is a limit to how much even a smart politician can learn in a short period of time, especially given that she has many other demands on her schedule.

An interesting related question is that of why Palin was so ignorant to begin with. After all, she has been in politics for 12 years, and governor of Alaska for the last two. Ordinary voters tend to be ignorant about politics because they have little incentive to acquire additional information; their ignorance is "rational." But surely governors and other prominent politicians have stronger incentives to become informed.

I don't have a complete answer to this puzzle. But it seems to me that some politicians (e.g. - Bill Clinton) have a genuine interest in the details of policy and others do not. Palin likely falls in the latter category. She and other politicians like her only acquire such policy knowledge as is needed to advance their political careers. As Mayor of Wasilla and governor of Alaska, Palin had no need to become knowledgeable about non-Alaska political issues. For that reason she didn't bother to do so; she obviously didn't expect to be nominated for Veep so early in her career. My admittedly nonexpert impression is that Palin does have considerable knowledge about energy policy and other Alaska issues. I'm sure readers with greater knowledge of Alaska will correct me if I'm wrong about that.

Of course, even with respect to issues within their areas of responsibility, politicians often have only limited incentive to become knowledgeable if their ignorance won't affect their electoral fortunes. That may explain why the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee doesn't know the first thing about Muslims in the Middle East, despite the fact that intelligence about that region is a central focus of the Committee's responsibilities. Moreover, the sheer size and scope of modern government makes it difficult for even the most wonkish politicians to have more than a superficial acquaintance with more than a small fraction of the issues.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Sarah Palin, Ignorance, and Stupidity:
  2. Larry Bartels on Political Ignorance:
Asher (mail):
I don't quite buy this. If she were really bright, she could've done a better job of cramming, and she could've done a better job of BS'ing. I don't really know anything about the bailout, but I think I could do better than "it's gotta be about jobs, and healthcare, and creating jobs, and taxes, and reining in spending, and ruffling feathers, and jobs..." - I mean, sure, she's not stupid, but she's not very smart. And I wouldn't really trust Fred Barnes for info on what people familiar with her think. Just as I wouldn't totally buy Noam Scheiber's profile on her for The New Republic.
11.3.2008 9:38pm
Ilya Somin:
I don't quite buy this. If she were really bright, she could've done a better job of cramming, and she could've done a better job of BS'ing.

Good cramming and BSing are not as easy as you might think - especially when you have a scheduled jampacked with various campaign events. She does seem to have gotten much better at both since the start of the campaign.
11.3.2008 9:41pm
J. Aldridge:
My view of the Virgin Mary would had changed too if the AP and other media outlets decided to devote so much energy and ink with inventing controversy as they have with Palin.
11.3.2008 9:42pm
Eric Muller (www):
I question your assumption that people are ignorant or knowledgeable about a particular thing primarily as a function of the degree of incentive to become informed. (Thus, on your account, voters remain ignorant because they have little incentive to learn more; politicians ought to have big incentives to learn and should therefore be less ignorant.)

That account almost entirely misses such factors of human temperament as curiosity, laziness, and self-confidence.

I have plenty of reasons not to be ignorant about the State of North Carolina's health insurance plan. And I have no reasons at all to know anything about the solar system. Yet I have learned a lot about the solar system because I'm curious. And I have learned much less than I ought to about my health plan because it bores me and I find it tedious. I can tell you a lot more about Mars than I can about my health plan. This sure ain't "rational," but it's how I am. And I suspect it's how lots and lots of people are.
11.3.2008 9:47pm
second history:
That's why I think the winner of tomorrow's election will be Sarah Palin. Assuming McCain/Palin loses, and Ted Stevens wins, she should resign as Governor and run for his seat. She should have no problem winning, and will gain the requisite exposure to national issues to be ready for 2012. But she was certainly punching above her weight in this campaign.
11.3.2008 9:47pm
Smokey:
Asher:

As a charter member of the Daily Kos/DU/DemocRat Ambush Brigade that launches scurrilous character assassination attacks with the click of a mouse against anyone not approved by the far Left, you don't need to "buy this." You simply spread your mindless venom around the VC and other sites.

Talking points are your stock in trade. They're all you need, they're all you've got, and they take the place of rational discussion.
11.3.2008 9:47pm
JB:
Her campaign appearances and other utterances have shown her to be willfully ignorant. She is a devout believer in a form of Christianity especially prone to denying the validity of nonbiblical knowledge, and has campaigned on the platform that expertise is elitist and bad. When you proudly trumpet your lack of knowledge, you have little incentive to acquire more.
11.3.2008 9:48pm
MisterBigTop (mail):
I think she's done a great job all things considered. Most politicians would not be able to cram as much as she has in such a short amount of time.
11.3.2008 9:48pm
Case2L (mail):
Asher, you may not buy what Fred Barnes has to say, but what about Elaine Lafferty?
11.3.2008 9:50pm
Mr. Katz (mail):
Even if Palin has gotten better as the campaign went on, first impressions are what count. She is a polarizing figure and will remain so. The left and many on the right view her as a lightweight and an idiot and nothing can change that.

Second History:

Stevens is not going to win. Polls that have come out since his conviction have him way behind. It won't be close.
11.3.2008 9:53pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
But it seems to me that some politicians (e.g. - Bill Clinton) have a genuine interest in the details of policy and others do not. Palin likely falls in the latter category. She and other politicians like her only acquire such policy knowledge as is needed to advance their political careers.
People in the latter category are quite scary if they, like Palin, seek high office. Why, after all, are they seeking high office? What do they hope to accomplish? What policies do they wish to implement?

It is a bit like deciding that you are going to learn the skills necessary to be a surgeon after you have cut open your first patient.

It also speaks to motivation. Are they actually trying to accomplish something? Or is it simply a matter of self-aggrandizement?

Finally, it also may indicate hubris. Do they think being President is easy? Something that really doesn't take any prior preparation, learning or effort?
11.3.2008 9:54pm
Utilitarian (mail):
Several lines of evidence suggest average (low for a national figure, and much lower than Obama's [Harvard Law magna with blind grading]) IQ for Palin:

1. IQ is very strongly associated with educational performance, and Palin bounced between several colleges before graduating from the University of Idaho in an easy major, journalism, without ever publishing any articles.
2. Assortative mating means that spouses tend to have similar IQs, and Palin's husband lacks indicators of high intelligence.
3. IQ is highly heritable, and Palin's children and family show poor educational outcomes, teen pregnancy, brushes with the law.
4. Creationism and biblical literalism are significantly negatively correlated with IQ in the GSS and other datasets.
5. Palin's personal emails reveal that her friends tend to be quite low IQ, also uncharacteristic of a high IQ individual.
11.3.2008 10:04pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Joe Biden, OTOH, is stupid. Just a few days ago he said that electing Obama will lead to a generated crisis like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Biden has a very long history of saying very idiotic things. If you want the smarter VP, vote for McCain.
11.3.2008 10:10pm
Sarcastro (www):
Looking at the last 2 comments on this thread, I'm going to bed.

Good night!
11.3.2008 10:12pm
MQuinn:
Smokey said:

Asher:

As a charter member of the Daily Kos/DU/DemocRat Ambush Brigade that launches scurrilous character assassination attacks with the click of a mouse against anyone not approved by the far Left, you don't need to "buy this." You simply spread your mindless venom around the VC and other sites.

Talking points are your stock in trade. They're all you need, they're all you've got, and they take the place of rational discussion.

(emphasis added)

Smokey, please--please--point me to one instance of "rational discussion" in the above quote. Point me to a single instance of substantive argumentation in the above quote. Show me where you made a singe point that will convince one that is not already in complete agreement with you. Show me a single statement in the above quote that is not a mere conclusory insult.

Also, I find that when people cry about "talking points," it is usually because they have no adequate response to the "talking point;" otherwise, what is wrong with repeating an argument if it is an effective and accurate argument?
11.3.2008 10:13pm
Waldensian (mail):

4. Creationism and biblical literalism are significantly negatively correlated with IQ in the GSS and other datasets.

How about theism generally?
11.3.2008 10:15pm
Alex Bensky (mail):
As someone in the Wall street Journal observed after the vice-presidential debate, Biden may know more about the world but most of what Palin knows is true. If Palin had made any of the glaring mistakes Biden did--such as reciting a history of Lebanon that bears no relationship to the Lebanon of this universe--we'd still be hearing about it.

I see that Utilitarian is helping along the trope that Palin is a perky ignoramus. Ye gods, she went to a number of colleges and graduated from the University of Idaho. That is a sure sign of unintelligence.

Her kids have perhaps more than the usual adolescent problems. Too bad that she couldn't raise her family to high standards of east coast Ivy League folk, like the Kennedys. Brushes with the law...sure signs of low intelligence. Thank goodness smarter people don't have these problems or have kids with those problems. Surely none of Obama's compatriots at Columbia or Yale law have kids who have had, say, drug problems or teenage pregnancies.

Todd Palin doesn't seem to be very academically oriented but not bright? He seems like a pretty sharp chap to me. Then again, what would I know? My three degrees are from two schools you've never heard of and a law school that was not only non-Ivy but actually...I blush with shame...a public university's law school (University of Michigan). Damn, Ute, a bit shocking they even let me vote, isn't it?

And Palin seems to have a wide variety of friends. Some are quite bright but she doesn't keep herself away from people she likes, such as the hair stylist at the neighborhood beauty salon she patronizes. This northern numbskull actually knows and enjoys the company of a wide variety of people. What more proof that she's dumb? And apparently, in contradistinction to the educated classes, she hangs out with people with whose politics she disagrees.

By the way, SAT and GRE scores are considered rough-and ready IQ scores and Bush's were a bit higher than Kerry's. (Mine were higher than both, but that's mostly because I'm a good test taker.)

In any case, I have seen nothing in my life to contradict William F. Buckley's remark that he'd rather be governed by the first five hundred names in the Boston phone directory than by the entire faculty of Harvard.
11.3.2008 10:27pm
TCO:
Reagan wasn't a rocket scientist, but he knew what was right. Was a lot better than Carter who was a better student. What I care about Palin is her physical courage. Eat that, fucker. Just fuckiung eat it. And if you want brainiacs...well...I've got her back ready to bust out the Bessel functions. HA!!!
11.3.2008 10:32pm
JPG:
Waldensian: How about theism generally?

Being dumber unsurprisingly leads to being more religious. But I am confident higher IQs would be well distributed between atheists and believers. Such is my belief... ;-)
11.3.2008 10:36pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Palin lacks curiosity which leaves her in the position of having to learn everything when she needs it quickly and superfically. There is no foundation. It ain't every gonna get better.
11.3.2008 10:39pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Politically, there are two Palins, a difference which is never addressed.
Before the nomination, she was a successful Governor and expert on energy, with her own opinions and policies.

As a vp candidate, however, Palin isn't up for election based on her own opinions and policies, her job is to reflect the policies and opinions of the running mate.

It was easier, and more politically correct in the game of gotcha journalism, to eviscerate Palin for not having memorized and fully grasped McCain's platform than to acknowledge she was an expert on energy. (Her expertise on energy, IMO, was the reason she was picked as running mate.)
11.3.2008 10:42pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
How about this as an explanation for why Palin didn't spend a lot of time on policy wonkery: she was the primary caregiver for four children, including when Todd was off on his snowmobile races.
11.3.2008 10:44pm
wm13:
Brushes with the law indicate that the affected individual's parents have low IQ? Wow, the Kennedys must be dumber than mud, starting with Joe, whose son Teddy has had a few brushes, as I recall.
11.3.2008 10:44pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
The blatant bias, (and sexism,) against Sarah Palin will come back to bite many a person in the media, and the government.
11.3.2008 10:45pm
Allan (mail):
A charming combination of ignorance, apathy, lack of curiosity and self-regard. There should be some kind of licensing requirement for people going into public service.
11.3.2008 10:47pm
Smokey:
McQuinn, your mind is made up and closed tight. There is literally nothing I or anyone else could say that would change it. You already have your Messiah, and your religious belief is unarguable. That's the truth, and you know it -- whether you admit it here or not.

And Utilitarian, by your own IQ-deficient definition, you're not credible.
11.3.2008 10:47pm
LN (mail):

How about this as an explanation for why Palin didn't spend a lot of time on policy wonkery: she was the primary caregiver for four children, including when Todd was off on his snowmobile races.


Maybe she grew up in a disadvantaged neighborhood and was underprivileged, without the right role models growing up. Maybe it's society's fault.
11.3.2008 10:49pm
Cold Warrior:
TCO, thank you so much for elevating the discourse.

"Willfully ignorant?" I think that's Andrew Sullivan's phrase, and even though old Sully has come completely unhinged lately, I think that phrase nails it.

So she's reasonably smart, but years of worrying about only local/Alaska matters left her horribly unprepared for the big stage. Big deal; who can't get up to speed on the issues in a couple weeks?

Well, we learned it is a big deal. A lifetime of ignoring public policy -- a lifetime characterized by a complete lack of concern with (gasp!) theory -- leaves one looking like a fool after 2 weeks of intensive prepping. I just saw SNL repeat the parody of the Palin-Couric interview. Palin thinks rattling off a list of names ("Afghanistan President Karzai; Jalal Talibani ...") proves that she has the requisite knowledge base. These facts are trivia; nice to know, sure, but who cares? The knowledge runs about a millimeter deep.

And I honestly don't know if a 44 year old can ever make up for all that lost time, a lifetime characterized by a complete lack of intellectual curiosity about anything.
11.3.2008 10:52pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
"How about this as an explanation for why Palin didn't spend a lot of time on policy wonkery: she was the primary caregiver for four children, including when Todd was off on his snowmobile races."

A sexist remark, and unacceptable
11.3.2008 10:53pm
Smokey:
LN:
Maybe it's society's fault.
Isn't that the DemocRats' mantra?
11.3.2008 10:54pm
LN (mail):
Yeah, MQuinn, how dare you question Smokey's reasonableness, you close-minded hack. Smokey is a great commenter who consistently engages with a wide variety of views in an extremely intelligent and open-ended matter. I know several people who have been persuaded by his gentle style of argumentation. He encourages you to question the assumptions behind your thinking and leads you to ideas you would be unable to arrive at on your own. If you can't see that, then you're just a godless Obama worshipper who hates America and wants Islamofascisocialism to rule the day. Why don't you try backing away from your preconceived notions and start using logic, you idiot hack?
11.3.2008 10:55pm
Smokey:
Thanx, LN. So, how are you any different?
11.3.2008 10:57pm
loki13 (mail):
Smokey,

Wow, lowering the level of discourse on yet another thread! I'm not sure what is worse-

1. The stupid demonizing names (messiah, democRats etc.) that provides more information about the writer than the target.

2. The condescending conclusory arguments (did you ever get past the, "I win, because you're dumb and stuff!" line of kindergarten taunts?)

3. The blatant falsehoods. After your "Carter called Obama a black/colored boy" I'm surprised you keep up with the BS.

I report, you decide.
11.3.2008 10:59pm
Utilitarian (mail):
Alex Bensky,

Yes, Bush had higher Yale grades and a higher IQ than Kerry (based on Bush's SAT, military test scores, and other info). That doesn't change the situation in this election.
11.3.2008 11:01pm
Cold Warrior:

How about this as an explanation for why Palin didn't spend a lot of time on policy wonkery: she was the primary caregiver for four children, including when Todd was off on his snowmobile races.


That may have a lot to do with it.

Americans love the idea that an ordinary man/woman (think that awful movie "Dave," or think Jesse Ventura, or think Sarah Palin) can, through the exercise of good old-fashioned American common sense and pragmatism, show the old pols just how easy it is to get things done.

Sprint is now running a series of commercials on that theme: what if rock group roadies were in charge of airports and airlines? Well, they'd make the planes leave on time, right.

Real life? Not so easy.

Oh, and as for that old blowhard William F. Buckley: I trust he didn't pick the first dozen names out of the Boston white pages to manage his investments.
11.3.2008 11:03pm
LN (mail):

So, how are you any different?


I don't gratuitously insult other commenters, for one thing. I don't rely on name-calling and silly slogans. It does seem impossible to have a truly rational discussion about politics here but I do my best. I do often resort to snark but I don't think that's such a bad thing.
11.3.2008 11:06pm
Don de Drain:
Frankly, I don't care much for either Palin or Biden. Palin reminds me of Dubya. Has some good political instincts, can do OK with the proper handlers, particularly at the state level, but ends up being a very divisive person when acting on the national scene. And definitely can not drive the bus without someone sitting next to her (just like Dubya-- too bad Cheney was the co-pilot, imagine what would have happened had it been someone else).

Biden is a gasbag who has been in the pocket of credit card companies. His chief asset for O'Bama may be his contacts developed while working on the Foreign Relations Committee. Would not trust him to drive the bus solo either, but I trust his ability to pick a decent co-pilot more than Palin's ability to do the same. (That's not saying much, though.)

Would have much preferred to have Chuck Hagel be (R) VP candidate and Russ Feingold be (D) VP candidate. Heck, would rather see both of them be candidates for president.
11.3.2008 11:06pm
Patrick22 (mail):
In what way has Palin improved? She is the first VP candidate to never have a press conference. She can read a teleprompter. But she can't answer an unscripted question.

Palin is the political equivalent of Tom from the movie, "Broadcast News".
11.3.2008 11:07pm
JB:
Cold Warrior,
Well said. I didn't know Sullivan used that term, as I no longer read him.

The Republican Party, for all it purports to advocate policies most VC bloggers prefer to those Obama advocates, is the party of parochial viewpoints, hostility to knowledge and expertise, oversimplification, and mistrust of the Other. Its candidates poison the well then complain they are thirsty, argue not only via ad hominem nonsequiturs (all politicians do) but argue exclusively via ad hominem nonsequiturs, and actively seek to mislead both supporters and opponents.

It is legitimate to prefer Republican candidates because you like what they will do on your key issues, but do not fail to acknowledge the nature of the party itself.
11.3.2008 11:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Are Democrats more intelligent than Republicans? They certainly like to think they are, but don't intelligent people make wise health decisions such as not smoking? Data posted on Red State Blue State blog is revealing:
The prevalence of poor self-rated health was substantially higher among Democrats (25.8%) as compared to Republicans (8.5%). Lower prevalence of poor health among Republicans was also observed in analyses stratified by poverty, education or race.
Perhaps the Democrats are smart but just ignorant of good health practices, which leads to my working definition of the difference between ignorance and stupidity.

A truly stupid person is ignorant of what he doesn't know.
11.3.2008 11:10pm
Cold Warrior:
JB, you are correct.

Philosophically, the Republican Party should be my home.

But it has ghetto-ized itself. It has now become a party confined to a regional ghetto (the South and the Bible Belt Midwest only), a racial ghetto (white only), a cultural ghetto (Christian heterosexual only), and -- the last straw for me -- increasingly a class ghetto (the party that ridicules well-adjusted urban/suburban families who prize education above all else as effete arugula eaters).

The Democrats went through this in the 1980s, and it took them three presidential election cycles to dig themselves out of it (Carter-Mondale-Dukakis, finally ended by the rise of the DLC and its candidate, Clinton). I fear the Republicans are headed in the same direction. The most likely reaction to failure will be to move even closer to the base and to let the party become the Party of Palin. That would be a recipe for disaster. I think there's a chance the libertarian element can reemerge sooner, but really: can anyone see the William Weld faction in ascendency in this party? Is there even such a thing anymore?

The main reason I'm holding my nose and voting Obama: the Republicans need to be chastened and corrected by defeat. I can no longer vote for a party that seems to have no use for people like me.
11.3.2008 11:18pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Palin has done well considering she hasn't had 2+ years to get her BS, uh, story together like the rest of them.
11.3.2008 11:19pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Cold Warrior:

"Oh, and as for that old blowhard William F. Buckley: I trust he didn't pick the first dozen names out of the Boston white pages to manage his investments."

I don't think he would have picked the Harvard faculty to manage his investments either. For the record he said:
I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.
11.3.2008 11:20pm
OmniBob (mail):
I have always liked the distinction between stupidity and ignorance. My only question is, which label applies to Speaker Pelosi's failure to realize that natural gas is a fossil fuel?
11.3.2008 11:24pm
Utilitarian (mail):
On being governed by 500 names from the phone book versus the Harvard faculty, the Harvard faculty are not just high IQ, they're also high in the psychological trait openness to experience, and thus liberal ideologically. This shift in the distribution, combined with group polarization, makes Harvard seem loudly to the left. Talk to the physicists and economists and geneticists, and you'll be surprised.

Bryan Caplan's work, summarized in his book, "Myth of the Rational Voter," shows that people with graduate training support systematically more socially liberal and economically conservative policies, although there is a selection effect, as academia includes more of the left-leaning PhD holders (others go to industry). Also, note that the average difference in beliefs between people with PhDs in economics and the general population is greater than the difference between self-identified 'very liberal' and 'very conservative' citizens. Intelligence on its own has a strong effect, leading to generally more libertarian views.


In answer to another commenter, yes religious belief (belief in a personal God, miracles, an afterlife) declines sharply with increasing IQ, although less sharply than biblical literalism. However, church attendance, which fills an important social role in many communities, shows a more complex picture (e.g. people who self-identify as 'Jewish' report lower rates of belief in a personal God than people who say they are of 'no religion,' but perform more religious activities such as attending services or saying prayers).
11.3.2008 11:26pm
Cornellian (mail):
That's why I think the winner of tomorrow's election will be Sarah Palin. Assuming McCain/Palin loses, and Ted Stevens wins, she should resign as Governor and run for his seat. She should have no problem winning, and will gain the requisite exposure to national issues to be ready for 2012.

I will be thrilled if the Republicans nominate Palin in 2012.
11.3.2008 11:31pm
DiversityHire:
Christian heterosexual only -- Geez, what a stereotype. The Republicans in congress are well on their way to doing for live boys what Ted Kennedy did for dead girls. There are so many gay republicans in congress, I'm starting to wonder if McCain picked Palin to shore-up the female vote or because Lindsey Graham was dying to go shopping for her.
11.3.2008 11:33pm
Cold Warrior:
How could Sarah Palin step down as Governor of Alaska -- a job that requires her to make executive decisions on a daily basis -- to take a lowly job as a U.S. Senator?

The Mayor of Wasilla makes more executive decisions in an hour than John McCain, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama have made in their combined lifetimes!
11.3.2008 11:35pm
Cold Warrior:

Christian heterosexual only -- Geez, what a stereotype. The Republicans in congress are well on their way to doing for live boys what Ted Kennedy did for dead girls. There are so many gay republicans in congress, I'm starting to wonder if McCain picked Palin to shore-up the female vote or because Lindsey Graham was dying to go shopping for her.


Good one, DiversityHire ...

... and I have no doubt that Charlie Crist would've used up that $150,000 clothing budget in two hours flat.
11.3.2008 11:38pm
Vermando (mail) (www):
Wow, this turned into a cesspool, and quick.

Just one more day...
11.3.2008 11:38pm
Guest12345:
And in other Palin news.
11.3.2008 11:42pm
MLS:
I never cease to be amazed that so many people are prepared to pass judgement on this individual without having even met and talked with her. Moreover, it seems nothing short of condescending to treat her, her family, and the citizens of Alaska as if they are somehow intellectually challenged yahoos who seem incapable of understanding the real issues and challenges faced by the "lower 48".

Personally, I have found her to be a breath of fresh air within a political system in which pomposity and exaggerated views of self-importance appear to rule the day.
11.3.2008 11:42pm
Cornellian (mail):

The Mayor of Wasilla makes more executive decisions in an hour than John McCain, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama have made in their combined lifetimes!


I loved that Daily Show clip where they sent someone up to interview the current Mayor of Wasilla and asked her what she did from day to day. The short answer - not a heck of a lot. I wouldn't be surprised if the typical U.S. senator has a bigger budget, a bigger staff and more "executive" decisions to make than the Mayor of Wasilla.
11.3.2008 11:43pm
AlanDownunder (mail):
The worry is what she's ignorant of: niceties like separation of powers, conflict of interest, 1st amendment.

For someone who is not stupid, ignorance is an expression of personality and values. If you don't plan to do the right thing, why would you bother to learn what it is?
11.3.2008 11:45pm
MQuinn:
Smokey said:

McQuinn, your mind is made up and closed tight. There is literally nothing I or anyone else could say that would change it. You already have your Messiah, and your religious belief is unarguable. That's the truth, and you know it -- whether you admit it here or not.

My political and ideological postures are irrelevant to our discussion. Don't worry about my beliefs -- worry about my arguments.

To recap, you attacked Asher by suggesting that he interferes with rational discussion; in so doing, you insulted him repeatedly, which was the total extent of your argument. I called you on it by noting that your entire attack on Asher fell prey to the very critique that you leveled against Asher -- your arguments interfere with rational discussion. In response to my argument, you launched an ad hominen attack on my personal ideology. I ask you, what does my ideology have to do with anything? Also, what grounds do you have to presume to understand my personal belief system? Smokey, I fear that you are not capable of making cogent arguments and thus you resort to insults.

Also, please enlighten me as to who is my "Messiah?"
11.3.2008 11:47pm
Cold Warrior:

I never cease to be amazed that so many people are prepared to pass judgement on this individual without having even met and talked with her. Moreover, it seems nothing short of condescending to treat her, her family, and the citizens of Alaska as if they are somehow intellectually challenged yahoos who seem incapable of understanding the real issues and challenges faced by the "lower 48".


MLS, I'd love to have the chance to meet her and talk with her. But we all know the reality of presidential elections: 100+ million people are going to vote, and, well, they can't all have a chat with Sarah.

So we have to rely on the Katie Courics and Charlie Gibsons to act as surrogates. And she didn't exactly impress me in those turns ...

... so she could have done an hour with Tom Brokaw (yes, I would've preferred Russert, but that wasn't meant to be) or Stephanopoulos or Schieffer or someone else. And maybe she could've convinced me. But she never tried. The other 3 President/VP candidates have done that many, many times ... way too many times for Biden and McCain. But I feel I have a good sense of their abilities and shortcomings. Palin never gave the American people a chance. So I have to rely on the small sample I've seen. And it wasn't pretty. Her fault, and the McCain campaign's fault, and nobody else's.
11.3.2008 11:50pm
DiversityHire:
Me, too, MLS.

And I enjoy the cognitive dissonance she's caused.
11.3.2008 11:54pm
RPT (mail):
And we'll never know what's in her medical records....
11.3.2008 11:57pm
MLS:
Cold Warrior,

Silly me, but in this incessantly long campaign I have actually taken the time to gather information about all of the candidates from a wide variety of souces beyond merely the large media outlets. From what I have learned it is abundantly clear the MSM reporting bears little, if any, resemblance to actual facts.
11.4.2008 12:07am
Cold Warrior:
MLS, I've actually watched much of what is available of Sarah Palin's Alaska debates, interviews, etc. I see a woman who is more coherent, probably less programmed, and generally competent if not particularly impressive. But those debates/interviews were about issues of purely Alaskan concern.

I am awfully tired of this "MSM" canard. The mainstream media cannot make a fool out of you, but you can sure as hell make one out of yourself.
11.4.2008 12:16am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
There's a quality that hasn't been mentioned that I think is important, namely the recognition that some subjects are deep and take a lot of study to understand. There are many people who are intelligent in the conventional sense and do well on things like SATs but do not understand this and will never devote that kind of study to topics where it is necessary. Nor will they consult true experts since they don't understand what it is that gives the experts their expertise.

My impression is that Palin falls into this category - she is reasonably bright and capable of learning facts, but as far as I can tell, she doesn't understand what it means for a subject to be deep and has no experience of sustained grappling with a subject. Of course, as another commenter mentioned, it is hard to evaluate such things on the basis of the limited evidence available.
11.4.2008 12:34am
Ricardo (mail):
Are Democrats more intelligent than Republicans? They certainly like to think they are, but don't intelligent people make wise health decisions such as not smoking? Data posted on Red State Blue State blog is revealing:

That's funny, I could have sworn I saw you discount other results based on the GSS survey (which is the underlying dataset for this) because of response bias. I guess those considerations don't matter when you are busy making a partisan point.

And to the point, does being a smoker indicate anything about one's IQ? I can't imagine there is a big difference but maybe someone knows a study that says otherwise. Plus, most people who smoke know the health consequences -- I don't know anyone who doesn't. Just as people who don't exercise regularly know the health consequences of not doing so.
11.4.2008 12:35am
Guest12345:
And to the point, does being a smoker indicate anything about one's IQ? I can't imagine there is a big difference but maybe someone knows a study that says otherwise. Plus, most people who smoke know the health consequences -- I don't know anyone who doesn't. Just as people who don't exercise regularly know the health consequences of not doing so.


Anyone who knows the consequences of smoking and does anyway is exposing some other fundamental decision making problem. Namely the inability to project themselves into the future. I.e. they are short term thinkers.
11.4.2008 12:43am
Kirk:
CW,
So we have to rely on the Katie Courics and Charlie Gibsons to act as surrogates.
Well, at least we know where your train went off the track. While I can think of some things* where I'd let those two act as my surrogate, impartially finding and presenting information most certainly isn't one of them.

--------------------------
*E.g. alien abductions
11.4.2008 12:54am
LM (mail):
Re: William F. Buckley and the first 500 names.... He was brilliant, urbane, funny as hell, and by all accounts a totally class guy. Sometimes he was also, umm, wrong.
11.4.2008 12:55am
LM (mail):
As for Palin, she's been the target of unpardonable moosogyny.
11.4.2008 1:02am
Cold Warrior:
Kirk, you seem to have missed my point.

We have to rely on the Katie Courics and Charlie Gibsons to do our bidding because Sarah Palin refused to let anyone more reputable interview her. And she absolutely refused to hold a press conference.

So what should I base my assessment of her on? Sean Hannity feeding her Republican talking points? Greta van Susteren interviewing the First Dude? Speeches she reads from a teleprompter? I mean, what exactly is the case to be made -- based on public discussions -- that Palin actually is competent and prepared for the job?
11.4.2008 1:06am
Cold Warrior:
Moosogyny ... gotta admit it, that's not bad!
11.4.2008 1:12am
LN (mail):
I can't stand all you snobby intellectual elitists. Why do you have no respect for the ordinary person? To refute you, let me quote my hero William F. Buckley, who said (PDF):


"The central question... is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not dominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes -- the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce additional statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden..."


Aw shucks, I hope you elitists are embarrassed now!

I would have quoted "On Negro Inferiority" but I can't find a copy online.
11.4.2008 1:24am
Can't find a good name:
Just wondering -- how many of you who think less of Sarah Palin because her bachelor's degree is from the University of Idaho would prefer to elect to national office someone with degrees from two of the nation's most respected universities? Say, someone with a B.A. from Yale and an M.B.A. from Harvard?

And how many of you have complete confidence in the intelligence and potential for national office of someone who graduated in the bottom third of the class at the University of Delaware for his B.A., and in the bottom 20% of the class at Syracuse University for his J.D., at the latter of which he flunked a class for plagiarism?

To put things more straightforwardly, I do believe that a candidate's educational performance says something about his or her intelligence, but we should use such information with caution, and discount any claims which are based more on partisanship than educational evaluation.
11.4.2008 1:40am
A. Zarkov (mail):
LN:

I'm going to repeat my prior post on this very subject.

"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

Evidently some people regard WFB's 1950s writings on race as an indelible stain, the ultimate sin for which no forgiveness is possible. But let's remember that Abraham Lincoln said,


"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the black and white races." "I as well as Judge Douglas am in favor of the race to which I belong, having the superior position."

From page 32, Lincoln Speeches and Writings, by Abraham Lincoln, Don E. Fehrenbacher, ISBN 0940450631.

Then we have Woodrow Wilson who as President of Princeton University discouraged blacks from even applying for admission. When a delegation of blacks protested his discriminatory actions, Wilson told them that "segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen." In 1914, he told the New York Times, "If the colored people made a mistake in voting for me, they ought to correct it."
11.4.2008 1:45am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Ricardo:

"That's funny, I could have sworn I saw you discount other results based on the GSS survey (which is the underlying dataset for this) because of response bias. I guess those considerations don't matter when you are busy making a partisan point."


I questioned whether the GSS had enough resolution to distinguish between 25% and 32%. That's a lot harder to do than 8.5% and 25.8% because the former is a smaller difference.
11.4.2008 2:01am
LN (mail):
Zarkov -- I was just getting tired of people quoting Buckley about the goddamned Boston phone book and the Harvard faculty. Whatever else you want to say about the man, he was an elitist. He believed that some people were better than others. He believed that hierarchy was good. This was the essence of his conservatism.

From a pure snark perspective, the fact that he was pretty freaking racist is a bonus for liberals and a negative for conservatives, but more substantively I hope it may suggest that just because he said something doesn't make it true.

As for his ideas in general, I am aware that logically speaking one bad idea, no matter how terrible, does not necessarily invalidate any other idea. That doesn't have much to do with my point here though.
11.4.2008 2:18am
A. Zarkov (mail):
LN:

"I was just getting tired of people quoting Buckley about the goddamned Boston phone book and the Harvard faculty."

I agree that line is overused and has become shopworn. Of course it was always a joke, but all jokes contain a germ of truth and that's what makes them funny.

"He believed that some people were better than others."


Don't most people believe that?

"... the fact that he was pretty freaking racist is a bonus for liberals and a negative for conservatives,..."

Buckley made those unfortunate statements in his younger days when he then had a tendency to come off as somewhat arrogant and occasionally a little rude. Later he mellowed a lot and regretted his earlier comments on race. Buckley didn't speak for all conservatives and his brand of it is pretty obsolete, so beating up on him is pretty much beating a dead horse. Today almost all conservatives adhere to the central dogma of liberalism: multiculturalism.
11.4.2008 4:44am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Palin is compared to...I dunno who. Some combination of Mme Curie and maybe Geraldine Ferraro.
She should be being compared to Biden, but since that would be a catastrophe for the dems, see previous graf.
11.4.2008 6:30am
TA:
Why would anyone think Sarah Palin is more ignorant than Barack Obama? When do we get to see the evidence of this? "Because everybody says so ..." doesn't count.
11.4.2008 6:39am
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
I completely agree that Palin isn't stupid, but only remarkably ignorant. Pace Robinson, I'm pretty sure wanton ignorance is consistent with being a "lightweight."
11.4.2008 7:06am
TA:
"I completely agree that Palin isn't stupid, but only remarkably ignorant."

I guess if you repeat it often enough ...
11.4.2008 7:14am
SG:
Palin's the only one of this bunch whose actual accomplishments in office I like and respect. I agree she's inexperienced (and way too inexperienced to be president today), but as the article points out she's proven to be a quick study.

Of course she's not the platonic ideal of a president. Beyond her inexperience, her personal opinions are a bit wacky. But experience comes with time. In 2004, Obama was thought too inexperienced to run in 2008, and sitting in Rev. Wright's pews ranks right up there in the wacky personal opinions category and still he's about to be elected president today. Palin will be someone to watch in 2012.
11.4.2008 8:34am
Jim Miller (mail) (www):
It is curious how these impressions get formed. Ilya thinks that Palin is poorly informed, but does not mention Obama.

Yet, on many issues, Palin is obviously better informed than Obama. For instance, Obama rejects nuclear power because -- he says -- the waste problem has not been solved. Similarly, he opposes the free trade agreement with Colombia, which almost every economist would agree is a good deal for the US.

Palin gets both those issues right.

It would be easy to add examples to those two, just from posts I have done on the subject, but I will end, instead with this comparison: Palin is said to be a voracious reader; Obama's senate office is full of pictures of himself -- and almost empty of books.
11.4.2008 9:11am
Justin (mail):
Palin's "expertese" on energy has been vastly overstated. ThinkProgress has a compendium here, but there's a ton more of her sort of basic, soporific "energy claims" that have no basis in fact out there as examples, too.
11.4.2008 9:30am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Jim Miller.
You can see the power of the imposed narrative when nobody's talking about Biden's ignorance.
In fact, it gets to the point where somebody will say, "You think Palin's bright?", as a way of letting you hang yourself. Because the narrative is so powerful that the laughter starts before such things as facts are considered.
The reason for this, of course, is that the facts won't support the narrative.
11.4.2008 9:31am
TA:
Richard Aubrey wrote:

"Because the narrative is so powerful that the laughter starts before such things as facts are considered."

It's not much more than simple peer pressure.
11.4.2008 9:42am
Ben Franklin (mail):
Ooh, ooh, I love this game! Can I play?

What is Obama when he says he wants to make energy costs skyrocket? Stupid or ignorant?

What is Obama when he votes for infanticide? Stupid or ignorant?

What is Obama when he says he sought out Marxists and radicals as his teachers and mentors? Stupid or ignorant?

What is Biden when he can't figure out how many letters are in "jobs?" Stupid or ignorant?

What is Obama when he can't figure out how many states are in the union? Stupid or ignorant?

What is Obama when he says he knew nothing about Ayers or Jeremiah Wright and their views? Stupid or ignorant?

What is Obama when he says we should stop "air-raiding" villages and invade Pakistan? Stupid or ignorant?

What is Barney Frank when he says we should "throw the dice" on sub-prime housing? Stupid or ignorant?

What is Pelosi when she says she is against fossil fuels but for natural gas? Stupid or ignorant?

What is a blogger when he plays this game with Palin but not with THE ONE? Stupid or ignorant?

I could play this game all day long!!!!!
11.4.2008 9:54am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ben.
One equivalent of trying to spit to windward is using facts against the imposed narrative.
11.4.2008 9:58am
davod (mail):
"She and other politicians like her only acquire such policy knowledge as is needed to advance their political careers."

The level of villification of Palin is equal to the horror and fear of the Democrats at her nomination.

All else follows from that fear.
11.4.2008 10:30am
Traitor's Everywhere (mail):

I have seen nothing in my life to contradict William F. Buckley's remark that he'd rather be governed by the first five hundred names in the Boston phone directory than by the entire faculty of Harvard.


It's impossible to "contradict" someone's (especially a dead person's) personal preferences.

But you do realize the first five hundred (or 2,000) names are probably a bunch of Abbas, Ahmads, Abdullahs, and Alis?

Buckley would rather be governed by a bunch of Muslims.

American Conservatism has come a long way!
11.4.2008 10:31am
DiversityHire:
"Stupid vs. merely/willfully ignorant" isn't a very useful way to evaluate a candidate for office. Intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom take too many forms to be subjected to little gnuplots stuffed into LaTeX documents. Regardless of the shape of her stupidity curve, Sarah Palin bested two national governments, a handful of oil companies, two political parties, and scores of "special interests" to deliver a compromise gas line package her constituents overwhelmingly support. She played her opponents' "misunderestimation" real well. She manages to get her way against "smarter", "more educated", "better informed" opponents more often than not. There's something to be said for that kind of intelligence in a leader.

Prof. Somin said "She and other politicians like her only acquire such policy knowledge as is needed to advance their political careers." A more charitable interpretation might be "she and other politicians like her acquire the skills necessary to serve the interests of their constituents and accomplish their shared goals." That people of her sort are not given to abstraction and generalization or to deep parsing and interpretation of policy minutia doesn't make them stupid or willfully ignorant, it makes them pragmatists who focus on the R in the Jimmy James theory of RLP-leadership. There's a whole different set of skills necessary to pursue the "logical paradox" part/s of RLP. Intellectuals seem to be much more comfortable with and to identify with these sorts.
11.4.2008 11:19am
alkali (mail):
Full disclosure: I am a Democrat.

I have surprised myself by coming to the conclusion that Palin was tremendously ill-served by the McCain campaign, and the weaknesses she has shown to date are largely the fault of that campaign.

By way of background, Joe Biden was asked back in May whether he would take the VP slot if offered. He emphatically said yes, because if your party's nominee asks you to do that, you need to do it. I think that's generally right. There are limits to that rule of thumb -- if Barack Obama had called me, J. Random Blogcommenter, and urged me to join his ticket, I would have felt obliged to ask that he please reconsider -- but I don't think it was Palin's job to angst about whether she was adequately prepared to join the ticket. McCain asked; she said yes. That was the right thing to do.

The McCain campaign had a long empty stretch in the spring (during the time that Clinton and Obama were beating up on each other) that they could have used to identify the universe of VP possibilities. Had they flagged Palin as a potential choice then, they could have sent her a briefing binder on issues that would likely come up in the campaign. If they had done that, she would have memorized it -- not because she is a supergenius, but because she is of at least average intelligence and ambition for a pol, she seems to work pretty hard, and the kinds of answers you give in a campaign are not rocket science. If they had done that, Palin would have been substantially ready to start dealing with the press at the end of August. Having failed to lay that foundation, the campaign really had no business picking her.
11.4.2008 11:25am
Alex Bensky (mail):
Oh, absolutely, Ute, you're right that the Harvard faculty tend to be liberals because they're open to new ideas, tolerant, and so forth. Still, where in the US these days do we see repeated attempts to limit speech as to content and area where it may be expressed, to punish people for their views, and to establish an effective right not to be offended (depending on who is doing the offending and who is being offended).

I would bet it could be proven empirically that there is more respect for differences of opinion in the average Teamsters local than in the faculty senate of any Ivy League school.
11.4.2008 1:53pm
David Warner:
LM,

"Re: William F. Buckley and the first 500 names.... He was brilliant, urbane, funny as hell, and by all accounts a totally class guy. Sometimes he was also, umm, wrong."

He was careful to specify the Boston phone book. The Wasilla phone book, of course, just would not do.

Seriously, what he was getting at was the technocratic fallacy, where everyone else looks stupid when they opine about one's own area of expertise. Representative government requires wisdom more than intelligence of its representatives, since government calls for breadth of knowledge over depth, and good instincts above all.


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

- Coleridge
11.4.2008 2:14pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
Stupid vs. merely/willfully ignorant
It isn't what you don't know that makes you stupid, it's what you know that ain't so. I'd lot rather have someone who was willing to learn on the job, than someone who already has all the answers before the questions get asked.

On that level, Palin far outshines Obama, McCain, and Biden.
11.4.2008 3:39pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
The issue for a future Palin has in politics is whether or not the media (maybe the public, too) will give her a second chance at a first impression. Dan Quayle was never given a second chance....
11.4.2008 4:46pm
LM (mail):
David Warner:

Seriously, what he was getting at was the technocratic fallacy, where everyone else looks stupid when they opine about one's own area of expertise. Representative government requires wisdom more than intelligence of its representatives, since government calls for breadth of knowledge over depth, and good instincts above all.

I pretty much agree with your point, and I'm sure Buckley would have agreed with it. I'm just not convinced it's all he was saying with that remark. If it was, he flushed the baby with the bathwater, because it has predictably been exploited as a much broader populist appeal to anti-intellectualism.

I don't think someone has to be intellectual, much less academic to be a good leader. Reagan was neither, and though I disagreed with him on policy, he was a great leader. But though he wan't intellectual or academic, he was certainly intelligent. And I'm convinced at least modestly above-average intelligence is pre-requisite to being a competent POTUS. All else being equal, the smarter the better.

The right wing propaganda that governing isn't a thinking job, one that requires not only common sense, but also better than middling intelligence, hurts us way beyond politics. Ironically, Buckley's progeny who traffic in it don't exactly welcome intellectual lightweights in their own ranks. Good thing they don't accuse anyone of elitism.
11.4.2008 6:54pm
SG:
The right wing propaganda that governing isn't a thinking job, one that requires not only common sense, but also better than middling intelligence, hurts us way beyond politics. Ironically, Buckley's progeny who traffic in it don't exactly welcome intellectual lightweights in their own ranks. Good thing they don't accuse anyone of elitism.

I can understand why one might think that's the "right wing propaganda", but I think that's more a caricature of it. I think it's more fairly stated as "possession of an advanced, preferably Ivy League, degree does not inherently make one competent to govern". It's more a cousin to Orwell's quote about there being some ideas so dumb that only an intellectual could believe them.

It's a valid point, even if it does sometimes get exaggerated. And after hearing repeatedly that being president of the Harvard Law Review is evidence that Obama would make a good president, it's hard not to think that they're pushing back against something real.
11.4.2008 7:06pm
TCO:
Palin is plenty smart. It is the pole smoking Al Queda lovers. Effete little Easter fuckers who think they are so great cause they are law profs that think otherwise. Stick a Bessel function up their bustles.
11.4.2008 8:20pm
David Warner:
LM,

I think there's a useful distinction to be drawn between intelligent and intellectual. Useful for the knowledge-worker left to comprehend what in the world it is the proles are on about, and useful for the proles themselves so as not to throw out the former in taking on the latter.

Even then, it is useful to have intellectuals from each of our various ideological traditions, so long as they're not merely unoriginal credential collectors and not, in most cases, representing the rest of us in government.
11.5.2008 1:32am