"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Obama Not That Smart After All?

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal asks the question that follow the epiphany that Obama, the Emperor, has no clothes.   Throughout 2008 we were told that, yes, Obama lacks meaningful experience in any decision-making, executive capacity.  And, yes, he's had some odd, ultra-left friends over the years.   And, yes, he has some gaps in his personal history that seem strangely unexplained.   But he's just so smart.   Ooooh, he went to Columbia and, ooooh, he went to Harvard Law School, and, ooooh, he taught at the University of Chicago.    He's just the most brilliant man ever to condescend to run for the Presidency.  

Well, is he really?
How many times have we heard it said that Mr. Obama is the smartest president ever? Even when he's criticized, his failures are usually chalked up to his supposed brilliance. Liberals say he's too cerebral for the Beltway rough-and-tumble; conservatives often seem to think his blunders, foreign and domestic, are all part of a cunning scheme to turn the U.S. into a combination of Finland, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.
I don't buy it. I just think the president isn't very bright.
Socrates taught that wisdom begins in the recognition of how little we know. Mr. Obama is perpetually intent on telling us how much he knows. Aristotle wrote that the type of intelligence most needed in politics is prudence, which in turn requires experience. Mr. Obama came to office with no experience. Plutarch warned that flattery "makes itself an obstacle and pestilence to great houses and great affairs." Today's White House, more so than any in memory, is stuffed with flatterers.
Much is made of the president's rhetorical gifts. This is the sort of thing that can be credited only by people who think that a command of English syntax is a mark of great intellectual distinction. Can anyone recall a memorable phrase from one of Mr. Obama's big speeches that didn't amount to cliché?
Ouch.   Double ouch.  

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