The notion of Barack Obama as a great intellectual always eluded me. Even on the syntactical front, where he was supposed to be a towering genius as compared to poor, bumbling George W. Foot-in-the-Mouth, candidate Obama drove me to distraction by frequently using this faux construction: “to Michelle and I.”
Many people scolded I for pointing out this lapse in a bestselling author, saying that even the Ivy educated today aren’t taught stuffy things about subjects and objects. But what kind of intelligent person believes that, when he becomes president, the oceans will subside? I mean, give me a break. Even God only managed the Red Sea.
President Obama was elected on a wave of emotion, some of this emotion built upon a laudable desire to set right some sins of the past. But now his worshippers on the progressive side of the aisle are discovering what we curmudgeons knew all along: Barack Obama is in so many ways an exceedingly attractive person. But he is not a great intellect.
I couldn’t help but wonder if yesterday, when not one but two devastating pieces in the Wall Street Journal raised the possibility that President Obama just isn’t as smart as advertised, the president was in a snit. He has put a lot of emphasis on being the brightest person in the room (a lot of kids do that, you know). Here is what Bret Stephens wrote:
On another occasion-at the 2004 Democratic convention-Mr. Obama explained to a Chicago Tribune reporter that “I’m LeBron, baby. I can play at this level. I got game.”
Of course, it’s tempting to be immodest when your admirers are so immodest about you. 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.
But it’s not just the Wall Street Journal that’s adopting this tone. What had to hurt the president’s ego more than the Wall Street Journal was Sunday’s Maureen Dowd column in the New York Times:
As one Democratic senator complained: “The president veers between talking like a peevish professor and a scolding parent.” (Not to mention a jilted lover.) Another moaned: “We are watching him turn into Jimmy Carter right before our eyes.”
I note that the president has been dragged from his pedestal not to pile it on but because I think there is a valuable lesson: don’t fall in love with political candidates. Evaluate them, but don’t behave like love-struck adolescents.
Many people are complaining about the GOP field of presidential candidates. I think this reflects a desire to fall in love with a candidate. Sure, that would be fun (remember 2008!), but in the long run we must make colder decisions about candidates. We must decide who among them can do the best job of running a country. Love is blind–vote with your eyes open. That for me is the message of 2008.