August 31, 2008


Diminishing Palin: How the left will try. (Dean Barnettm, 08/31/2008, Weekly Standard)

Starting with Gerald Ford, the inside-the-beltway class and its amplifiers in the media have routinely decided that Republicans who seek national office are dullards. Literally every Republican candidate for president since 1980 has had his intellect belittled. Even Bob Dole, a candidate who had spent decades proving his remarkable mental acuity in Congress, had to face such salvos because his age had allegedly dulled his mental edge. Sound vaguely familiar?

Of course, no such scrutiny greets Democratic candidates. Barack Obama can't make it through a 30 second extemporaneous statement on his campaign bus without a profusion of "ums" and "ahs." And yet Obama's stumbling diction has yet to interest his worshippers in the press the way that George H.W. Bush's periodic wrestling matches with the English language did. For those fortunate enough to have forgotten the 1988 presidential race, Michael Dukakis's principal talking point was that he was more competent, i.e. more intelligent, than Bush.

During the 2004 campaign, the New York Times's Howell Raines wrote, "Does anyone in America doubt that Kerry has a higher IQ than (George W.) Bush? I'm sure the candidates' SATs and college transcripts would put Kerry far ahead." Of course, Raines could have done some research before making such a sweeping statement, but that wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable. Take it from one who knows--polemicizing is much more fun and much less work than analyzing.

If Raines had bothered with research, he would have found he was wrong on all counts. Kerry's college transcript which included four D's in his freshman year at Yale was a special embarrassment given that candidate Kerry had boasted about his serious pursuit of scholarship compared to the president's frat-boy frivolities. But in Raines's defense, how could he have known that research was necessary? Everyone understood that Kerry possessed a blazing intellect while Bush was some village's missing idiot. Everyone among the self-satisfied liberal media, anyway.

The pattern continues. When Barack Obama trotted out Washington warhorse Joe Biden as his vice presidential pick, the media immediately clucked "gravitas" and "experience." Okay, we can't deny the "experience" angle, as Biden has occupied a Senate seat since Obama was 11 years old. But one would think that "gravitas" would imply a political record noteworthy for more than just its length. Guys like Sam Nunn are respected by members of both parties; during his long stay in the senate, Nunn was always serious and often correct. Until Barack Obama plucked him out of tiny Delaware, Joe Biden's principal renown was for talking too much and saying too little.

And yet the media has credulously treated Biden as a serious figure, a courtesy they did not extend him during either of his presidential runs. One can only imagine how inquisitive reporters would handle a Republican nominee for vice-president who graduated 86th in his law school class of 95 as Biden did. As for Biden's unfortunate history with plagiarism, the less said the better. [...]

So in order to bring down Palin, her malefactors on the left will have to argue a lack of "readiness," which with the thinly credentialed Obama on the other ticket can only serve as a shorthand for lack of intelligence.

One of the main reasons that Intellectuals think there's something the matter with Kansas is that in every open election --and in a number featuring an incumbent--since at least the turn of the 20th century the candidate who is viewed as most intelligent has lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 31, 2008 12:41 PM
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