Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Archive for October 1st, 2009

The Left’s cult of intelligence

Posted by sanityinjection on October 1, 2009

I’ve been meaning to write about the high value bordering on worship that liberals place on the quality of intelligence for some time. Ironically, it was a recent London Times interview with virulent leftist and two-bit author/scriptwriter Gore Vidal that finally inspired me to do so.

Vidal, you see, is a perfect example of the phenonemon I’m talking about, both as subject and object. For the modern Left – and it makes no difference if you’re European or American – there is no higher virtue than that of intelligence. And more specifically, not the kind of savvy of a bootstrap millionaire or a populist preacher, but only of the bookish, intellectual, Ivy League variety. For the Left, people with this quality are the world’s elite. They, and only they, are qualified to lead.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in US presidential politics. The Democrats’ Mike Dukakis was seen as more intellectual and more intelligent than Republican George Bush Sr. Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry were similarly idolized by the Left for their alleged intelligence, while Republican Bush Jr. was widely insulted as “stupid”. The message was clear: Intelligence makes the best leaders.

At first this seems to make a certain amount of sense. Wouldn’t we all prefer a smart leader to a stupid one? But that’s not really the question. Would we prefer a  highly intelligent leader, whose other qualifications are scant, to one of average intelligence whose other qualifications are impressive? If so, we discount character, diligence, experience, courage and many other factors that most leaders throughout history have embodied. I would argue this was one of the dilemmas facing American voters in choosing between the highly intelligent but underqualified Barack Obama and the average intelligence but highly qualified John McCain. Granted, most voters did not cast their vote based on this criterion – but I would argue a majority of those on the Left, including my own family members, did so.

Back to Gore Vidal – The man is obviously intelligent and well educated. And he’s made a living out of it. We are supposed to give greater weight to his words, not because of his experience or wisdom, but because of qualifications he earned over 50 years ago. Meanwhile, his life has been one of economic privilege, sexual hedonism, and strident atheism.  For someone who has defiantly done exactly as he pleased and accepted no limitations on his own behavior, he delights in preaching to others.

And yet even Vidal, in his old age, seems to have become aware of the limits of intelligence alone. In the Times interview, Vidal speaks of his disappointment with President Obama: “He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters….His problem is being over-educated.”

Keep in mind, Vidal was a supporter of Obama’s. He and his left-wing cohorts believed that Obama’s intelligence was exactly why he’d be the greatest President in recent memory. They certainly knew at the time that he was inexperienced, but that didn’t bother them. They were happy to be upgrading from “the stupidest man in the country, Mr. Bush.” Only now are they waking up to find that experience matters a lot more than they thought – something plenty of people of average intelligence could have told Vidal’s clique, if they had deigned to listen.

Vidal marries his worship of intelligence with an aggressive anti-Americanism: “Does anyone care what Americans think? They’re the worst-educated people in the First World. They don’t have any thoughts, they have emotional responses, which good advertisers know how to provoke.” America’s great successes must be a puzzlement to the brilliant Vidal.

But the true myopia lies in the fact that the Left is incapable of perceiving that the majority of Americans – or indeed people anywhere – do not share their all-encompassing worship of traditional intelligence. That’s why Dukakis and Gore and Kerry all lost, and why the Left remains baffled by the fact of it. They not only thought they were smarter than everyone else – they expected us to receive their commands like the word of God by virtue of their superior intelligence. Ronald Reagan was lampooned throughout his Presidency by the Left as an idiot -and yet today he is recognized around the world (and even by some of his more honest critics) as one of America’s greatest leaders. No one, including Reagan, would describe him as an intellectual genius. His academic career was undistinguished and his grasp of the minute details of public policy vague. But what Reagan did have was a visceral understanding of character and human nature along with a dedication to duty and a firm belief in American values. This allowed him to surround himself with highly competent advisors and assistants – many smarter than himself – who helped him to turn his vision for America, and indeed the world, into reality. Sitting across the table from foreign leaders, he could rely on staff to brief him on policy details, but his ability to accurately size up the men across the table could only come from himself.

Serendipitously, Roger Simon over at Politico seems to be groping at what I’ve expressed above, though he locates it more in the world of popular culture than politics. He misses the fact that this is a particularly liberal phenomenon, mainly because he is himself a liberal and is helplessly mired in the usual liberal misperception of their own ideas as universal. But Simon’s point is that intelligence does not imply virtue, and gives some good examples to the contrary.

Again, I am certainly not suggesting that intelligence is a bad thing. (That would be rather self-hating of me.) I am simply suggesting that to take this one good quality out of context and elevate it to the sole criterion on which to judge human potential and achievement – as the Left continually does – is pretty much insane. (Historians use the epithet “reductionist” to describe anyone who foolishly tries to explain human events by reducing everything to one overriding factor.) Let us admire and respect the intelligent, and learn from them when we can – but let us also ask if they are brave, perceptive, hardworking, wise, and trustworthy.


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Let Rio have the Olympics

Posted by sanityinjection on October 1, 2009

As you surely know if you have been watching Obamavision, I mean television lately, President Obama is traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark to lobby on behalf of his home city of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Chicago is one of four finalists for the games along with Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro.

The President has received some criticism (especially from the Right, natch) as to whether this is appropriate or represents the best possible use of his time, as both foreign and domestic priorities loom large. The best line was from conservative activist Grover Norquist, who quipped that he has no problem with Obama going to Denmark, but he’s a little concerned that he might try to come back 🙂

Putting this question aside, I’d like to make my own pitch to the International Olympic Committee, should any of its solons happen to be reading. I urge the IOC to support not Chicago’s bid, but Rio’s. Here’s why:

  • Spread the love: Both the US and Japan have hosted multiple Olympic Games. Spain had the Summer Games in Barcelona as recently as 1992. No Olympics have ever been held in South America.
  • Local support: Recent polls suggest that about half of Chicagoland residents would prefer not to have the Olympics in their city. Brazilians on the other hand are very excited about the prestige and attention the Olympics would bring to their city and country.
  • Atmosphere: Rio is internationally known as a friendly city and a place to party. Chicago, while a great city, isn’t known for either. Plus Rio has better beaches.
  • Economics: Chicago is a city with a healthy economic base. Hosting the Olympics will probably cost as much in disruptions and preparations as it will gain in business. Rio, while prosperous in some ways, has areas of shocking poverty and is far more in need of the boost the Olympics would bring, as is Brazil generally. Furthermore, while athletes from Europe, East Asia and North America can afford to attend the Olympics wherever they are held, there may well be athletes in South America for whom having the games on their continent will make the difference as to whether they can compete at all.

It’s not that I am against having the Olympics in the US, or in Chicago if the city truly wants them. However, it’s a virtual guarantee that there will be another Olympic in the US within the next few decades. Brazil has no such guarantees, and the money Rio has spent to prepare its pitch for the games is far dearer to them than to the multiple US cities that apply every single year.

As an American, I would vigorously advocate for something that was important for the future of my country. This is an athletic contest. Fun, yes. Admirable, yes. Critical, no. Let somebody else have a turn.

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