Now, don’t get your knickers in a twist. I don’t mean to suggest that the President does not have an average intellect. Possibly even an above-average, though seldom exercised, intellect. I’m not speaking of low IQs here, but of stupidity. (The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, who work with brain-injured kids are fond of pointing out that there’s no cure for stupidity.)
He might even be a genius, though I’ve really seen nothing from the man to suggest that he’s anything more than a competent parroter of other people’s words. I don’t believe for a second that he actually wrote those books; writers write pretty much all the time. But lack of achievement is no disqualifier of genius. This is neither here nor there.
Because even geniuses can be stupid about things.
Let me see if I can support this potentially controversial theory. See if you can follow my byzantine logic here.
First, I’m going to assume the position that Obama is, more or less, exactly what he seems. A sincere fellow traveler who is not feigning surprise when someone suggests that FDR’s wild spending and experimentation didn’t actually end the Great Depression.
Therefore, Obama genuinely believes that what he’s done and what he’s trying to do isn’t going to harm the economy, or at least isn’t going to harm the economy so badly that it won’t rebound against his party in 2010, and himself in 2012. (I don’t subscribe to the notion that he’s deliberately trying to harm the economy to force us into socialism, as Althouse describes Rush Limbaugh as saying, although I think Teddy Kennedy has expressed such sentiments.)
Let’s look at some predictions versus actuality, courtesy of Michael at Innocent Bystanders:
As any smart politician knows, when pitching a plan with such short-term predictions, you predict the worst-case scenario for if your plan doesn’t pass, and predict what you think will actually happen with or without your plan.
Get it? That way, if your plan does nothing but line your cronies’ pockets and feed the political machine, you’ll get credit for the better-than-worst case scenario. And, you know, we’re lucky when politicians only line their own pockets versus when they actually try to do something (like push sub-prime mortgage loans, help out banks or provide universal education and health care).
There’s no way that he expected to be standing here, mid-summer, with egg on his face.
But, okay, he’s a true believer. He thinks government spending–even just the unfocused, delayed throwing of money about–solves problems. That’s just ignorance.
But now he’s thrown money around. He’s “bailed out” various industries. He’s seen the effect. He’s continuing to push for economy-damaging plans, though, and arguing that they’ll actually improve the economy. (Some have argued, because things should be this way, liberals believe they must be this way.)
Now, there’s plenty of history to look at here. You can look at the effects of government spending, at the effects of tax cuts, at protectionism, at unions, and you can see what these things do. You can also see these things at work all over the world today.
This is where the stupid comes in. Because in order to take in all this information and use it, you have to be honest. Now, you almost never hear about honesty as a factor in intelligence, but it is. You hear the phrase “intellectual honesty” like there’s a difference, but honesty is honesty.
The left loved to attack W as stupid on these same grounds. But rather than talk about him, I think it’s more useful to look at Clinton. Clinton followed a similar trajectory, on a longer curve, but he was smart enough to take credit for conservative policies pushed through by his Republican Congress when they worked. He was smart enough to pronounce the era of big government being over.
Now, his motivations may have been entirely selfish. There’s no doubt that some modern Presidents seem to look at things in terms of lookin’ good for history versus doing what’s right. But I doubt very much that he was unaffected by the policies he saw working. (And, gosh, aren’t both Clintons awfully quiet on the health care issue?)
Perhaps Obama is just slow: It’s hard to give up cherished beliefs no matter how badly they fail in practice, and he’ll eventually be forced to confront reality–say, if the nation takes away his majority in 2010.
But my theory is that he’ll continue doing what he’s doing. No matter how much evidence piles up against his beliefs, he’ll stay the course.
The other half of my perhaps controversial theory is that he’s lazy. His idea of work appears to be going on TV to read a speech that someone else wrote. Charges of inexperience abounded in the last election, but even his defenders were at best able to defend him with descriptions of impressive sounding positions he had achieved, rather than things he had actually done.
Not that I don’t admire this. I work very hard at being lazy. But apparently being President is a lot of work. You have to study constantly. Protocols, histories, and all manner of things from massive industries to peculiar local customs. Any time you take off gets scrutinized–even if you’re not taking time off, but working remotely. (Well, okay, Obama’s not a Republican so he doesn’t have to worry about that.)
But I haven’t seen any indication that he’s done any of this homework. In fact, a great many of the gaffes we’ve seen–like running out and getting the British PM a bunch of DVDs he wouldn’t like and couldn’t use–just seem to come from not having bothered to study.
The more serious problems, like the business of pushing through laws no one has read, seem to come from relying on lawmakers’ competence and general good-hearted, fellow traveler status.
I mean, in order to ram through a bill like the unwritten health care laws, you have to have a whopping faith in some unnamed lawmaker to write a clear and cogent description of a hugely complex and detailed area of society. Or you have to just not care.
And that’s just stupid. And lazy.
But we should be grateful. A truly smart, hard-working socialist (or communist, why split hairs?) would have cut the payroll tax, slashed regulation, changed the mark-t0-market rules and “saved” the economy. (The government, of course, is the biggest suppressor of the economy, so it can “save” it by backing off.)
When the economy rebounded, our smart, hard-working politico would have pretty much free rein to set up whatever he wanted. Who would have the mojo to challenge him?
Kind of a chilling thought. But maybe it’s not always a bad thing that politics seeks destructive, short-term solutions.
UPDATE #1: Evidence in support of my theory provided on July 22nd, 2009. Obama has a press conference to bolster his health care plan in which he takes the opportunity to call the Cambridge Police stupid–after saying he didn’t know all the facts in the case. He had to have believed that this was going to boost his popularity. What’s more, since he arranged all the questions in advance, he had to have specifically picked this topic and worked out his answer in advance on the basis of believing that America shares the far left’s contempt for police and wanted to hear that from the President.
I mean, look, I have mixed feelings about the police. On the whole, I thnk they do a good job. But I also think they’re often more protective of each other than the job. But I don’t want to hear the President weigh in on this! It’s almost up there with the President going around to foreign countries to apologize for America’s actions. The President is supposed to be an America booster; it’s minimum spec for the job!