Friday, November 26, 2010

Smart is as Smart does

They're ever so much smarter than we are.  You know who I'm talking about.  Sonic Charmer trains his formidable intellect on the situation, and confesses himself stumped:

It’s interesting to ponder just exactly why the smartophile Palin-phobes think it’s so important for a President to be “smart”. ...

This seems like a dumb question but look. Basically I’m faced with this weird spectacle wherein there’s a politician, who as far as I can tell is no more or less “smart” than any other politician, but all the Cool People decide he/she is “dumb”. So then Katie Couric asks her in an interview, like, who is the ambassador from Siam. And he/she doesn’t know or flubs it. What we’re all supposed to do after that (apparently) is to guffaw with laughter at how “dumb” she is, and then put him/her on permanent “disqualify” status in our minds.

Because how can a person be the President if they don’t know offhand who the Ambassador from Siam is? It’s not like you can wiki it! Also, what is the office of the Presidency if not a position wherein you are continually called on 24/7 to answer trivial-pursuit-style questions about current leaders and events off the top of your head? I think that’s like 99.99% of the role of President. At LEAST.

But seriously, call me dumb if you will, but I don’t get it. These criteria do not make sense to me. Objectively, I happen to think that someone like a Barack Obama or a Nancy Pelosi ushering in a giant mammoth health care bill that they haven’t read, arguing that we have to pass it to find it what’s in it, is not only (a) objectively dumb but (b) going to be highly damaging to our everyday lives.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin couldn’t answer that Katie Couric question (whatever the hell it was – and I’ve literally forgotten).
Yet I’m supposed to fear and hate the latter with a passion while craving the former. Because they’re so ‘brilliant’. Is that it?

I’m sorry. These rules make no sense to me.
He's kinder than I - I don't see the level of reasoning from these "smart" people as any advanced from, say, Middle School.  But don't forget, they're all smarter than you or me.  They tell us so all the time.


Carteach said...

As I point out to my students:

"I can SAY I'm a premier Russian Ballerina, but that does not make it true!"

If you knew me by sight, you'd understand just how stunningly effective and memorable such a statement from me can be. I have, in fact, seen students stumbling around utterly stunned for hours afterward, trying to erase the mental image. I seldom have to make the point twice.

Midwest Chick said...

True 'smart' is knowing (and acknowledging) that you don't know everything. Having a collection of trivia in your head doesn't make you knowledgeable, it just means that you have a bunch of trivia in your head. If you can't make connections between the various bits of trivia, if you don't have the gumption to ASK someone about something, then you aren't smart.

Bob said...

Couric's question, What newspapers and magazines do you read?, was inoffensive on the face of it, and would be considered a a "softball" question by most, but Couric was probably planning a trap in the follow-up question: if Palin had mentioned The Anchorage Daily News, for example, Couric would have come back with and do you think that reading an obscure local newspaper has prepared you for the job of President of the United States?

Palin's answer, though was much worse than that, though; she said "All of 'em!" without bothering to name a single example, thus giving the instant impression that the real answer was none of 'em! So what started as a minor trap by Couric turned into a huge blunder by Palin and is the main reason that she's seen as an intellectual lightweight.

I saw Robin Williams on The Tonight Show mocking Palin for this answer, and for her defenders for implying that Couric trapped her or played unfair: All she did was ask, "What do you read?" said Williams, and the entire audience laughed in derision. Palin gave a stupid answer, and paid for it. Presumably we should have our presidential candidates go on Jeopardy! and compete mano-a-mano, and select our presidents that way, but I'll stick with the current system, thanks.

Six said...

When I sat on oral boards for police officer candidates I looked for functional intelligence; read Common Sense. Everything else is window dressing and in the wrong hands, attempted distraction.

Anonymous said...

Couric's question, What newspapers and magazines do you read? [...] Palin's answer, though was much worse than that, though; she said "All of 'em!" without bothering to name a single example, thus giving the instant impression that the real answer was none of 'em!

Yes, that was it. Thanks.

So the interesting thing about this question/answer is that (1) it's not an indicator of intelligence at all (reading XYZ newspapers does not make one intelligent; not-reading them does not make one dumb - in point of fact, I read zero (0) newspapers; does this make me dumb?), (2) if it's an indicator of anything it indicates that Palin wasn't deft, or schooled, in wriggling out of gotcha questions, and (3) the implied criterion for what we need in a President - that they read a lot of newspapers (or at least, the right ones?) - is one that I totally and fundamentally disagree with.

I don't think the smartophiles could possibly fill in the following blanks with anything that wouldn't sound preposterous: 'If a President doesn't read [such-and-such newspaper], he/she can't _____ or won't ____; or will ____ and that will be bad'

Yet, we're supposed to conclude that her failure to say, like, 'Washington Post' (does anyone really believe that Barack Obama actually reads the Washington Post daily?) means she wouldn't be a good President. Like I said, these rules make no sense to me.

the pistolero said...

Palin gave a stupid answer, and paid for it

Yet Obama got off scot-free for talking about the 57 states.

Interesting observation vis-a-vis Palin's hypothetical answer. I don't think anyone would've been immune to that trap.

"What papers do you read Sen. Pistolero?"
"The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, mainly."
"So you think that reading regional newspapers has prepared you for the job of President?"
At which point the cheese would probably slide right off my cracker. "Regional newspapers? Houston and San Antonio are only the fourth- and seventh-largest cities in the country, you air-headed twit!"

NotClauswitz said...

There are no dumb questions, but there sure are smartass answers - which are qualitatively different than smart ones, which aren't necessarily smart but often merely smart-sounding, or tedious long-winded and tendentious disguised as "smart."

Bob said...

Imagine if Palin had simply said I read Google News, they have stories from news sources all around the world. She'd have been in the clear with most of the public.

Palin's primary focus has been of a wife and mother first, politician second. Raising four kids and working alongside your husband at fishing and other food-gathering jobs doesn't leave a lot of time for the sort of study that the usual political junkie engages in. As a blogger I spend several hours each day just reviewing RSS feeds and reading other blogs, hours that Palin probably can't spare. Or couldn't, before her recent accumulation of wealth.

BobG said...

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers."
-Thomas Jefferson

"If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed."
-Mark Twain

lelnet said...

"So you think that reading regional newspapers has prepared you for the job of President?"

How about "I think that feeling 'prepared' to be president of the United States is proof positive that you're not only currently unprepared, but permanently unfit. I don't think I'm prepared...I just think I'd be way better at the job than the doofus who's currently got it. And I don't think my method of gathering news has much to do with the matter either way."?


lelnet said...

And yes, in the case of Palin, "better than this doofus" works whether the doofus you're referring to is the guy who's got the job now, the guy who had the job when she was running for veep, or the guy who'd have gotten the job if she'd won.