Voting For The Smart One

In 2004 John Kerry was thought to be too much of an elitist for many voters, plus he went wind surfing. Instead many voted for a candidate who was lacking in intellectual curiosity and understanding of the details of policy.

During both the primaries and the general election campaigns this year many claimed that Barack Obama was an elitist as they supported other candidates. Suddenly, with the current economic crisis, more people are realizing that maybe we do need a member of an elite to be president. Voting based upon who you would prefer to have a beer with has fortunately fallen out of favor. There is value in having a president who is intelligent, understands the issues, and has the intellectual curiosity to evaluate problems in depth.

A majority of voters realized this by election day and elected Barack Obama by the largest margin of any non-incumbent since Eisenhower won in 1952. The pundits are also catching on to this. Today David Broder writes that this is a Good Time For a Brainy President.

Broder writes that for years he has “been arguing that there are traits much more important to the success of a president than brainpower. Self-confidence, curiosity, an eye for talent, the ability to communicate, a temperament that invites collaboration — all these and more rank higher on the list of desirable presidential traits.” This year he is viewing it differently:

I am not ready to abandon that view. But I am struck by how lucky this country is, at the moment, that the president-elect is a super-smart person like Barack Obama.

With each passing day, it becomes more evident that even the smartest and most experienced managers of the American economy are struggling to understand — and fix — what has gone wrong in our markets.

I attempt to follow the discussion in newspapers and on Jim Lehrer’s “NewsHour” and other deeply serious television programs about the latest moves by the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury — and I am stumped.

The sums are so staggering, the vocabulary so unfamiliar, the experience so uninformative that I have not a clue whether Bernanke, Paulson and Co. are on top of the situation or are inadvertently making things worse.

That’s an embarrassing admission. I get paid to cover the government, and this is by far the most important challenge facing Washington. But I am utterly dependent on others to decipher the clues that may unravel these mysteries.

Obama is not similarly handicapped. Even in the emotional maelstrom of his election victory, and even with the pressures of assembling his administration, everything points to his managing to focus on the policy choices looming in the economic field.

I have talked to two people on the fringe of the transition team — both members of Congress with major responsibilities in the economic area. Both have been asked for input by Obama, and both say that the quality of his questions — and his follow-ups — were a measure of the depth of his knowledge of the situation.

After the 2004 election I got a badge which says, “Don’t Blame Me–I Voted for the Smart One.” I put it up near a bumper sticker which says, “My Dog is Smarter Than Your President.” Fortunately there is no need for either message after this year’s election.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    BAJ says:

    You are so right. Which gives everyone a reason to be thankful on this T-Day. Such a pleasure to not only listen to Obama but to watch him take hold of the reins even before he’s sworn into office.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    If only Obama could really take hold of the reins now. We have a strange power vacuum where Bush has little influence but Obama does not yet have power.

    Once the new Congress begins work in January, on domestic policy at least, Obama will likely seem to be the president far more than Bush as Congress works to enact Obama’s economic stimulus package.

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