Dumb Like A Fox: When Is Intellect A Disqualifier for Higher Office?

There are a lot of Republican Wise Men (and women) out there who reflexively disparage Sarah Palin's prospects as a presidential candidate because they consider her to be dumb. Leaving aside the fact that these folks almost never comment on the intellect of Democrats like the estimable Maxine Waters or Nancy Pelosi, Jeffrey Lord also reminds them of a recurring theme in American politics: whoever is at the top of the Republican presidential ticket is always too dumb to be president.
Barry Goldwater, the first modern conservative to win a GOP presidential nomination in 1964, would have been lucky to be tagged as being merely too dumb to be president. He was also said to be, according to Time magazine, "psychologically unfit to be president," "emotionally unstable," "immature," "cowardly," "grossly psychotic," "paranoid," a "mass murderer," "amoral and immoral," a "chronic schizophrenic" and "dangerous lunatic." One psychiatrist breezily announced Goldwater had a "strong identification with the authoritarianism of Hitler, if not identification with Hitler himself."

Reagan, also pegged as a war-monger, was called an "extremist" at the beginning of his political career and an "amiable dunce" just after his election to the presidency. They were a mere blip in the cascade of insults about his intelligence hurled in Reagan's direction over almost a quarter century as a serious American politician. This particular man who was "too dumb to be president" won the Cold War without, as Margaret Thatcher said, firing a shot. Not to mention launching the American economy on a path to creating some 50 million jobs over the next three decades.


George Romney was a liberal Republican, a spectacularly successful business executive as the chairman of American Motors. On the strength of his dazzling business career he was elected Governor of Michigan, where he became a popular political figure with both voters and the national press.

Then a funny thing happened to George Romney. In 1967 he began running for the 1968 GOP presidential nomination. The polls showed he was the man-to-beat for the nomination, the one man in the Republican Party who could take on and beat LBJ, the same LBJ who beat Goldwater in 1964 by a landslide. Then, returning from a fact-finding trip to Vietnam, Romney incautiously allowed as to how he had been "brain-washed" by the Johnson administration on Vietnam. And…. bam.

Within a media cycle the brilliant business executive and innovative Governor of Michigan had become -- you guessed it -- an idiot too dumb to be president. The dumb-as-a-post tag hung around his neck by a media concerned that old George was making just a little bit too much progress and that Tricky Dick, as they called Richard Nixon, would be easier to beat. Romney was finished. His last stint in government was not the White House but the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in Nixon days the equivalent of political Siberia.


Perhaps the most instructive case of "too dumb to be president" is that of Gerald Ford. Elected to Congress in 1948, a man with a ready smile and outgoing personality, Ford had won rave reviews from the liberal press when he challenged the House Republican Old Guard following Goldwater's defeat, becoming Minority Leader. All the way through his House career, and on into his surprise accession-by-appointment to the vice presidency following the resignation of liberal bĂȘte noire Spiro Agnew, the moderate Republican Ford was pictured as good-ole smiling Jerry, the steady, smart House leader who had not an enemy in the world. He played golf with his old pal House Democratic leader Tip O'Neill. Just a nice, smart, swell guy, said the press.

Then a funny thing happened to good old Jerry Ford. In the wake of Watergate he became president with Nixon's resignation. Within a month he pardoned his predecessor, believing (correctly) that until the nation had rid itself of the Watergate/Nixon obsession he, Ford, would have an impossible time getting things done as president. Nothing dumb there. Ford had no sooner announced the pardon and disappeared from the television air waves than the re-positioning of Ford by the liberal media had begun. The man who had graduated from Yale Law School and been the epitome of openness and hard work was, in the blink of an eye, dumb as a post and a conniving liar to boot. Up from the mists came a Lyndon Johnson quote saying that Ford the college grid star had played too much football without a helmet. An on-camera tumble on the slippery steps leading down from the door of Air Force One led to the depiction of the most athletic president since Teddy Roosevelt as a bumbling fool. On a new program called Saturday Night Live, an unknown writer/actor named Chevy Chase rocketed to fame portraying Ford as dumbly prone to hilarious stumbles and dramatic falls over all manner of furniture. Chase anticipated the Tina Fey as empty-headed Sarah Palin routine by decades.

Much more at the link. The point, of course, is that whoever dares to run against Obama in 2012 will be declared to be too dumb to replace man who has added trillions of dollars of debt, has presided over trillion dollar deficits, passed a trillion dollar stimulus that failed, passed a health care "reform" law that was opposed by a majority of the country and which has thrown the health care system into chaos, has socialized the banking and auto industries, has failed to stop nuclear proliferation in Iran, has lost control of millions of pages of formerly top secret military and diplomatic documents, and so on. Yes, we don't want to get in the way of the Express Train of Intellect & Accomplishment!

We don't know which GOP presidential hopeful will be declared dumb if Palin doesn't run. But it's coming. Maybe Tim Pawlenty's (leaked) college transcripts will be filled with C's. Maybe Bobby Jindal will momentarily falter when asked about SB9353, the pending legislation related to the federalizing of the avocado crop. Maybe Chris Christie will be caught in an open mike referring to the teachers union as a bunch of broads. Maybe Mike Huckabee will fail to display an appropriate reverence for Charles Darwin. Maybe Mitt Romney will fall of a stage. If you've been following politics for any amount of time, you know the sort of "gaffes" that Republicans can be subject to, and which can be put on an endless media loop should it strike the MSM's fancy.

Meanwhile, Democrats are constantly doing dumb things while in office without much public comment, at least in the MSM which still regards itself as the nation's official debating forum. Just yesterday, the lame duck Senate passed a food safety bill that contained a tax provision that properly should have originated in the House bill, rather than the Senate's. (Not that I care, the food safety bill is yet another Big Government disaster). But still, we're talking about a bill that was drafted by human beings who had done this sort of work before. And this is the same crowd that splits their sides over Sarah Palin?

The fact is that it is a rare moment when any Republican of note is portrayed in the media as having a brain. For many casual viewers, the wonder of the Health Care Summit from earlier this year was how the GOP attendees put forward calm rational arguments, while it was the Democrats - exemplified by Louise Slaughter's crazy story about a constituent wearing her dead sister's dentures - who were emotional and dismissive of such concepts as math and reality. (as in, this bill is too expensive and will not accomplish its stated goals). But, some GOP back bencher puts on a prissy face about an ant-covered Jesus at the Smithsonian, and suddenly it's all-hands-on-deck.

When John McCain first nominated Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, there was a scramble to put any information about Palin on the air. CNBC ran an endless loop of an interview that Palin did with Maria Bartiromo on the topic of energy. Have you ever seen it? I'll bet not, and if you see it, you'll know why. Palin is very impressive, speaking passionately and knowledgeably on energy policy that would impress anyone not on the left side of American politics. Some of her verbal tics are present, of course - I remember chuckling at the time over her repeated use of the phrase "America's hungry markets"- but she goes toe to toe with the Queen of Wall Street, laying out the case for a free market, domestically based solution to America's energy problems - throwing in some criticism of the Bush Administration along the way. Here's an excerpt if you don't believe me:

Number of views on Youtube? 2,665. See what I mean? Her intellect has been hiding in plain sight, but no one can see it.

Sarah Palin isn't too dumb to be president. But, it may be that her own party is too dumb to recognize that they believe a chariacature created by their political enemies.

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