Entry from March 16, 2009

Though I know that the notorious description by John Stuart Mill of the 19th Century British Conservative Party as “the stupid party” could hardly be said to apply to conservatives in general, I have never minded very much accepting the description for my own party. I even regard it is as being something of a badge of honor — since most of the world’s troubles and sorrows during the last century have been directly traceable to those who describe themselves as “intellectuals.” The bitter irony of David Halberstam’s title to his book about the Kennedy administration, The Best and the Brightest was owing to the mistaken assumption that government by brainiacs should somehow be expected to produce better results than it ever actually has produced and much better results than government by those of only average or moderately above-average intelligence.

That’s a recurrent disappointment that looks like occurring again under President Obama, whose pitch to the American people in the recent election really boiled down to nothing but a promise to be smarter than either his opponent or the incumbent at the time, the famously dim — thanks to the media and the popular culture — George W. Bush. The media and the popular culture had thus set up now-President Obama’s election pitch perfectly for him — to the point where even Senator McCain apparently didn’t think it worth making the argument that mere brains might not be enough to recommend a man so singularly lacking in any real accomplishment to the highest office in the land. Naturally, the Democrats as a party were happy to accept the accolade, express or implied, of the smart party.

So how is that working out for them? My colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Pete Wehner writes that

In the matter of just 50 days, a fissure has widened into a split; the split has become a gap; and the gap is becoming a gulf. I have in mind the extraordinary contradiction between what President Obama says and what he does. Consider a partial list, starting with earmarks. During the campaign, Obama said, “the truth is, our earmark system — what’s called pork-barrel spending in Washington — is fraught with abuse. It badly needs reform — which is why I didn”t request a single earmark last year, why I’ve released all my previous requests for the public to see, why I’ve pledged to slash earmarks by more than half when I am President of the United States.” . . .Yet yesterday, Obama signed rather than vetoed a massive, $410 billion omnibus spending bill — which contained more than 8,500 earmarks. Adding chutzpah to his hypocrisy, Obama told reporters, “The future demands that we operate in a different way than we have in the past. So let there be no doubt: this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand.” This is the fiscal version of St. Augustine”s prayer, “Lord, make me chaste — but not yet.”

I applaud this careful avoidance of the charge of actual dishonesty — mainly on the grounds of what I like to call Bowman’s Law, which is that the amount of lying in politics varies in direct proportion to the promiscuity with which the charge of lying is made. But maybe it’s neither dishonesty nor “hypocrisy” nor even “chutzpah.” Maybe he’s just dumb. Maybe he really believes, as he says he believes that massive new outlays on health care will help reduce the deficit. Maybe he doesn’t know what an earmark is, any more than he knows what is the difference between rhetoric and reality. This hypothesis would seem to be borne out by his recent statement — after weeks of bad-mouthing it — that the economy is “fundamentally sound.” He and the media raked John McCain over the coals for saying precisely this during the campaign. But maybe he simply doesn’t know if the economy is fundamentally sound or perched on the edge of a precipice and is only saying what circumstances — in this case, Chinese worries about the safety of the massive sums they have tied up in U.S. treasury bonds — demand.

Don’t even get me started on Joe Biden, the guy who thought that President Roosevelt went on TV to reassure the nation when the stock market crashed in 1929. You’ve got to wonder if the Dems making a bid to become the new “stupid party”? It sounds improbable, I know, but consider this. Bill Clinton was also fawned upon by the media, at least in the early days of his presidency, as certainly the brightest of politicians, if not necessarily the best, in his time. Here he is talking to the brain surgeon, Sanjay Gupta, who couldn’t take the pay cut to become surgeon general of the United States, on CNN last week about stem cells, a scientific topic with which he is, of course, au fait:

If it’s obvious that we’re not taking embryos that can — that under any conceivable scenario would be used for a process that would allow them to be fertilized and become little babies, and I think if it’s obvious that we’re not talking about some science fiction cloning of human beings, then I think the American people will support this. . . I don’t know that I have any reservations, but I was — he has apparently decided to leave to the relevant professional committees the definition of which frozen embryos would not be — are basically going to be discarded, because they’re not going to be fertilized. I think the American people believe it’s a pro-life decision to use an embryo that’s frozen — it’s never going to be fertilized for embryonic stem cell research, especially since now, notwithstanding some promising developments, most of the scientists in this field and the doctors will tell you they don’t know of any other source that’s as good as embryonic stem cells for all the various things that need to be researched. But those committees need to be really careful to make sure if they don’t want a big storm to be stirred up here, that any of the embryos that are used clearly have been placed beyond the pale of being fertilized before their use. There are plenty — there are a large number of embryos that we know are never going to be fertilized, where the people who are in control of them have made that clear. That — the research ought to be confined to those, and I think the committees will surely do that. But that I think is the only area of debate that I sort of saw. . . I think these committees need to make it clear that they’re not going to fool with any embryos where there”s any possibility, even if it’s somewhat remote, that they could be fertilized and become human beings.

At no point did the brain surgeon break in to point out to our brainy ex-president that “embryos” are by definition already “fertilized.” That’s how they got to be embryos. This is sub-high-school science. Just imagine what would have happened if the moronic George W. Bush had said — and said again and again and again and again and again — anything so stupid. You’ve almost got to think that even the media are discovering the virtues of stupidity.

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