Saturday, October 4, 2008

Lowered Expectations

Someone recently said that a couple of us Obama supporters are spending too much time talking about Sarah Palin and not enough time talking about our own candidate(s). She's right. But, Sarah Palin is uniquely (un)qualified to be Vice President or President, IMO. Sarah Palin is newsworthy. Sarah Palin is sucking all the oxygen out of the room and all of the ink for the headlines. We cannot deny the urge to talk about Sarah Palin because frankly she is the scariest candidate we've had for VP or President in a very long time. Even scarier than George W, IMHO.

But, what I want to talk about today is lowered expectations. As we've been discussing this issue, many of us have talked about the anti-intellectualism Sarah Palin is promoting.  Her dropping of every consonant from the end of a word (as Martha Stewart observed), her "Joe Six Pack" and her "Holly Hockey Mom" appeals (literally using the words Joe Six Pack and Hockey Mom) and her accusing reporters of "gotcha journalism" for asking what periodicals she reads is amazing to me.  I don't mind that she wants to appeal to Joe Six Pack. I just don't want Joe Six Pack in the Oval Office (again- 8 years is enough). I've been accused of intellectual elitism/snobbery. Darn right. I value education and intellectual curiosity.

I need to interject this because after my conversation with Karen, I realized I forgot to add it in the post originally and people might get the wrong idea.  Sarah Palin is intelligent, very intelligent. She has learned to use what she has to her advantage.  She's also ambitious.  You don't fall into being governor even if a tiny state like Alaska.  She has shown an amazing comprehension of politics.  And, like a jujitsu expert, she has learned to take the force of an attack and throw her opponent off balance with it.  She's a quick study and has crammed an enormous amount of memorization into a short period of time.  She's learned what appeals to the "common man" and is using it for all its worth. She's played the media brilliantly starting the war before it even started.  Now, if the "liberal elitist left wing media" attacks her, it's just what you'd expect because, Governor Palin told us before hand they don't like her.
Sarah Palin supporters seem to be thrilled that she just made it through the debate without bursting into flames. Yes, Sarah got by.  Sarah has mastered one great political skill.  Do not answer the questions you don't like or the ones you don't know the answer to. "Pivot" back to your strength. Some do it with so much fluidity you hardly notice.  Halfway through their answer you find yourself wondering "What was the question."  Governor Palin was not nearly that smooth.  But, maybe with a little more practice.

There are those who are so impressed with their own vocabularies that no one can understand them. You feel like you need to have a dictionary and a thesauraus just to follow along. They are not effective communicators at all. They're blow-hards. But, the best communicators can communicate with a number of audiences. My wife basically speaks two languages. When she's talking to her mother, her sister or one of her long time buddies, she switches to her homegirl dialect. When she's on the telephone, I can tell when it's one of her inner circle on the other end just by which language she is speaking. When she's talking to anyone else, she speaks something very close to standard English. I had a good friend in Lexington, KY who could speak perfect midwestern dialect when in most company. But, when he was in a sales call with a good ole boy, Mike could turn it on like you wouldn't believe. Sarah, IMO, has yet to show she can speak standard English. I don't really want a Vice President or a President who does not have a command of his native tongue. People are telling me that Sarah Palin is not concerned with appealing to the "Washington elite" or the "East Coast Liberals". Am I now to believe that the entire Republican party is made up of "Joe Six Packs" and "Holly Hockey Moms"? Have the Republicans entirely written off anyone who wants a President or Vice President with a command of facts and the ability to think on her feet?  Governor Palin's debate performance the other night showed an amazing ability to parrot back facts on queue, including delivering up the prepared line, "I might not answer the questions the way you and the moderator want me to."  One of the points of a debate is to learn how the candidate can respond to unanticipated situations.  If their only response is to repeat canned sound bites (and often sound bites unrelated to the question), that is not a good thing.  Some say this is a valid debate strategy.  It is a way to skate by, I agree.  But, it does not inspire confidence in me.  Some day she will have to answer questions and make decisions without a script.  I'd at least like a preview of what that might be like.

When discussing qualifications for President, someone said "I'm looking for character and integrity" as if those things are mutually exclusive with having intellectual curiosity and experience. Well, guess what. When it comes to President (VP), I want it all. Every job has it's own set of qualifications. When I'm looking or a doctor, in my general practitioner, I want someone I can talk to. In a surgeon, I really don't care if I can talk to him or not. I want a surgeon to be smart, precise and confident. They're often abrasive and arrogant. Big whoop. They don't need to be able to "relate". Just cut. In a lawyer, I want intelligence, a command of the law and the ability to persuade (if I'm going to trial). In a counselor, I want someone "folksy" and easy to talk to. In a mechanic, I want him to understand cars. I don't care if he speaks a word of English.

For President, I want it all. I want intelligence, command of the material, an understanding of various cultures, integrity, character, the ability to inspire, the ability to lead, the ability to deliver a good speech and relevant experience. It is one of the most unique and demanding jobs in the world. We have a pool of a couple of hundred million to draw from. So, we should be able to find somebody. Since the VP is the back up quarterback I want the VP to at least have the ability to step in and finish the game without screwing up too badly, should it become necessary. Being folksy and being well educated and informed are not mutually exclusive.  I've known some very intelligent, very folksy people.  We even had a pretty folksy President not so long ago, Bill Clinton.
Yes. For President/VP.  I'm pretty demanding.  I want it all.   I want someone smarter than I am.  I want someone more experienced than I am.  I want someone better traveled than I am.  I want someone who can perform under pressure (like in a debate) better than I can.  I don't want me for President. I want someone better qualified than I am.  For such a unique job with such high stakes, I don't think it's too much to ask.


karen said...

I thought Palin did very well. Biden, whom I've always liked, came off a bit slick to me. Both of them were misquoting facts. You said:
"For President, I want it all. I want intelligence, command of the material, an understanding of various cultures, integrity, character, the ability to inspire, the ability to lead, the ability to deliver a good speech and relevant experience."
You also want education...but remembering that some of our best presidents were very uneducated...and in a time when the information highway was not available. T. Roosevelt and Lincoln were two such presidents. It's going to be an interesting few weeks!

Brian said...

Yep. Both misstated facts. But, I've never seen a single political debate where both sides didn't do that. That's why organizations like are so important in these times. We can immediately know where they played fast and loose with the facts. Weighing which was "worse" is subjective though.

T. Roosevelt and Lincoln lived in much simpler times. Neither, if transported here in a time machine, would be qualified to be President in this crazy world with the information superhighway, instantaneous news cycles and a world where we can literally blow ourselves up in a few minutes. As someone said recently 21st century problems call for 21st century solutions. Simply being clever is not enough anymore, you have to be educated/informed as well.

karen said...

I guess I didn't make my point. TR and AL's self education in those times is basically equal to the ability to self-educate and inform in these times of information availability.

karen said...

Brian, I'm in a bad place voting-wise. Can you post something about why you support Obama?

Brian said...


Are you saying it's sufficient to "self educate" in 2008? I thought you were saying Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were uneducated.

I guess it depends on what you mean by "self educate". I self-educate a LOT. I'm on blogs, reading newsfeeds, Googling for hours a day. That is an absolute necessity these days to be in the public arena (not that I'm in the public arena).

My problem with Sarah Palin is her apparent disdain for education or intellectualism. Honestly, I think it's just a persona she plays to be more "hockey mom". But, if it's for real, it's scary. If it's an act, it means she's not being genuine and if you're going to to the "folksy" thing, you better be genuine.

Yes, I'd be happy to post on why I support Obama. I'm sorry I've gotten off on this Sarah Palin sidetrack. But, I think it's important.

karen said...

I haven't gotten the same impression of Palin. She irritates me at times, but I don't get the disdain of formal education from her that you've picked up. Everyone capitalizes on their strengths, don't you think?
Yes, I think that self-education could be entirely possible especially in 2008--and it's not as if Palin hasn't been to college. TR and AL were not "educated" in the traditional sense; neither were people like Thomas Edison for that matter--but I don't view them as "un" educated.
I view formal education differently as well, since I homeschooled and unschooled my kids for 7 years (one graduated valedictorian at his high school, the other is straight A now in 11th grade)and I certainly learned more out of university than in it.

I would appreciate your Obama input.

Brian said...


Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying to be President you have to go to Harvard. BTW, we homeschool our girls and I am the proud graduate of public schools and Ohio State University. Formal education isn't everything. I certainly did not mean to give that impression.

You haven't picked up on Sarah Palin's bashing of "liberal elitism" whatever that is? It doesn't concern you that she didn't have a passport until recently, can't name a Supreme Court decision she disagree with, couldn't name periodicals that she reads? I asked my eight year old the same question Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin and she didn't pause before giving her answer. It concerns me that Sarah Palin doesn't have a grasp of the material necessary to function as President. I don't really care about her resume as much as I do about her ability.

Karen, you used the word uneducated (actually "very uneducated") when referring to our earlier Presidents. That wasn't my term. But, if we could bring Lincoln here in a time machine and I had to choose him or Sarah Palin to be President, I think I'd go with Sarah right now. Lincoln would be completely lost in our world- not because of his lack of intellect but because of his lack of what has happened/is happening, technology, etc.

karen said...

Good for you parents in homeschooling your girls.

Liberal elitism--I didn't take that as bashing education. I took it as bashing liberals.
Those interviews--I paid little attention to them and was more interested in her on-the-spot debate abilities. If I were in her shoes and under the microscope, I imagine I'd be tongue-tied and stupid as well in the beginning--trying to make sure I didn't trip up. I imagine your daughter is quite comfortable with you.

I seem to have used the word "uneducated" poorly. Those presidents were not FORMALLY educated. My point is that in his time Lincoln was well up to the task, even as self-educated. Someone in our time with only a minimal amount of college, or less, can certainly do well with the vast amount of resources available to self-educate. Your Lincoln/Palin point is lost on me. Einstein would probably struggle now--we can't compare the knowledge base of years ago to now.
I guess I'm not communicating well today.
Is Palin up to the job? I don't know. The same complaints have been made about Obama so I look forward to your ideas. I respect your opinion and you must have some good reasons as to why O's the guy.

Brian said...


You said you imagined you'd tongue tied as well. So would I! I'd be petrified. I used to do public speaking for a living (sales rep) and I know it's most people's greatest fear. But, you know what? You and I aren't running for President. That's one of the things I mean about lowered expectations. I expect the President to be able to do things I cannot do. Just like Tiger Woods can do things on a golf course I can only imagine and Roger Federer on a tennis court. Do we really want a President who is an ordinary Joe?

My point on Lincoln/Palin is that intelligence is different from knowledge. You can be intelligent and be uneducated. You can have all the education in the world and not have the wisdom to apply it. President Lincoln would literally be lost in our world without years to catch up. As little as Sarah Palin seems to know about the world around her, she does have a leg up on even a brilliant man from over a century ago.

karen said...

As much as I'm not fond of her, Palin is very intelligent.

I wouldn't mind an "ordinary Joe" as president.

Tell us about Obama.

Someday said...

The liberals have always tried to call conservatives dumb, or uneducated. What they usually mean is not as socially aware as the elitists claim to be.
George W. Bush's SAT score of 1206 has been widely reported. The SAT score (if taken prior to 1995) can be used to estimate IQ, to compare to the general population, and to compare to occupational averages and popular figures in history. Using such estimates, President Bush's IQ is between 125 and 130 which ranks him as more intelligent than over 95% of the population, more intelligent than most college professors and medical doctors, and similar to Abraham Lincoln, Rousseau and Thackeray (comparative IQs of 128). He is a great President, isn't he?

Uneducated presidents did fairly well. Take for example high school graduate Harry Truman — railroad worker, clerk, bookkeeper, farmer, road inspector and small-town postmaster — or Ronald Reagan, sports announcer and B-list actor with mediocre college credentials. Compare them with Richard Nixon (I.Q. 143) or Jimmy Carter, who graduated in the top 10 percent of his Naval Academy class.

Sheer intellectual brilliance does not cut it in the Oval Office. Bill Clinton is really all the evidence of this I ever really needed.

I am trying to figure out why you think Senator Obama is qualified based on his intelligence. According to the New York Sun, university spokesman Brian Connolly confirmed that Obama graduated in 1983 with a major in political science but without honors.
In the age of grade inflation, a person in a relatively easy major like political science had to under-perform dramatically to avoid minimal honors. Obama apparently did just that. If Obama's LSAT scores merited Harvard admission, we would know about them. We don't. The Obama camp guards those scores, like his SAT scores, more tightly that Iran does its nuclear secrets.
We know enough about Obama's Columbia grades to know how far they fall below the Harvard norm.

So just like everything else about Senator Obama. He hides who he is. It's a secret.

Please tell me why he refuses to release any information about his Harvard experience? Please tell me what his IQ is, or what his S.A.T. scores are even? If you're a law school graduate, your score decorates your résumé. But strangely, we have nothing but a "B" average to pull from Senator Obama's Columbia experience (where he met guess who?) to judge his intelligence. I haven't witnessed his intelligence but I've witnessed him off teleprompter though.


Brian said...

Interesting analysis, Someday. I don't recall saying Obama was qualified to be President solely based on his intelligence. There are some very intelligent people who make terrible decisions. If your analysis of George W. Bush's IQ is correct, then I rest my case based on that evidence alone. But, having intelligence and intellectual curiosity are traits I think are important for being a good President, particularly in these times. So, are you comparing Sarah Palin with Ronald Reagan, BTW? That, no offense intended, is laughable.

I've read Obama's writings, listened to his speeches, started one of his books and watched him in interviews. I don't need to see his LSAT scores or the results of his IQ test to asses his level of intelligence to handle the job he is seeking. As Daniel Goleman pointed out there are multiple types of intelligence, including social intelligence which, in many cases, is more important and useful than what the standard IQ tests measure.

In the type of intelligence that matters to be President, I'd put Barack Obama up against George W. Bush any day regardless of LSAT scores, SAT scores, college transcripts or whatever. Based on Sarah Palin's performances in interviews and the debate, her lack of foreign travel or even interest in foreign affairs, her lack of experience on the national or international stage, I'd also put Barack Obama up against her.

Back to the point of the article, which was about Sarah Palin's lack of qualification to be President, that is my big, big concern with the McCain/Palin ticket. Even bigger than John McCain's judgment and policies. But, I am seeing why McCain put Sarah on the ticket. By choosing someone so obviously unqualified he set her up to draw fire which his supporters and campaign could then try to turn back on Obama. A very weird tactic, IMO.

Someday said...

And Senator Obama is qualified because he wrote memoirs before anyone even knew who he was, and he gave a few speeches. I still don't see his qualifications.

You agree with his positions, so naturally you find him intelligent. We tend to do that. The things you find intelligent about him are the very things I find lacking in wisdom.

I don't think that is a good measure of intelligence.

What I want to know is, why I should vote for him. What does he bring to the table that Sarah Palin does not. Honestly, if you are judging her by the Couric interview, you are guilty of the same kind of thing Obama supporters accused detractors of after his terrible performance in the YouTube debates. Go back and watch them. He was horrendous. To his credit, he did much better this time than he did back then. Back then, the media was giving him nothing but softball interviews. He rarely faced a tough interview untill later, and he was laughed at by the Hillary supporters. He is learning how to debate and interview. He is learning to give short answers with less umms and ahhhs. Let's face it, off teleprompter, Obama has appeared anything but presidential until very very recently.


Brian said...


I've been following Senator Obama for about a year and a half now. I've been on his website, scoured his positions on things, watched his speeches, checked out his voting record, looked at his resume, and I'm sure I'm leaving something out.

I, like the rest of the country, was introduced to Sarah Palin six weeks ago. I've read what the Alaska press has to say about her, I've studied her record (such as it is), I've looked at what schools she attended, I've watched her interviews, I've listened to her debate. What do you expect me to judge her on?

Some cannot and others will not see Senator Obama's qualifications. It's clear you are an intelligent person engaged in the political scene, I am certain there is nothing I can tell you that is going to be news to you or to sway you. And, I'm OK with that.

BTW, let's keep in mind our choice is between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. In just the last few months, my once high regard for Senator McCain has been diminished. In the weeks since the Sarah Palin nomination, it has taken a nose-dive. The man of integrity, the maverick seems to be lost and confused and being "handled". Six months ago I wouldn't have been upset with John McCain winning the election. Now is a completely different matter. If he wins, I hope we get the old John McCain, not the new one.