An editorial in the Los Angeles Times written by this guy from Chile, Ariel Dorfman, asks the question "Is John Kerry too intelligent to be president of the United States?" Dorfman (great name, huh?) says that he is afraid this is true, that there is something in the American character that make us afraid of intelligent men:
[I]t still seems inconceivable to me that someone as incompetent, incoherent and obtuse as Bush could possibly command almost half the votes of his fellow countrymen.
Is it that Americans actually like Bush's know-nothing effect? Or is it that Kerry strikes Americans as too highbrow? As pretentious? Do they see his complexity as excessive effeminate suppleness?
This anti-intellectualism has, unfortunately, a long history in the United States.
Dorfman's basis for conclusing that Kerry is a lot smarter than Bush is that, well, he thinks he is.
There is no reason to take Dorfman seriously, heaven knows we should be used to being hectored by foreign "intellectuals" for being dumb. On the other hand, it's a Saturday morning, there aren't any footbal games on yet, and I do have a couple of thoughts.
Dorfman's major problem, I think, is the assumption that people who are able to speak and converse well are more intelligent than those who can't. I will concede that Kerry is a better talker than Bush.
But there are other predictors of intelligence, such as SAT scores, where Bush not only outscored Kerry, but such "intellectuals" as Al Franken and Bill Clinton.
Or perhaps we can use a person's accomplisments as a measure of intelligence. I have already noted Kerry's limited legislative accomplishments. But there is a better example, as Dorfman bolsters his argument by saying that Adlai Stephenson was a lot smarter than Dwight Eisenhower (by the same test, that Dorfman thinks he is), yet Americans went for the dumb guy. Again, Adlai was a smooth talker much beloved by intellectuals, who managed--after spending some time as a bureaucrat and governor, to make a career out of unsuccessful runs for the Presidency (he tried it three times). On the other hand, Eisenhower commanded the largest military force in the history of the world, liberated North Africa and Western Europe from the Nazis, and went on to have two successful terms in the presidency, where he built a national highway system and was smart enought to keep us out of an Asian land war (something the far more verbally supple Kennedy wasn't able to do).
At bottom, of course, Dorfman is like a lot of liberals who aren't intellectually flexible enough to realize that people who disagree with you aren't necessarily stupid. He is of the same breed as Robert Brandon, the chair of the philosophy department at Duke, who justified the lack of conservatives at Duke's faculty by saying that liberals were smarter than conservatives:
"We try to hire the best, smartest people available," Brandon said of his philosophy hires. "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.
Oh well . . .