Is Obama Smart? A case study in stupid is as stupid does


WSJ

B. Stephens

The aircraft was large, modern and considered among the world’s safest. But that night it was flying straight into a huge thunderstorm. Turbulence was extreme, and airspeed indicators may not have been functioning properly. Worse, the pilots were incompetent. As the plane threatened to stall they panicked by pointing the nose up, losing speed when they ought to have done the opposite. It was all over in minutes.

Was this the fate of Flight 447, the Air France jet that plunged mysteriously into the Atlantic a couple of years ago? Could be. What I’m talking about here is the Obama presidency.

When it comes to piloting, Barack Obama seems to think he’s the political equivalent of Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager and—in a “Fly Me to the Moon” sort of way—Nat King Cole rolled into one. “I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers,” he reportedly told an aide in 2008. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m . . . a better political director than my political director.”

On another occasion—at the 2004 Democratic convention—Mr. Obama explained to a Chicago Tribune reporter that “I’m LeBron, baby. I can play at this level. I got game.”

Of course, it’s tempting to be immodest when your admirers are so immodest about you. How many times have we heard it said that Mr. Obama is the smartest president ever? Even when he’s criticized, his failures are usually chalked up to his supposed brilliance. Liberals say he’s too cerebral for the Beltway rough-and-tumble; conservatives often seem to think his blunders, foreign and domestic, are all part of a cunning scheme to turn the U.S. into a combination of Finland, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. I don’t buy it. I just think the president isn’t very bright.

Socrates taught that wisdom begins in the recognition of how little we know. Mr. Obama is perpetually intent on telling us how much he knows. Aristotle wrote that the type of intelligence most needed in politics is prudence, which in turn requires experience. Mr. Obama came to office with no experience. Plutarch warned that flattery “makes itself an obstacle and pestilence to great houses and great affairs.” Today’s White House, more so than any in memory, is stuffed with flatterers.

Much is made of the president’s rhetorical gifts. This is the sort of thing that can be credited only by people who think that a command of English syntax is a mark of great intellectual distinction. Can anyone recall a memorable phrase from one of Mr. Obama’s big speeches that didn’t amount to cliché? As for the small speeches, such as the one we were kept waiting 50 minutes for yesterday, we get Triple-A bromides about America remaining a “Triple-A country.” Which, when it comes to long-term sovereign debt, is precisely what we no longer are under Mr. Obama.

Then there is Mr. Obama as political tactician. He makes predictions that prove false. He makes promises he cannot honor. He raises expectations he cannot meet. He reneges on commitments made in private. He surrenders positions staked in public. He is absent from issues in which he has a duty to be involved. He is overbearing when he ought to be absent. At the height of the financial panic of 1907, Teddy Roosevelt, who had done much to bring the panic about by inveighing against big business, at least had the good sense to stick to his bear hunt and let J.P. Morgan sort things out. Not so this president, who puts a new twist on an old put-down: Every time he opens his mouth, he subtracts from the sum total of financial capital.

Then there’s his habit of never trimming his sails, much less tacking to the prevailing wind. When Bill Clinton got hammered on health care, he reverted to centrist course and passed welfare reform. When it looked like the Iraq war was going to be lost, George Bush fired Don Rumsfeld and ordered the surge.

Mr. Obama, by contrast, appears to consider himself immune from error. Perhaps this explains why he has now doubled down on Heckuva Job Geithner. It also explains his insulting and politically inept habit of suggesting—whether the issue is health care, or Arab-Israeli peace, or change we can believe in at some point in God’s good time—that the fault always lies in the failure of his audiences to listen attentively. It doesn’t. In politics, a failure of communication is always the fault of the communicator.

Much of the media has spent the past decade obsessing about the malapropisms of George W. Bush, the ignorance of Sarah Palin, and perhaps soon the stupidity of Rick Perry. Nothing is so typical of middling minds than to harp on the intellectual deficiencies of the slightly less smart and considerably more successful.

But it takes actual smarts to understand that glibness and self-belief are not sufficient proof of genuine intelligence. Stupid is as stupid does, said the great philosopher Forrest Gump. The presidency of Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com

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8 responses to “Is Obama Smart? A case study in stupid is as stupid does

  1. NO!!

  2. Hoo-Ha!!! wish I’d written this! Everytime I hear somebody laud his oratory skills – his greater mind – my brain gets that twinge you get when fingernails are dragged across the blackboard (no pun intended!). He doesn’t even read well. Imagine him playing Othello…drone, drone, drone…Not!! His mind reminds me of what I tell people when they ask if I’m losing my marbles – Heck no! I know exactly where they are – at home in the bottom drawer on the left hand side! This guy is an all round stinking loser and nothing can change that. Sorry – was told to never lie! Do wish I had written the above piece….

  3. The talk about Obama is running wild all over the place. And he is taking a vacation just great maybe he will stay aritcle is great as usual

  4. Yo yo.

    In this life, our Barry boy is about as smart as Frederico T. “Fredo” Corleone.

    If or iss OhGoVomit were in charge and master of his own destiny well, then I’d be inclined to go along with the premise of him being “Just Plain Stoopit” ! D’oh! However, this ‘Whigger’ has never been in charge of anything much less his destiny; as you pointed out, someone has always been behind him with their dirty hands up his half white flat keester, moving his purple lips and feeding him the pestiferous messages via TelePrompTer that facilitate what it is that they want him to mindlessly say.
    This boy [ and I didn’t mean Roy] has been brought up from day one; be it in Hawaii, Kenya, or Jakarta Indonesia to puppet the radical Red Communist / Marxist effluvium of revolutionary rhetoric, albeit not as loud or full of vitriol as his counter parts like Malcolm XXX ® but none the less, equally as pernicious. Due to his unusual circumstance in life brought to a head by his slut of a mother, OhGoVomit was used as a tool of the revolutionary crowd he had no choice but to look up to for his sustenance and mental development. Who were these people besides the usual suspects who brought this Maven Johnson Po Po half ass’d Black child to such an end, whereas instead of shooting heroin or doing meth while robbing liquor stores and snatching gold chains from the necks and fingers of the helpless elderly he enjoys arugula and fine Chef prepared foods, while flying around the country and the world on OPM, all the while, upon landing being touted as the new god of hope and change for all the worlds socialistic, lazy, no account analphabetic ghetto cretins.
    These people are his handlers and money bundlers with behind the scenes names such as Marilyn Katz of Chicago who is rooted in the turbulent 60’s and has her basis in the Students for a Democratic Society {SDS} the Weather Underground, the IRA , Tim and Rosemary Leary, Eldridge Cleaver etc., on and on, seemingly unremittingly and endlessly.
    Their organization is somewhat diverse and well hidden in the shadows cast by their deceptive schemes, the exposed part that all can see are deemed not radical enough to be threatening or to be believable by the general proletariat i.e., the voters. These organizations have Whale like funders such as Soros and his affiliates who all have the political and financial motive as well as the much needed funding to keep these straw like front men and extremist apparatchiki’s well funded and alive.
    My opinion focal point is simply that NoBama ain’t stoopit A-tall, it jest at he bee’z flat ignorant and blinded by he total paradigm or [.20¢ ] of being..,, well sort of a gigolo or a male prostitute working whole heartedly for Pimps who have a very nefarious and fanatical design for our beloved Nation.

    Promblem now be, at he bleed all dis shit he been fed for fiddy years in his soul. At is iss he had a soo{l}.

    Glossary of Terms:

    (So’s folks in Chicago’s Housing Authority can understand what I am sayin, know what I’m sayin?)
    Yo yo= Hey, what chu tawlkin bout Willis?
    OhGoVomit= The H.N.I.C. aka Barry Soetoro
    Paradigm= 2 dimes bags or .20¢
    Whigger = Half Honkey Trash and half N-Worder [iss ya’s gets muh driff]

  5. Shirley Brinker

    Obama can give a campaign speech well because, though I don’t know for sure, I think he has a telepromter then also. If he does, he reads well. He is animated at campaign speeches because he receives clapping and cheers. But when he delivers a speech to the nation, he is stern faced, no animation, and definitely uses a teleprompter. Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann do not need telepromters to remember what they want to say. They can speak extemporaneously. Obama is not at all good at that. It uh, uh, words. I do not think he is a bright and I think Ronald Reagan who spoke very well. I know he was an actor and had experience. But he delivered a political speech much more effective than Obama can. I think Michele Bachmann is very intelligent, and Sarah Palin is very intelligen, and Herman Cain is very smart. They are far superior than Obama and they have common sense which Obama lacks, He lives in a dream world as all liberals do and that is completely stupid,

  6. The entire “Obama is so smart and a great orator” line that conservatives use before the big “but” has always puzzled me. Is this the Emperors New Clothes or What?

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