"Is Obama Smart?"

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AlphaSeeker's picture

From the Wall Street Journal.

What do you guys think?

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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

ManMythLegend's picture

He’s book smart.

Palantir's picture

Excellent tactical thinker, but poor at strategy.

Not all men were meant to dance with dragons.

pimpineasy's picture

hack writing piece…………..same can be said bout romney, perry, etc

bo has his flaws but is this the kind of hatchet job the wsj publishes nowaday………………….

Hope this helps

thommo77's picture

He went to Harvard and was Editor of Law Review - the guy clearly is smart despite what people think of him.

ohai's picture

I think I can summarize the thesis of this article. It’s “trollolololol”.

“Be aware of this 40 year old men in our country.They suffer from mid life crisis and are always trying to be in the good books of young girls.” -Rahul Roy

supersadface.migrated's picture

ohai Wrote:
——————————————————-
> I think I can summarize the thesis of this
> article. It’s “trollolololol”.

+1. I get disappointed when I see the journal publish trollbait. Their opinion pages, in particular, have gone way down in quality.

As someone who considers himself left-leaning, I enjoy (no, really, I actually do) reading well-written stuff from the right, because it helps me evaluate my own stance better. This does not strike me as well-written at all - just angry and poorly founded. Obama’s made plenty of missteps, but you’d be hard pressed to argue the guy isn’t of above average intellect.

lxwarr30's picture

I don’t know if the guy ever claimed he wasn’t of above average intellect. I think this quote, “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,” is the point he is refuting in this article. I’ve heard some really conservative people state the conspiracies, socialist puppet, etc and the guy is basically saying it may seem that way but I don’t think he’s as smart as you’re giving him credit for being. This is the news source these conservatives are reading maybe he’s really just writing to his audience?

BO just booked his trip to MV too:

The White House press office yesterday could not officially confirm the dates of the president’s arrival. But it is understood that Mr. Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their two children will visit the Vineyard between August 17 and August 28 this year. The expected arrival date is understood to be August 18.

ohai's picture

lxwarr30 Wrote:
——————————————————-
> I don’t know if the guy ever claimed he wasn’t of
> above average intellect.

Well, the author did include this whole one line paragraph: “I don’t buy it. I just think the president isn’t very bright. “

“Be aware of this 40 year old men in our country.They suffer from mid life crisis and are always trying to be in the good books of young girls.” -Rahul Roy

lxwarr30's picture

ohai Wrote:
——————————————————-
> lxwarr30 Wrote:
> ————————————————–
> —–
> > I don’t know if the guy ever claimed he wasn’t
> of
> > above average intellect.
>
> Well, the author did include this whole one line
> paragraph: “I don’t buy it. I just think the
> president isn’t very bright. ”

Yea but the word “bright” is subjective. Then when you qualify it with the word “very” it just becomes a whole new phrase. Very bright could be mean many things to many different people. Maybe he’s just regular bright?

ohai's picture

He also closes the article with “The presidency of Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does. “

“Be aware of this 40 year old men in our country.They suffer from mid life crisis and are always trying to be in the good books of young girls.” -Rahul Roy

lxwarr30's picture

ohai Wrote:
——————————————————-
> He also closes the article with “The presidency of
> Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does. ”

Ok. Checkmate. GG

ManMythLegend's picture

I will tell you one thing: Obama and has family sure do take a lot of vacations. I’m glad they’re enjoying themselves.

ManMythLegend's picture

“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.”

Does anyone know if Obama really said this? Please God, say it ain’t so.

higgmond's picture

ManMythLegend Wrote:
——————————————————-
> “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.”
>
> Does anyone know if Obama really said this?
> Please God, say it ain’t so.

ABC News seems to think he did:

http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2011/06/obama-biography-im-lebron-baby....

Let’s just hope he doesn’t duplicate “The Decision”.

My job is to reconcile cognitive dissonance.

The Righteous Hacksaw's picture

Pretty simple, libs acted like Obama was Jesus Christ, many actually believed it.

They also pretended that W was mentally retarded.

Both are just regular old human beings. Those din king the Obama Koop aid just need to wake up to it.

No Homo

Canadian_Accountant's picture

No matter what you think of his policies, if you read any of his writings you can see the logic of his thought process. Not saying smartest president ever, but has the critical thinking skills inline with Clinton, Bush1, Reagan.

Definitely not as dumb as a Bush2 or Palin.

edit: also, I need a glass of water after consuming that pile of shit.

MCalamari's picture

ChickenTikka Wrote:
——————————————————-
> Pretty simple, libs acted like Obama was Jesus
> Christ, many actually believed it.
>
> They also pretended that W was mentally retarded.
>
>
> Both are just regular old human beings. Those din
> king the Obama Koop aid just need to wake up to
> it.

Agreed, the biggest difference between the two is their public speaking ability. I’m actually much tougher on Obama because he continued many Bush policies that turned out to be mistakes in my eyes (i.e. stimulus checks –> cash for clunkers; continuation of both military fronts, etc.).

Analti_Calte_Equity's picture

thommo77 Wrote:
——————————————————-
> He went to Harvard and was Editor of Law Review -
> the guy clearly is smart despite what people think
> of him.

Completely agree.

ACEaceAnaltiCalteEquityACEanalticalteequityACE

aceofheartscapitalmanagement@_____________

 

ManMythLegend's picture

Canadian_Accountant Wrote:
——————————————————-
> No matter what you think of his policies, if you
> read any of his writings you can see the logic of
> his thought process. Not saying smartest
> president ever, but has the critical thinking
> skills inline with Clinton, Bush1, Reagan.
>
> Definitely not as dumb as a Bush2 or Palin.
>
>
> edit: also, I need a glass of water after
> consuming that pile of shit.

What in the world does Palin have to do with this?

The Righteous Hacksaw's picture

I actually like this article a lot, well, at least as far as it starts out. Obama is clearly a smart enough guy. That isn’t the question worth asking. The question in my mind should more likely be, “Is Obama a sh*tty leader? While he sure talks real purty, is there actually any ability to get anything done behind all that overblown rhetoric.”

All the jokes about Obama and his skill in public speaking are dead on. The guy has proven time and time again that he’s great at making a speech and these speeches have proven time and time again that they are just speeches.

I think Obama should send a message and sack John Favreau, his speech writer. Obama needs to show that he’s about more than just talk.

No Homo

AlphaSeeker's picture

Analti_Calte_Equity Wrote:
——————————————————-
> thommo77 Wrote:
> ————————————————–
> —–
> > He went to Harvard and was Editor of Law Review
> -
> > the guy clearly is smart despite what people
> think
> > of him.
>
>
> Completely agree.

Wait a minute. GWB went to Yale and Harvard.

Does that mean he is “clearly smart” too?

goes to eleven's picture

I think many thought he was going to be uber smart, have it all figured out and we would have change in the right direction.

Unfortunately, he has been a huge disappointment. One of the criticisms from his detractors was his ultra-light resume. I think that has been an issue. It appears as though he is not LeBron and he can’t play at this level, even though so many thought he could.

AlphaSeeker's picture

ChickenTikka Wrote:
——————————————————-
> I actually like this article a lot, well, at least
> as far as it starts out. Obama is clearly a smart
> enough guy. That isn’t the question worth asking.
> The question in my mind should more likely be,
> “Is Obama a sh*tty leader? While he sure talks
> real purty, is there actually any ability to get
> anything done behind all that overblown rhetoric.”
>
>
> All the jokes about Obama and his skill in public
> speaking are dead on. The guy has proven time and
> time again that he’s great at making a speech and
> these speeches have proven time and time again
> that they are just speeches.
>
> I think Obama should send a message and sack John
> Favreau, his speech writer. Obama needs to show
> that he’s about more than just talk.

I agree that he is an excellent public speaker…. only when the teleprompter is there.

Without the prompter, I think he is average among all recent presidents. I give him credit for good choices of words.

THE best public speaking president is Bill Clinton. Espeically if you observe how he handles press conferences.

recycler's picture

Hey Alpha, most your posts seem to be about lambasting President Obama and the left in general. I think we understand what you don’t like about our current political situation. So for a little change of pace (hopefully a constructive one), what changes would you like to see?

thommo77's picture

AlphaSeeker Wrote:
——————————————————-
> Analti_Calte_Equity Wrote:
> ————————————————–
> —–
> > thommo77 Wrote:
> >
> ————————————————–
>
> > —–
> > > He went to Harvard and was Editor of Law
> Review
> > -
> > > the guy clearly is smart despite what people
> > think
> > > of him.
> >
> >
> > Completely agree.
>
> Wait a minute. GWB went to Yale and Harvard.
>
> Does that mean he is “clearly smart” too?

You don’t become Editor of Law Review without some smarts. Obama is a smart guy period despite what these guys in the media say about him. I would argue that GWB got into Harvard based on his name. Harvard knew he was not the smartest guy in the room, but knew he would become an influential leader/figure purely because of his family connections.

AlphaSeeker's picture

recycler Wrote:
——————————————————-
> Hey Alpha, most your posts seem to be about
> lambasting President Obama and the left in
> general. I think we understand what you don’t like
> about our current political situation. So for a
> little change of pace (hopefully a constructive
> one), what changes would you like to see?

Hey man. just a few thoughts.

1. stop his class warfare push and talks. This is the single most divisive factor of our country now.
2. respect the capitalism, abolish populism. People with money are investors, not fat cats… (have you ever seen a cat that’s fat? I haven’t)
3. understand the government role in running a society/economy is limited and should be left that way.

What constructive ideas do you have?

pimpineasy's picture

Hope this helps

ManMythLegend's picture

thommo77 Wrote:
——————————————————-
> AlphaSeeker Wrote:
> ————————————————–
> —–
> > Analti_Calte_Equity Wrote:
> >
> ————————————————–
>
> > —–
> > > thommo77 Wrote:
> > >
> >
> ————————————————–
>
> >
> > > —–
> > > > He went to Harvard and was Editor of Law
> > Review
> > > -
> > > > the guy clearly is smart despite what
> people
> > > think
> > > > of him.
> > >
> > >
> > > Completely agree.
> >
> > Wait a minute. GWB went to Yale and Harvard.
> >
> > Does that mean he is “clearly smart” too?
>
> You don’t become Editor of Law Review without some
> smarts. Obama is a smart guy period despite what
> these guys in the media say about him. I would
> argue that GWB got into Harvard based on his name.
> Harvard knew he was not the smartest guy in the
> room, but knew he would become an influential
> leader/figure purely because of his family
> connections.

You could argue Bush got into Harvard based on his name. I could argue Obama got into Harvard because of affirmative action.

ZeroBonus's picture

to all who claim Owebama is a great speaker, please youtube clips when his teleprompter fails on him

The guy goes into pure gibberish mode

thommo77's picture

man you guys are brutal. No wonder this country is so divided. There is no middle ground anymore. I don’t agree with some of Obama’s policies, but I do know the guy is smart teleprompter or no teleprompter.

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