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The Intellectual Silliness Of An Obama Supporter

Kevin Drum vigorously disagrees with the President’s decision to intervene in Libya but concludes that there must be something wrong with him, not Obama:

If it had been my call, I wouldn’t have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust his judgment, and I still do.

Really? I run across this unquestioning adoration of politicians frequently, and I’ve got to say I don’t understand it. For one thing, they’re only human beings and in no way superior to the rest of us. For another, they’re in a profession that is all about the accumulation of personal and political power (and anyone who thinks Obama doesn’t care about personal and political power is a naive fool). The very idea that any of them are inherently trustworthy is silly beyond words.

Andrew Sullivan, who has spend the last week excoriating the President for not following the Constitution in his decision to intervene, agrees with Drum:

This sums up my position exactly as well. I have criticized what I regard as a foolish decision because I support this president and passionately want him to succeed. I’m an Obamacon, unlike Kevin, and so my criticisms – like my crushing disappointment with his refusal to take a public lead on entitlement spending – may be somewhat different than others. But whenever he meep meeps me, I don’t feel humiliation. Just relief. I remain of the view that we are damn lucky to have him at this fraught moment in history, and that his decisions often look better in the rear-view mirror.

How badly does this President have to disappoint you before you’re willing to admit that he isn’t what you thought he was?

Radley Balko points out that Drum’s comment in particular isn’t all that different from one made several years ago by another well known political philosopher:

“Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.”

-Britney Spears, in 2003, commenting on the war in Iraq.

I feel sorry for people like this, because it seems like they’re smart enough to think for themselves, but they’re so tied up in the adoration for a mere man that they just don’t want to.

 

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

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  2. jwest says:

    “I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted”

    If not for people who think this way, there would be no democrat party.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, think like this:

    “I think you may be smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of actions and more farsighted, so as such, you should be able to make a convincing argument to me why I should agree with you.

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  3. jwest,

    Conservatives, on the other hand, think like this:

    “I think you may be smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of actions and more farsighted, so as such, you should be able to make a convincing argument to me why I should agree with you.

    You sure about that? Drum’s comments aren’t that different from what you’d hear from your average Palinista

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  4. jwest says:

    Doug,

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard or read anyone who was willing to be a complete submissive to Palin’s take on policies, although there are a number of people who trust her honesty and judgment based on her past performance.

    Only a culture that seeks to gather those with low self-esteem, feelings of guilt, victim mentalities and other personality disorders could produce such a sycophant as Drum. Not since Jim Jones led his flock in Guyana has there been such unquestioning devotion to a charismatic figure.

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  5. jwest,

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard or read anyone who was willing to be a complete submissive to Palin’s take on policies, although there are a number of people who trust her honesty and judgment based on her past performance.

    I’ve certainly seen it. The Palin Cult Of Personality is in some ways stronger than the Obama one.

    And then you’ve got the Rush Limbuagh “Dittoheads” and the Glenn Beck fanatics

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  6. Really? I’ve never seen Palinmania like this. No doubt there are some, but there just Joe or Betty Sixpack, not some of the leading intellectual lights of the movement. Surely you can see the difference there.

    Why anyone puts their faith in any politician is beyond me, much less adoration or blind obedience. It is especially strange to see some of the self-proclaimed reality-based community adopting such a religious tone and ignoring his rational faculties in favor of faith, don’t you think?

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  7. matt says:

    Surely I’m not the only one having flashbacks to conservatives supporting Bush’s adventures in Iraq? The excuses tended to be the same..

    In the end it’s about who is on your “team” more then anything :(

    I still think the adventure in Libya is a bad idea but I’m hoping Obama can prove me wrong in the long term…

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  8. Boyd says:

    …they’re smart enough to think for themselves…

    I’m assuming you’re not including Spears in that number, Doug.

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  9. jwest says:

    Doug,

    Maybe I’ve missed it.

    I have seen an Anti-Palin Cult of Personality and people willing to accept what Media Matters and Huffington Post spew forth as fact, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone as totally willing to subjugate themselves to Palin as Drum is to Obama.

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  10. Hey Norm says:

    @jwest
    Trust her honesty? Really. She’s a pathological liar. You are the definition of what you are criticizing.
    I am disappointed by Obama on some issues. I am satisfied on others. It’s unreasonable to expect any president to be 100% on all issues.
    Most of all I like what seems to be his process. He chose to intervene in Libya when certain cards fell into place and not before. The ACA is a program that should have satisfied a broad spectrum, as it is essentially a republican designed program, and would have if not for an opposition party whose only tactic is to say no. He was slow to act on DADT until the report came out justifying it.
    If we can build some demand I think this recovery will accelerate and he will look pretty good in ’12. Not all things to all voters…but a good solid record. As Sully would say: meep meep.

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  11. Tano says:

    “I think you may be smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of actions and more farsighted

    What I think is certainly true is that no conservative would ever admit that anyone else could be smarter than them, or better informed (who needs information any way – it just gets in the way of forming a “strong” opinion), nor are they emotionally capable of judging someone as better able to understand the consequences of actions.

    I attribute this disease to something inherent in their ideology, for they do not tend to suffer from the disease in other realms of life. When gravely ill, I am sure conservatives have no difficulty admitting, and being thankful for the fact, that their brain surgeon is probably smarter than they are, obviously better informed, and obviously more aware of the probable consequences of various treatment plans.

    Ditto for lots of other experts that we consult in our highly specialized world.

    But when it comes to politics it seems to be considered downright shameful to acknowledge that someone who gets elected to high office might actually be good at their job, even if, or especially when, they come to decisions that we might oppose.

    We all have our opinions, and often times the less information that goes into forming them, the more strongly they are held. Our opinions so quickly graduate from being our best hypotheses about various issues of the day, to markers of our core identities.

    Instead of simply preferring that our taxes don’t go up, with the wishful thinking that our economic situation can be solved without new taxes, we need to become anti-tax, as a matter of identity. We remove the issue from rational consideration and make it an existential position. Same with being against wars. Some people might legitimately be convinced that a certain military engagement is unwise, but soon enough, being antiwar becomes an attitude, rather than a conclusion of the moment.

    I sense that people on both sides of the aisle are prone to this, but it really marks the right, including the libertarian right. Pragmatism – the application of principles using reason to individual circumstances, is found primarily on the center-left. And to do this well requires intelligence, information and the ability to forsee probable consequences of actions.

    Liberals tend to favor people who have such skills. Conservatives tend to favor people who agree with their own usually ill-founded conclusions.

    It is no surprise that liberals, when confronted with one of their leaders who makes a decision they dont agree with, will tend to give the benefit of the doubt, and wish to better understand what it is that the leader was thinking, so that they can maybe learn something. Of course, if what they learn about the leader’s thought processes continues to be a problem then they will cancel their support.

    But there is an initial respect, growing out of an appropriate level personal humility, for the fact that the leader may well have better information, and a keener sense of the big picture, that demands at least a respectful hearing. That is why we supported them in the first place.

    Conservatives, especially on blogs, seem massively ego driven. They know that their opinion is objectively correct, simply because it is their own opinion. Anyone who disagrees deserves to be denounced, never listened to – certainly never given the benefit of the doubt. Since their leaders are not chosen based on their intellectual skills, there is no core competence that would justify granting the benefit of the doubt. You are either with me or against me.

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  12. jwest says:

    Norm,

    If Palin is a pathological liar, you shouldn’t have any trouble citing something as an example. As to your delusions about Obama:

    “If we can build some demand I think this recovery will accelerate and he will look pretty good in ’12. Not all things to all voters…but a good solid record.”

    Let me repost from a previous comment.

    I’ve long known that liberals could talk themselves into just about anything, but this really takes the cake. Operating in an alternate universe, the left seems to be in a state of denial not seen since the Nixon/McGovern race.

    Now that the novelty of electing the first black president has worn off, what could possibly save this first term failure? With upside down approval numbers, exceptionally weak leadership polls, high unemployment and even higher real unemployment, near astronomical gas prices, rising foreclosures, low house values, 3 wars, escalating foreign tension, never-before imagined deficits and debt and a myriad of other problems, reelection is little more than a liberal pipe dream.

    Add to this an unpopular healthcare program, quickly rising food costs, stagnant wages and the belief among 11% of democrats and 23% of independents that Obama probably wasn’t born in the country and it certainly doesn’t point to a “landslide” for team blue.

    Breathtaking naiveté.

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  13. Z says:

    I’m glad conservatives can use some selective quotes as an opportunity to congratulate themselves about their bold and independent thinking. It is an amazing move given that the same movement has simultaneously closed itself off to a range of policy possibilities and had an even more fanatical commitment to the much more dubious open-ended boots on the ground war just seven years ago. (Epistemic closure anyone?)

    Leaving that aside. I would remind the second commentator that we do not live in a direct deliberative democracy. We elect leaders who make decisions for us; they do not have the responsibility to convince you of their particular position.

    Thus, I see two counterclaims that you seriously neglect. First, in good Hayekian fashion, should we all at least consider the possibility that the administration has access to information or intelligence that we lack, therefore giving their collective decision more weight, at least on pure epistemological grounds? Second, is respecting the good judgment of a politician the same as wide-eyed adulation? The President–and his staff–faced a tough decision, weighed their options and made a move. Pointing out the fact that he cleared engaged in debate or deliberation and has demonstrated excellent judgment is not the same as simply agreeing with everything that he says or does. Drum and Sullivan, even in the selective quotes you manhandled, are not simply endorsing whatever he does, they’re respecting the possibility that they could be wrong. Analogizing them to Spears is simply a co-opt, placing yourself on a pedestal without seriously considering their argument.

    Then again, I’m glad Doug and other snarky conservatives exist, for without them, how could we be reminded of the short attention span of the conservative movement and the cheap rhetorical tricks employed to give its arguments the semblance of intellectual merit.

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  14. anjin-san says:

    > based on her past performance

    Ah. You must mean bailing in on her sworn duty to become a professional celebrity.

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  15. CB says:

    let me look for a broom to help you with all of your sweeping generalizations…

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  16. ponce says:

    “How badly does this President have to disappoint you before you’re willing to admit that he isn’t what you thought he was?”

    Libya isn’t that big of a deal.

    Even though I disagreed with his decision to um, do whatever in Libya until I poured myself a nice tall glass of Kool-Aid, I would never vote for whatever populist freak the Republicans choose to prop up against Obama next year.

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  17. rodney dill says:

    I would never vote for whatever populist freak the Republicans choose to prop up against Obama next year.

    Heh… Why would you? You already have a populist freak of your own.

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  18. jwest says:

    Z,

    First you reference the Iraq War as if it was a mistake, then go on to say that conservatives should at least consider the possibility that elected leaders have access to information we lack and that their collective decision should be given more weight.

    I’m certain you don’t see the irony in that.

    You then go on to say:

    “…[they] are not simply endorsing whatever he does, they’re respecting the possibility that they could be wrong.”

    When Drum clearly stated:

    “I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own.”

    Does that sound like someone who is rationally using logic to form an opinion or are these the words of a mindless follower? If Obama told Drum that he should perform oral sex on him, is there any doubt in your mind that Drum would immediately go to his knees?

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  19. anjin-san says:

    > If Obama told Drum that he should perform oral sex on him, is there any doubt in your mind that Drum would immediately go to his knees?

    jwest, it would really be better for all if you stopped giving us these little windows into what goes on in your head.

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  20. john personna says:

    Well, in the beginning I wanted to see this more as France’s and Britain’s thing than ours, and I hoped that if they were seeing vulnerability in Qaddafi, it was real.

    It seems now that the vulnerability wasn’t very real, and we’d be better off dropping it than doubling down. We should say “bad move Britain and France, we’re out.”

    BTW, sad example of how twisted history can be: Bernanke Provided Billions In Loans to Gaddafi

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  21. jwest says:

    anjin-san,

    Drum provides the definitive example of the difference between liberals and conservatives.

    Liberals are people not only willing, but desperate to cede their basic right to reason for themselves, because deep down, they believe in the superiority of others.

    Conservatives, regardless of the credentials of others, have the self confidence to reserve their final decision on all matters to themselves.

    How far is the liberal community from droit du seigneur?

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  22. mattt says:

    Doug and Radley are both unfair to Drum. He limits his trust to situations where he’s “in a room” and not fully informed about the matter at hand. He’s only saying that he considers Obama essentially trustworthy, as a matter of character. Maybe he’s wrong, but we make such judgments about people every day and it doesn’t amount to blind faith or hero worship.

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  23. michael reynolds says:

    Obama is smarter than me, better informed, more far-seeing. That’s not cult worship, it’s reality. I’m a fair judge of my own abilities and in this sphere his are better than mine. Not quite sure why that’s not simply rational.

    It’s not a carte blanche, and it’s not Kool-Aid.

    Example. I am a big Kubrick fan. When Eyes Wide Shut came out I thought it was self-indulgent crap. But I thought I’d better go take a second look, because he’s Kubrick and I’m not. On second look it was still self-indulgent crap.

    I didn’t surrender my judgment, but I gave the other man (Obama, Kubrick) some credit for just maybe seeing something I didn’t. Wise men acknowledge that others may be wiser still.

    This is in contrast with the Palinites who are imbeciles who flock to Palin because she confirms them in their imbecility.

    But also in contrast with a man such as yourself, Doug, who starts with unexamined ideological assumptions and proceeds through life as though he owns the key to every door. You think you already have the answer to every question. You don’t. And your insistence that you do is the basis for reasonable doubts about your opinions.

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  24. Hey Norm says:

    @jwest
    Topics of Palin lies:
    3 different versions of acceptin VP offer
    Bridge to nowhere
    Pipeline began
    Endagered species/polar bear report
    Alaska energy production
    Russian trade missions
    $1200 oil dividend check
    Todds membership in AIP

    It amuses me that you want to blame Obama for unemployment when he was handed a 7.6% unemployment rate and a market that was shedding 600k jobs a month. High gas prices are his fault? Really? House values are his fault? Do I have t remind you that the republican president couldnt finish two wars he started? And Libyan air support is hardly a war. And you want to blame the deficit on Obama? Take the cost of the Bush tax cuts, Medicare expansion, and two wars, along with the interest on those unpaid for items out of the debt and tell me what’s left. Until then your just talking delusional BS

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  25. Jay Tea says:

    Just to screw with some folks’ opinions of me, I’m not going to say anything at all about Palin — but it’s still remarkable how many people want to compare the President of the United States to a failed vice-presidential nominee and resigned governor. How, in their eyes, is that different than saying that Mike Tyson could outbox Steven Hawking, and talking about how great an achievement that would be? “She is teh suck, and our guy — the most awesomest in the universe — isn’t quite as bad as she is!”

    But my main point is this: how many Obama supporters are sounding now like long-suffering victims of domestic violence? “Yes, I know he’s treated me badly, time and time again, but he needs me and loves me and it’s all my fault for not understanding him and giving him what he needs?”

    Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

    J.

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  26. Jay Tea says:

    Hey Norm:

    Gas prices — Obama said that he WANTS gas to hit $5.00/gallon. Well, Candidate Obama did. He told us this would happen, that he wanted it to happen, so why shouldn’t we blame him?

    Libya isn’t a war? What is the proper term for “dropping bombs and missiles on Libyan targets, destroying Libyan assets and killing Libyan soldiers, and sinking their warships?” I know I’m a right-wing simpleton, but that sounds awful warlike to me.

    How’s that closing of Guantanamo coming, anyway? We passed 100 days into his term of office, the deadline he set?

    Bush left him two wars, and he figures the best way to fix things is to start a third?

    The best way to heal our rift from the Muslim world is to go to war with a third one?

    Go back to your beer, Norm. It’s what you do best.

    OK, maybe not, but “what you do best” definitely doesn’t involve thinking about politics.

    J.

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  27. MarkedMan says:

    JWest

    Just a few from Sullivan’s ongoing list (I know, I know, you disagree with Sullivan politically so you don’t recognize anything that he says – this is really for the benefit of others.)

    Palin lied when she said the dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, had nothing to do with his refusal to fire state trooper Mike Wooten; in fact, the Branchflower Report concluded that she repeatedly abused her power when dealing with both men.

    Palin lied when she repeatedly claimed to have said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere; in fact, she openly campaigned for the federal project when running for governor.

    Palin lied when she denied that Wasilla’s police chief and librarian had been fired; in fact, both were given letters of termination the previous day.

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  28. Rock says:

    Hymn for Obama Worshipers

    Oh come let us adore him, oh come let us adore him,
    Oh come let us adore him, Obama the lord.

    Venite adoremus Dominum

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  29. Rock says:

    Marked Man,

    Surely you don’t want anyone to list Obama’s lies?

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  30. mattb says:

    This is the type of article whose framework can be saved and trotted out every four (or eight years). Look no further than the vociferous defense of GWB — which continues to this day.

    Beyond that, the thing with candidates like Obama and Palin is the amount of projection that occurs (and Sullivan, I believe has admitted to this in past posts).

    Doug, the issue that I have with your critique of Drum is that you’re taking a single issue (albeit an incredibly thorny and problematic one) and turning it into a binary litmus test. A reason, I imagine, that Drum still supports Obama is that, contra many accounts, he’s been pretty effective so far in terms of accomplishing agenda items.

    Following the “Politifact” tracking page ( http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter ), they score him as such:

    Promise Kept 134
    Compromise 40
    Promise Broken 41
    Stalled 70
    In the Works 219
    Not yet rated 2

    Even if you combine “compromise” and “broken promise” that’s still a 62% success rate. Admittedly, going by what that site considers to be his to 25 promises, his success rate drops, but it’s still pretty good (especially since close to half of the projects are still rated as “under work”).

    And while I appreciate the irony (and the rherotical tool) of comparing what Drum said to one B. Spears, I also think that its a bit foolish to reduce Drum;s response into Spears. Which I guess is my way of saying that in general I still trust Obama but I’m not putting blind faith in him to provide me with a jetpack or unicorn.

    BTW, does anyone know of a site that did similiar tracking of the last Bush administration?

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  31. Aidan says:

    By this logic, anyone participating in a representative democracy is some sort of hero-worshiping dupe. When you elect a president or any other politician, there is an implicit trust that they can do the job better than the alternatives. I guess it’s possible that the guy with security clearance and access to all sorts of classified information isn’t better equipped to make foreign policy decisions than Kevin Drum or Doug Mataconis, but these are the sort of chances we take with representative government. There is generally a reason why foreign policy decisions are not left up to a popular vote.

    I’m not always happen with the results, and neither is Drum. I still feel far more comfortable with the process of deliberation that led to those results than I would have under a President McCain. I don’t trust McCain’s judgment, and every statement he’s made post-election has confirmed that mistrust.

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  32. michael reynolds says:

    Doug, the issue that I have with your critique of Drum is that you’re taking a single issue (albeit an incredibly thorny and problematic one) and turning it into a binary litmus test.

    Exactly right, which is why a post Doug thought was an easy lay-up ends up highlighting his own limitations. If you’re an ideologue who starts from the assumption that government is the problem, that less government is a basic good and more government a basic evil, then every issue is binary. Does it create more or less government? Yes/No, Good/Bad. Simple.

    It’s not that he won’t acknowledge Obama’s intelligence — I believe he does — it’s that he thinks the answers to all things are self-evident, based on his unexamined assumptions, ie, libertarianism. So no other opinion, no matter how well-informed, holds any value except insofar as it confirms his ideology.

    This is the problem with ideology. Ideology begins with the set of all data, formulates a theory that necessarily excludes vast percentages of data, and subsequently insists that all new data fit within the theory. The theory, the ideology, rapidly becomes dogma, a set of semi-religious beliefs which are never to be questioned.

    It’s no different than assuming the existence of God and then cramming every subsequent discovery into that pre-existing paradigm. Why can’t the earth move? Because the bible tells us there are devils at the center of the earth and it would be blasphemy to maintain that devils can move planets. Whereas we know there are angels within the heavenly spheres, thus they can move.

    Ideology is the great crippler of young minds.

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  33. sam says:

    @jwest

    “but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone as totally willing to subjugate themselves to Palin as Drum is to Obama.”

    Stroll through the comments @ Conservatives4Palin

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  34. Hey Norm says:

    @jwest
    You failed to answer the question.
    End of story.

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  35. Dodd says:

    Why anyone puts their faith in any politician is beyond me, much less adoration or blind obedience. It is especially strange to see some of the self-proclaimed reality-based community adopting such a religious tone and ignoring his rational faculties in favor of faith, don’t you think?

    This sort of faith in any politician is deeply concerning. There isn’t a single person in existence willing to go through what one must to gain high political office in our system of government whose judgment I would implicitly trust more than my own. The mere fact that they are willing to do it raises a (very difficult to) rebut presumption that they want power over me too much to be trusted.

    There are some to whom I’d give sufficient benefit of the doubt to re-examine something I wasn’t sure about because of their proven dedication and greater knowledge, but I’d never reflexively surrender my own intellect to theirs the way Drum proclaims he would simply because they held a different position on something I had the even slightest doubt about.

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  36. Drew says:

    I see Drum and the other eloi are out in force……..

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  37. Hey Norm says:

    @jwest
    You failed to even attempt to answer the question.
    You can only spew more crap.
    End of story.

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  38. MM says:

    I like how the guy who is continually baffled by politicians acting like politicians is judging the intellectual silliness of others.

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  39. Wiley Stoner says:

    Reynold, Obama is smarter than you, but then I have a brick in my back yard smarter than you. Not big deal there. But getting back to the topic which seems difficult when Obama is the topic as many would rather discuss the imagined shortcommings of Sarah Palin. Obama is doing exactly what I thought he would do. A student of Saul Alinsky, a friend of Bill Ayers, a member of the American Communist party. A man who no doubt studied Clower/Pivens. Read his books, it will tell you exactly what he would do as President. It sure wasn’t advance anything in the best interest of the country. Idiot anjin, I noticed you want to demean Palin for not finishing her term as governor. Did Barack finish his term as Senator? Seems he abandoned that job to run for President. You got funny standards dude. Actually no standards.

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  40. Aidan says:

    If I had, for example, a budget question, I would turn to Peter Orszag, or Jack Lew, or someone like Bruce Bartlett or Bob Greenstein. I would trust their judgment on these issues because it falls under their area of expertise. Willingness to defer to more qualified observers might strike some as troubling or intellectually silly, but I would be more troubled by someone who refused to reconsidered his strongly held, uninformed opinions when faced with a more convincing case by someone with relevant expertise. It is possible to defer to the judgment of others without being a blind follower. Believing yourself to be the smartest person in the universe might be comforting, but it isn’t always the best way to arrive at a sound decision.

    Furthermore, this is what we elect presidents for. I voted for Barack Obama because I trusted his decision-making more than John McCain’s. I hold no illusions that I am qualified or competent enough to run the United States; I doubt Kevin Drum does either. Party leaders exist to make decisions that affect and reflect the rest of the party. The presidency is an enormously complex job, a job I am thankful I don’t have. When it comes to foreign policy, I don’t believe I am omniscient, so I trust the judgment and decision-making skills of others. I do not have security clearance, and foreign policy decisions usually involve considering classified information that the vast majority of Americans will never have access to. I trust that Barack Obama has a greater understanding of the issues involved, because believing otherwise would be wildly unrealistic hubris.

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  41. wr says:

    What a wonderful example of the underlying ethos of the internet — every opinion is as valid as every other opinion. It doesn’t matter if one person has spent a lifetime accumulating knowledge on a subject, or has access to classified information, or is simply demonstratably smart. Since, say, Doug is able to type a message, that means what he says is as valid and important as what Obama says, and his knowledge is just as great.

    At that point you might as well elect Palin. Or Wiley.

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  42. Tano says:

    At that point you might as well elect Palin. Or Wiley.

    Lightbulb moment….

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  43. michael reynolds says:

    It’s a feature of not-very-bright people that they think everyone else’s job is easy. To quote Dire Straits:

    Now look at them yo-yo’s, that’s the way you do it
    You play the guitar on the M.T.V.
    That ain’t working, that’s the way you do it
    Money for nothing and your chicks for free.

    Money for nothing, because when you’re not very bright you are simply unaware of the complexity of the subject. You don’t get the difficulty level, you don’t get the prep, the education, the work, or the talent. People like Wiley commenting on Obama is like me commenting on Stephen Hawking.

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  44. george says:

    Extremely intelligent, well informed individuals can be wrong about things in their area of expertise – consider Einstein’s views on quantum mechanics for instance. Einstein however was among those great physicists who pointed out that if you can’t explain something convincingly to another then you probably don’t really understand it yourself … in short, if someone more intelligent and well informed can’t make a convincing argument, then you shouldn’t trust them – they might every well be wrong.

    Of course, you should listen to their argument honestly. As far as I can tell, neither Democrats nor Republicans have shown much inclination to do this with politicians of the other party. Political debate is for the most part about whose team someone is on, rather than the reasonableness of what they’re saying. Which is why you get such entertaining reversals – war is good when its our team leading, bad when theirs, or deficits are good when its our team leading, bad when theirs, or concentration of presidential power is good when its our team leading, bad when theirs.

    But when it comes down to it, if a politician can’t explain their reasons clearly and convincingly, the safest assumption is to assume that they’re either lying, or don’t know what they’re talking about. That was true under Bush, and is true under Obama.

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  45. michael reynolds says:

    George:

    I think it would be great if that were true. But I don’t think it is.

    What convinces a person with an IQ of 75 is different than what convinces a person with an IQ of 150.

    And I assure you that no amount of explanation from Hawking will bring me to a genuine understanding of the physics of black holes. What I’ll understand is a comic book version, a sketch.

    There’s a reason we don’t have direct democracy. The average American can’t find Libya on a map, let alone begin to unravel the complex nature of the middle east at this point in history. Just name the countries involved — Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon — it’s the motherlode of dishonesty, hypocrisy and double-dealing. And that’s before you add in our interests, the French, Brits, Italians, Russians, etc….

    No, there isn’t a way to reduce that down to the kind of bumper sticker Wiley might get. Not without damaging the truth beyond repair.

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  46. anjin-san says:

    Wiley,

    I would explain it to you, but it would be sort of like trying to explain how java objects work to my cats. Now my cats are lovable, so I would at have the pleasure of their company and it would not be a complete waste of time. You on the other hand…

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  47. Tlaloc says:

    Actual liberals have pretty much given up on Obama, and actually a lot of us never trusted him in the first place, starting with his FISA vote during the primary. Unforuntately there are planty of dems who are either centrists, like Drum, or authoritarian cultists, like John Cole, who are all about Obama. Consequently there’s no chance of anyone but Obama being the dem nominee despite what a screw up he has been. And since the GOP will nominate someone insane who considers disregarding facts a point of pride (evolution, climate change, ad nauseam) I’ll be left to make a third party protest vote. Again.

    Sigh.

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  48. [...] Drum has gotten some flak, including from this blog, for this passage: If it had been my call, I wouldn’t have gone into Libya. But the reason I [...]

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  49. Jay Tea says:

    What convinces a person with an IQ of 75 is different than what convinces a person with an IQ of 150.

    True dat. For example, the average IQ-75 individual would never fall for a lot of the intellectual claptrap that often seduces the IQ-150 crowd. They are often inculcated with a suspicious nature by a lifetime of denigration and mockery and exploitation by their intellectual ‘betters” and are often far less credulous than those who’ve been told all their lives how smart and superior they are, and the “elites” far more capable of rationalizing their failures and false beliefs.

    J.

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  50. sam says:

    Kevin has a follow-up post on the criticisms of his initial post.

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  51. jwest says:

    Even though Drum is now trying to walk back his earlier admission to submission, he fails to explain where the original premise of Obama’s superiority came from.

    He believes Obama is smarter, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions and more farsighted than just about anyone. Where did this impression come from? What accomplishments did Obama have that led someone like Drum (and droves of liberals) to think that he possessed such wisdom that uncritically following this person was a good idea.

    Was the appearance of a clean, articulate black person such a revelation that they ignored that he hadn’t actually done anything in his life that could be classified as exceptional? Where did this adoration come from?

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  52. george says:

    Michael: People with an IQ of 75 are almost two standard deviations from the norm, people with an IQ of 150 are three above – you’re talking about less than 5% of the population. Most people have (by definition) and IQ between 85 and 115, and are well able to understand what’s involved in most political decisions (or physics); what they lack is knowledge.

    [As an aside,you're obviously an intelligent man, I'm sure that you could gain a reasonable of the workings of the physics of a black hole if you were willing to put the effort into it - the hardest part would be learning the math, which wouldn't be worth the investment, but that limitation is interest and time, not ability. Genius is required to discover new physics, but once discovered its mainly effort that's required to re-learn it. Which is why Newton's work - considered by most physicists to be the greatest work of genius in physics - is now routinely learned by undergraduate physics students who like me in my day could solve problems Newton couldn't even have gotten started on, though we're much less intelligent and capable as physicists than Newton was].

    The biggest obstacle for your average person in understanding politics is knowledge rather than intelligence, and that lack of knowledge derives mainly from lack of interest. And I’d argue that part of being the leader of a nation is the capability to arouse the interest of the population they’re leading in their projects – and with that interest, to explain the background and why people should agree to the leader’s projects.

    And of course, the biggest reason for not automatically trusting leaders is just that – trust. You’ve read a lot of history; does much of it suggest to you that in general leaders are trustworthy when they go to war? In science there’s the saying that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I’d argue its true in government as well, and claiming that a people have to go to war is about as extraordinary as it comes.

    If a politician can’t explain to his or her people why they should go to war in a manner which is reasonable and convincing to the majority of the population, then I suspect its because there is no such reason.

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  53. Aidan says:

    “Actual liberals have pretty much given up on Obama.”

    Yes, that explains his 81% approval rating among Democrats.

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  54. wr says:

    Jay Tea explains why he sees the world the way he does:

    ” For example, the average IQ-75 individual would never fall for a lot of the intellectual claptrap that often seduces the IQ-150 crowd. They are often inculcated with a suspicious nature by a lifetime of denigration and mockery and exploitation by their intellectual ‘betters” and are often far less credulous than those who’ve been told all their lives how smart and superior they are, and the “elites” far more capable of rationalizing their failures and false beliefs.”

    Which is why he and his fellow Republicans refuse the ludicrous notion that the earth is more than six thousand years old. Or that man evolved from apes. Or that the earth is round and revolves around the sun. Because they can see the truth, and they’re sick of all those elites trying to tell them that everything they can see is wrong.

    Thank you, Jay.

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  55. anjin-san says:

    > True dat. For example, the average IQ-75 individual would never fall for a lot of the intellectual claptrap that often seduces the IQ-150 crowd.

    Yea, they never fall for that complicated stuff in thick history and science books. They simply believe everything that is said on Fox as if it came from a burning bush.

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  56. Jay Tea says:

    Which is why he and his fellow Republicans refuse the ludicrous notion that the earth is more than six thousand years old. Or that man evolved from apes. Or that the earth is round and revolves around the sun. Because they can see the truth, and they’re sick of all those elites trying to tell them that everything they can see is wrong.

    Thank you, Jay.

    That’s a fascinating belief system you’ve assigned me, wr. I’m going to have to spend some time integrating it with my frequently-proclaimed angosticism, as it seems to be entirely derived from the typical limited-intellect leftist’s stereotype of Christians and assigned as a very simplistic reductio ad absurdum that anyone who is a) nominally conservative and b) not inclined to worship at the altar of “the intellect is all that matters.”

    It also shows that you have a deep-seated loathing of Christianity, as your negative opinion of me is well-established, and you assign me fundamentalist, literalist Christian beliefs as your latest theme of insults.

    So, anyway, to clarify matters for you:

    I’m not a Christian, I give no weight to literal Biblical interpretations (while I am occasionally fascinated with Biblical archaeology, as it quite often seems to verify Biblical accounts — witness the digs at Jericho and the Temple Mount (when the Palestinians aren’t trying to destroy traces of the Jewish presence there)).

    I also have an interest in astronomy and cosmology, and lean more towards the “oscillating” universe theory. By that theory, the Earth’s been around for about 4.5 billion years — but the universe itself is of infinite age. My preference is, I freely admit, not based on scientific study, as my interest is fairly casual, but it appeals to me from an intellectual and aesthetic principle — the notion of the universe collapsing and condensing into what some call a “cosmic egg,” then reaching critical mass and exploding in a “big bang,” until it once again collapses into a new “cosmic egg.” It has a tidiness and symmetry that appeal to me.

    In mathematics, I’ve been obsessed for years with square numbers and Pythageoran triples, to the point where I’ve derived several rules and principles while dealing with them. Sadly, I’ve found very few people who share my fixation.

    I would wager that you would have to Google to even know what a Pythagorean triple is, and then would probably need someone to explain it to you.

    Finally, I’ve never taken a formal IQ test, but in several informal ones, I’ve consistently scored between 150 and 165.

    When I was younger, like a lot of nerds, I dabbled in role-playing games. “Dungeons and Dragons” introduced me to a concept that was a real insight. In the game, “Intelligence” and “Wisdom” are two different concepts, related but completely independent of each other. That applies in real life — we have all met the absent-minded geniuses, and the simpletons who possess tremendous common sense.

    OK, that’s enough off-topic stuff. That’s way too much energy to expend on a pest like you.

    J.

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  57. Jay Tea says:

    OK, I’ll offer one example of the intellectual being outsmarted by the average person:

    Bill Clinton.

    One of the most intelligent men ever to be elected president. But he was outfoxed by Monica Lewinsky, someone of no great intellectual gifts, who was just cunning enough to keep a certain blue dress uncleaned and a certain stain preserved.

    J.

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