Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Obama too intellectual to be president?

John Dean (yes, that John Dean) raises the question in his FindLaw article, Barack Obama's Smart Speech "A More Perfect Union": Did It Reveal Him To Be Too Intellectual To Be President? Dean used the Flesch-Kincaid readability test by grade level (used by librarians) on Obama's recent "A More Perfect Union" speech, and found it scored at the 10.5 grade level, "which by current standards is in the stratosphere." Compare that to inaugural addresses by Bush II at 7.5, Eisenhower's second address 7.5, Nixon at 7.6, LBJ at 7.0, FDR's fourth 8.1, and Clinton's two addresses at 9.4 and 8.8, respectively.

Okay, we knew the guy was smart, but smart don't win votes. Or at least, it didn't used to. Dean tells of case studies showing the effectiveness of anti-intellectualism in politics. Smart candidates who hide their brain power tend to get more votes. Eisenhower sat back and let Adlai Stevenson take the "egghead" label. Bill Clinton, a Rhodes scholar, played the hayseed while stumping when necessary to garner votes. Dean says he's "noticed
Senator Clinton has been showing less and less of her own conspicuous wonkiness and brain-power" since the Ohio and Texas primaries.

I hope Obama will be the exception that proves the rule. He has not, so far, hidden his light under a bushel. And so far, he's getting the votes.

I liked having a smart person for president - of course I'm speaking of Bill Clinton - but he was such an idiot in his personal life. Having a stupid person in the office for the last seven years would have been merely embarrassing, had the consequences not been so tragic.

Dean concludes, "As Senator Obama campaigns, he can truly change America by simply refusing to play dumb. That strategy, if Obama continues it, may turn out to be not only courageous but also wise, for it is very possible that, after so many years, Americans are tired of having their innate intelligence insulted by their presidential candidates."

After Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech, Jon Stewart said, "At 10:53 a.m. on March 18, 2008, an American politician spoke to us about race as if we were adults."