Now Wait Just a Minute

Well now really. I can’t just leave this sort of thing sitting there unopposed. It would be a dereliction of duty. I like jokes and provocations as well as the next person, but there is a limit. There are some things up with which I shall not put, to paraphrase Winny.

Or is the objection that he lacks self-knowledge; he should realise he isn’t very bright – if he isn’t – and, therefore, not have stood for the presidency? If so, let’s have a reality check here. Bloggers are hardly paragons of self-knowledge…And, anyway, since when does a lack of self-knowledge justify the kind of opprobrium levelled at Bush?

What have bloggers got to do with anything? Is that the opposite of Bush? Bloggers? You have Bush and his fans on the one hand, and bloggers on the other? Hardly. So why bring them up? Eh? But more to the point – bloggers are one thing, and presidents of the US are another. To say the least. What does it matter if bloggers lack self-knowledge or are not very bright? At least, what does it matter compared to the way it matters if the president of the US (the single most powerful human being on the planet, unfortunately) is? Bloggers don’t run anything, they don’t have the ability to launch nuclear weapons, they can’t start wars, they can’t nominate Supreme Court justices, their foreign policies don’t make anything happen (except possibly indirectly by helping to shape opinion). So the standards are simply different, that’s all. Very different indeed.

They make lots of linguistic errors, just like Dubya. Because that’s the way we speak. We start sentences, change our minds about what we want to say halfway through, alter tenses, don’t finish what we started to say, and generally talk in a way which makes little sense when transcribed onto paper.

Give me a break. Watch any bit of old tv footage (or listen to old radio archives) of unrehearsed unscripted Clinton and then listen to Bush. Everyone knows there is a gigantic difference, and it is all too obvious what the difference implies. Clinton has a functioning brain and a lot of knowledge; when he is asked a question he can sort through his knowledge quickly and give a coherent, relevant, interesting, complicated answer. I’ve heard and seen him do it many times, and so has everyone else. (And by the way I’m not a total fan of Clinton, but I do think all presidents should be clever the way he is as a minimal qualification, not as a luxury item.) Bush can’t do anything remotely comparable, not even with a ‘cat sat on the mat’ type question, let alone one that relies on some knowledge. There are degrees in these things, and no doubt some philosophers and scientists do make lots of linguistic errors (though no doubt my colleague’s experience of the matter is skewed, because the people he interviews are rendered peculiarly unable to speak coherently by the very fact of being interviewed by my colleague, for what sinister or impressive reason I leave to your surmises), but some make more than others and some make fewer. People who run for president ought to be good at thinking and talking before they even think about running; it’s that simple.

However, I do agree with JS’s point [you know, the point he didn’t make, because it was in an email not in the N&C – that point] that it’s the system that’s at fault. It is indeed. It’s a frighteningly disfunctional election system for such a powerful country. There just isn’t any mechanism to eliminate the blindingly incompetent, for one thing. That’s not good.

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