New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country


I won’t make a habit of surrendering the editorial voice of my own blog—but, in this case, I’ll make an exception. I was told about the following Huffington Post essay, written by the snide, smart, dead-on Bill Maher, by a colleague, who said, “You have to read this!” And he was right—it’s brilliant. And, sadly, correct.

Anyhow, here you go …

New Rule: Just because a country elects a smart president doesn’t make it a smart country. A few weeks ago I was asked by Wolf Blitzer if I thought Sarah Palin could get elected president, and I said I hope not, but I wouldn’t put anything past this stupid country. It was amazing – in the minute or so between my calling America stupid and the end of the Cialis commercial, CNN was flooded with furious emails and the twits hit the fan. And you could tell that these people were really mad because they wrote entirely in CAPITAL LETTERS!!! It’s how they get the blood circulating when the Cialis wears off. Worst of all, Bill O’Reilly refuted my contention that this is a stupid country by calling me a pinhead, which A) proves my point, and B) is really funny coming from a doody-face like him.

Now, the hate mail all seemed to have a running theme: that I may live in a stupid country, but they lived in the greatest country on earth, and that perhaps I should move to another country, like Somalia. Well, the joke’s on them because I happen to have a summer home in Somalia… and no I can’t show you an original copy of my birth certificate because Woody Harrelson spilled bong water on it.

And before I go about demonstrating how, sadly, easy it is to prove the dumbness dragging down our country, let me just say that ignorance has life and death consequences. On the eve of the Iraq War, 69% of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Four years later, 34% still did. Or take the health care debate we’re presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and “listen to their constituents.” An urge they should resist because their constituents don’t know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.

I’m the bad guy for saying it’s a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don’t know what’s in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don’t know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive. You know, like the way the Slumdog kid knew about cricket.

Not here. Nearly half of Americans don’t know that states have two senators and more than half can’t name their congressman. And among Republican governors, only 30% got their wife’s name right on the first try.

Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they’re not stupid. They’re interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words “Bush” and “knowledge.”

People bitch and moan about taxes and spending, but they have no idea what their government spends money on. The average voter thinks foreign aid consumes 24% of our federal budget. It’s actually less than 1%. And don’t even ask about cabinet members: seven in ten think Napolitano is a kind of three-flavored ice cream. And last election, a full one-third of voters forgot why they were in the booth, handed out their pants, and asked, “Do you have these in a relaxed-fit?”

And I haven’t even brought up America’s religious beliefs. But here’s one fun fact you can take away: did you know only about half of Americans are aware that Judaism is an older religion than Christianity? That’s right, half of America looks at books called the Old Testament and the New Testament and cannot figure out which one came first.

And these are the idiots we want to weigh in on the minutia of health care policy? Please, this country is like a college chick after two Long Island Iced Teas: we can be talked into anything, like wars, and we can be talked out of anything, like health care. We should forget town halls, and replace them with study halls. There’s a lot of populist anger directed towards Washington, but you know who concerned citizens should be most angry at? Their fellow citizens. “Inside the beltway” thinking may be wrong, but at least it’s thinking, which is more than you can say for what’s going on outside the beltway.

And if you want to call me an elitist for this, I say thank you. Yes, I want decisions made by an elite group of people who know what they’re talking about. That means Obama budget director Peter Orszag, not Sarah Palin.

Which is the way our founding fathers wanted it. James Madison wrote that “pure democracy” doesn’t work because “there is nothing to check… an obnoxious individual.” Then, in the margins, he doodled a picture of Joe the Plumber.

Until we admit there are things we don’t know, we can’t even start asking the questions to find out. Until we admit that America can make a mistake, we can’t stop the next one. A smart guy named Chesterton once said: “My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying… It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.'” To which most Americans would respond: “Are you calling my mother a drunk?”

12 thoughts on “New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country”

  1. Thanks for that Jeff.

    Until I saw Religulous I couldn’t stand Bill Maher.

    But then, I never gave him more than a minute or two before turning the channel.

  2. Jeff ; time to move out of the comfort zone and really work for a living: and maybe Sarah Palin and her concepts of America would not be so foreign. Bill Maher is nothing more than the talking elite hoping to hand out at the playboy mansion.

  3. Funny how Maher never mentioned one of the most widespread, virulent crackpot theories out there. That’s the one about how HIV was created in a US govt. lab as a means of genocide. Obama’s old minister Rev. Jeremiah Wright believes this kooky idea, among many other kooky ideas.(Incidentally, how is that it took 20 years for the Smartest President in History to figure out that Wright was a nut? It should have taken him 20 minutes.)

    Maher also twists the stat of 1/3 of Democrats who claim Bush knew about 9/11 into – wait for it – another “Bush is stupid” joke.

  4. Is America dumber than it used to be? I don’t remember much of anything prior to 1980, but my recollections of the Reagan elections and what I have read about elections prior to that suggest that those campaigns featured reasonably intelligent, well-informed debate on issues of substance.

    You didn’t have a candidate like Obama, who is treated like a rock star rather than a serious political mind. Nor did you have anything on the national stage that resembled Sarah Palin, who thinks Africa is a country and can barely speak the English language.

    Did we go off the rails sometime in the last 20 years? Has the media dumbed down its coverage, or have Americans, below the surface, always been this shallow and stupid?

  5. NYCVirago…don’t take offense to this, it isn’t meant as an attack.

    But, here’s what I don’t understand…

    “You didn’t have a candidate like Obama, who is treated like a rock star rather than a serious political mind.”

    Is he being treated like a rock star?

    I’m no Republican, and I won’t claim the Democratic party either. I’m no fan of Bush and conservative in some areas while liberal in others.

    In other words, I mind my own business.

    Anyway, I don’t see it with Obama. Most of the people around me hate the guy. And for what?

    These are the same people that called anyone without an American flag and yellow ribbon in their yard after 9/11 a communist and traitor. They were all about defending their country and their president.

    Now it’s changed. And for that I have to ask why?

    He’s been in office eight months. Of course he hasn’t fixed the economy, brought home the troops or cured Cancer (damn on that one).

    Personally, I hope he does all of the above…and I hoped Bush would have done them too.

    But, I don’t see the rock star status you do. I think the problem is people, for whatever reason–racism, party lines, regligious conflict, etc., simply hate the guy and want him to fail. So, they want immediate results. Anything short is failure and since they aren’t seeing “Obama Fails” in the headlines every day the media must be supporting and protecting him.

    In my opinion, that just isn’t the case.

    Since this is Jeff’s sports blog, let’s look at it this way.

    Michigan and Ohio State fans will never agree on the color of the sky. The rivalry and hate for each other will never allow it.

  6. I have seen little evidence to support the claims of existence of Obama’s extraordinary intelligence. Intelligent relative to most people, definitely, but that’s hardly noteworthy. Additionally, you lament that a “majority” (I’m skeptical) of the country cannot name a single branch of government, but it stands to reason that these same people also do not vote (although they likely benefit from the handouts you support).

  7. Jeff : never took the sat’s : became a EMT : and then into a cardiac cath lab : to take care of those folks like your self. Sorry I didn’t take the course in ridicule in college

  8. Re comment #3 – heard of the Tuskegee experiment? If not, Google it. If so, it makes it pretty easy to believe that yes, the government would create a virus to kill people. After all, they knowingly let black men go untreated to see what syphilis would do unchecked.

    I remember hearing Farrakhan (sp?) speak 20 or 22 years ago. He was talking about how the hormones they put in the food to make animals fatter and develop faster were eventually going to eff up the consumers, causing us to get fatter and children to develop prematurely. That speech came to mind as girlfriends (at a recent gathering) were telling me how their 10-year-old daughters were getting their periods already and the nurse at the table was talking about how the age of puberty has fallen because of the hormones in the food.

    just saying.

  9. Roger – My point is that when you start making blanket generalizations about people you don’t know, you don’t sound very smart. Surely you can’t think that because someone is a journalist writing primarily about sports that they somehow work less than you do in the cath lab?

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