Saturday, August 4, 2012

Only Republicans are allowed to be stupid

Reviewing various op-eds on the candidates across the past couple of weeks, I was struck by something--that I know many will say "well, duh" about--with regard to the basic assumptions of the left-leaning media: only people on the Right are allowed to be stupid.

And as I said, there's a "duh" aspect to this: gaffes by Democratic politicians or leaders are--in the estimations of the typical pundit--simple mistakes, misstatements, or the like. They're not a big deal, nor are they indicative of anything else. From Obama's 57 States to Kerry's "I was for it before I was against it" to Biden's FDR silliness, punditry land is more than forgiving. Obama was "just tired from campaigning." Kerry "didn't express himself very well." Biden was "Joe being Joe." Obama is still the smartest person who has ever been President, if not the smartest person who has ever lived. Kerry is still far smarter than Bush. Biden is still a foreign policy expert and accomplished statesman.

At the same time for the same pundits, anything similar from a conservative foe is evidence of stupidity, of not being all that bright, of being essentially clueless. Kerry smart, Bush dumb. Biden smart, Palin dumb, And now Obama smart, Romney dumb (I could throw in Pelosi/ Boehner as well). But what's truly fascinating here is how the same kind of evidence demonstrating a Democrat's intelligence/ability means nothing for the Republican.

Consider Kerry and Bush. In the 2000 Campaign, Bush was roundly mocked for being an intellectual lightweight, as compared to the estimable Al Gore. Gore, after all, had written a book and invented the internet (and again, note how the last was characterized by typical pundits: yes, Gore misspoke but he really had helped create the internet), while Bush was nothing but a rich boy. The latter's degree from Yale was written off because of his family connections and because Bush was supposedly a middle-of-the-road student there (an Ivy League school). Fast forward to 2008. Now, Kerry's Yale degree meant something. It showed how smart Kerry was. Nevermind that Kerry was probably a worse student than Bush, Kerry's degree meant something, Bush's didn't. Kerry earned his, Bush did not. Silliness.


Then there is the Biden/Palin dichotomy. Neither has ever claimed to be a genius, an intellectual powerhouse. In fact, the strength of both was--and still is--their "everyman" persona. And in that regard, both have been prone to saying things "from the hip" that can be--and have been--mocked or ridiculed. But again, with Biden it was just a case of "Joe being Joe." As a counter to such gaffes, pundits accepted Biden's record of accomplishments as a Senator, his membership on various committees, his participation in governance. For Palin? She's a dumb hick, out of her depth, end of story. Yet before Palin was a candidate for Vice President, she was being lauded for her accomplishments as the Governor of Alaska, for putting a stop to corruption within her own party and the like, by pundits on the right and on the left. But all of that was quickly forgotten. Biden's record meant something, Palin's did not. More silliness.

Now we have Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Since Obama's election, pundits have been practically wetting themselves over Obama's towering intellect. His Harvard law degree and tenure as a law professor demonstrate his profound intelligence as an absolute truth in punditry-land. His various gaffes aren't gaffes, at all. For instance, when Obama said "the private sector is dong fine," he was right. No gaffe, just an audience not smart enough to appreciate Obama's brilliance. Flip over to Romney. He's routinely criticized for not getting it, for having superficial ideas by the pundits-that-be. Yet, Romney has an MBA from Harvard...and a law degree from Harvard. True, he's never been a professor. He went straight to work after school, becoming a CEO at a young age, then founding his own--and highly successful--company. But ask yourselves: how many times have you seen a reference to Romney's Harvard degrees, as compared to Obama's? Almost never, right?

Despite the educational similarities between Obama and Romney, it's only Obama's that means anything. Obama has a Harvard degree, therefore he is smart and therefore he should be listened to, end of story. Romney might as well have never graduated college, for all the goodwill his Harvard degrees (note, again, the plural) buy him among the pundits. Romney is a Republican, therefore he can be stupid and he can be mocked. Even more silliness. But that's our know-it-all media.

Cheers, all.

2 comments:

  1. You forget the subtle and not so subtle claims about the left being science oriented/analytical etc. Well, a couple of days ago Thinkprogress (I think) published pictures of melted street lamps (plastic cover) and claimed it was due to global warming. Some activists, including people who are supposed to be scientists (Bill McGibben) tweeted this stuff with jabs at Inhoffe. Now, the problem is that plastic for such things doesn't melt at 115F (and anybody thinking a designer would put material that could melt at this temperature for this purpose is anything but scientific/analytical), and easily found evidence showed that the covers melted due to a dumpster fire by the street lights. One additional twist to this, after the reason for melting was published, Yahoo news still put the "street lamps are melting because of GW" on front page, and later the author admitted that the fire was the reason, but surely GW was a contributing factor in the fire. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

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  2. Another example is the coverage of Romney's foreign tour. Start with the Polish "gaffe". Never mind that it was a staffer, not Romney. Never mind that he was finally responding to heckling of American reporters after they were repeatedly asked to respect the place. It's Romney's gaffe. And it is the focus, rather than highly successful visit, support from Lech Walesa (whom most of Americans would consider a hero just a decade ago, and maybe even now) etc.

    Now, Israel. His statement on Jerusalem is a gaffe, although it is softer then what Obama said on the campaign trail. But the more importent fact is that the media is simply lazy to analize and see what that statement means. And it means that US in its official position is stuck in '47 (whichi is at least slightly better than The Guardian, which claimed the capital was Tel-Aviv, and the BBC who just left it blank while according the non-existent state of Palestine capital of East Jerusalem). Are there any reasonable people who think Israel will ever agree to relinquish the Western part of the city? Why should it? Any person who objects to West Jerusalem being in Israeli hands objects to Israel being there, period. So, what's the problem with aknowledging at least this part of the city as the Israeli capital? After all, it is the capital whether people like it or not. But that analysis is too hard. Better just label such stuff a gaffe.

    The other "gaffe" was basically a non-issue that is repeatedly stated by different politicians and forums from Clinton to Obama and the IMF. Romney didn't even go into a more controvercial part that some others later picked up (how the culture of "resistance" influences Palestinian developement). But it is a gaffe. A racist statement. Etc. Why? Because Palestinians say so? And all of this brouhaha to conceal the fact that the visit was highly successful, and that were Obama to visit, his reception would be much cooler.

    Sometimes reading the news is simply depressing.

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