Are You Experienced?

by A. Jay Adler on September 30, 2009
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“Ah, have you ever been experienced?”

Despite the political space between us, I am a great admirer of Yaacov Lozowick. I link to him with praise and pleasure, and I offered a particular shout out here. He has written kindly of me. But yesterday he erred. He repeated the conservative mini-meme, in a post titled Novice or Underqualified, that President Obama is “in over his head.” There are those on the right who question whether Obama is really all that intelligent.

You could laugh if it didn’t make you want to blow up the box. This is the kind of absurdity, the kind of failure to think outside the narrow bounds of one’s own predisposition, that barack_pinmakes productive political debate so hard and rare. Can one support Obama while acknowledging he can, himself, err? The question and answer really shouldn’t be necessary. Can one perceive him in potential error and not believe him a fool? You’d like to think so, wouldn’t you?

Yaacov is Israeli, and like many – apparently most – Israelis, and other supporters of Israel, including me, he thought from the start that Obama made a significant mistake in the way he framed his original position on a settlement freeze. He didn’t acknowledge well-known verbal agreements between the Bush administration and Israel, and he demanded more, as a starting point, than the Palestinians had themselves been asking. Hope of progress stalled at the start. Combine that with otherwise verbal efforts to project a more balanced, mediating image to the Palestinians, and Israelis, thinking through the prism of their own interests, form a quick, I believe rash, judgment.

About other aspects of Obama’s foreign policy, I wrote a little yesterday, and I will write more next week.

However, to note that among those who wonder about Obama’s experience are those who praised, supported, or even tolerated Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential nominee is to return one to the acid trips of yore. Despite his brief gubernatorial years, George W. Bush was himself a complete novice on the world stage. Let us not forget the names he neither knew nor could pronounce, or that he advocated in debate with Al Gore a less arrogant foreign policy. It is only to describe the facts of known contradiction to say that George W. Bush, prior to taking office, had no coherently developed set of foreign policy convictions – did not know what he believed.

Obama has no greater, no less experience than Bush had. Originally, I reluctantly supported Hilary Clinton for just that reason. But a Clinton will always disappoint (see reluctantly). For me it was the moment when Steve Croft asked Clinton if she knew that Obama isn’t a Muslim and she said, no, he isn’t – and then, her lying eyes shifting in their sockets, added, “Not as far as I know.”

And experience is no guarantee, we should know. The dangers Obama faces are enormous, so it is possible, though not likely that any error he makes will be fraught with the danger of the only important decision the very experienced John McCain made.

Regarding intelligence, one might wish to rest one’s case with two obvious words: Palin and Bush. But that would be facile. (It is fun sometimes.) One can acknowledge the possibility of a person’s being right – making some good policy decisions – and his still not being, intellectually, you know, all that impressive. We know the right believes Bush pursued some good policies. We know that’s the position. Okay. But do we have to pretend he was, like, really, really smart? And Palin, we know she’s sorta the thrilling anti-intellectual-elite anti-matter, but, there, you see, really by definition….

In Obama’s case, well, you know – in contrast to Palin or Bush – normally a person who graduates magna cum laude from Harvard, serves as president of the Harvard Law Review, and teaches law at the University of Chicago Law School gets – normally a person with those creds get his automatic props, you know what I mean? Credit is given for significant credentialed achievement. That’s why we have CVs. I’ll let those who dismiss the CV this time around account for it themselves. But, hey, let’s not be superficial here. We’ve all met boobs with badges. So where the intellectual rubber meets its recognition road is in the encounter – with the mind itself. Smart people recognize other smart people, even people not as smart often recognize a superior mind.

Where I’m standing, I’m lookin’ at pretty smart. If you don’t see it, I …really…don’t … know… what… to …say.

And that’s how the conversation ends. You got different ideas, let’s debate. Let’s argue – in the real sense – and argue and argue and argue. You start talkin’ shit, and then people talk shit back, and then we’re all in a world of shit.

Shit.

AJA


8 comments

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Morton Doodslag October 3, 2009 at 7:58 am

“…I forget myself for a moment and get excited.”

“…I feel doubly depressed…”

Explains a LOT.

“people who argue he is novice and unintelligent are not susceptible to logic and reason in the first place.”

I suppose it would depend on the quality of their argument, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that “people who forget themselves, ‘argue’ on the basis of their emotions or their EXCITEMENT LEVEL and how they FEEL at any particular moment are not susceptible to logic and reason in the first place.”

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Geoffrey Britain October 2, 2009 at 8:46 am

“In Obama’s case, well, you know – in contrast to Palin or Bush – normally a person who graduates magna cum laude from Harvard, serves as president of the Harvard Law Review, and teaches law at the University of Chicago Law School gets – normally a person with those creds get his automatic props, you know what I mean?”

Normally, one would. The lack of ANY reviewable documentation of those accomplishments; (Obama’s transcripts, cases reviewed by Obama, etc.) in which to evaluate the acumen of the person, does present a bit of a problem however for those of us disinclined to simply accept him on face value. Especially for a Presidential candidate, it presented quite a ‘cipher’.

Is it fair to ask us to simply accept him on face value? Isn’t it also fair to ask, why you did so? What other explanation for doing so, can you offer, beyond simple agreement with his premises and conclusions about the issues?

As for experience and your ‘response’ of contrasting Obama to Bush and Palin; they were experienced Governors which, at the least, confers executive experience. It is the traditional route to the White House and is generally accepted as the main experiential qualification for the job. Obama very brief congressional experience and resume was exceptionally thin. By previous standards of prior experience, Obama simply did NOT measure up. There are certainly other valid qualitative measures for a candidates suitability for consideration of the Presidency, such as demonstrated judgment, intelligence, temperament, etc. But to dismiss the charge of lack of experience by essentially saying, “well, the other guys aren’t qualified either!” is a logical fallacy. Bush and Palin’s arguable lack of experience doesn’t excuse nor negate Obama’s lack of experience.

Without documentation as to Obama’s performance in achieving his academic accomplishments, the main substantiation as to Obama’s touted intelligence is his facile oratorical prowess in front of the teleprompter. His lack of verbal prowess off-teleprompter however raises doubt about that touted intelligence, as the ability to simply read and deliver a speech is not necessarily an indicator of high intelligence. At the very least, it indicates that someone hasn’t thought the issues through in depth and therefore indicates a concurrent inability to respond appropriately to objections and questions.

What other evidence can you offer for the assertion that ‘he is NOT in over his head’?

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A. Jay Adler October 3, 2009 at 8:08 am

Geoffrey, I think you misconstrue the intent of my post. It’s intent was not to present an argument that Obama is NOT in over his head. That is a curious premise, like all negatives – such as that I do not beat my wife – from which to begin by arguing to disprove. The argumentative burden begins in the affirmative, that he IS in “over his head,” a very imprecise term. The point of my post was to question the unusual occurrence of the challenges to Obama’s highly distinguished credentials (and, curiously, those, as well as the intellect of, Sonia Sotomayor), from which, by the way, I omitted, as an undergrad, Columbia University, my own graduate alma mater. I am not suggesting that Bush’s and Palin’s inadequacies are defense of any on Obama’s part; I am questioning the remarkable focus on his supposed inadequacies from political quarters that did not recognize those of Bush and Palin, or were otherwise strikingly sanguine about them. My essential point, in keeping with the focus SW and I have agreed to pursue in our exchanges, is that I believe conservative opponents of Obama, as a manifestation of their bias (and, yes, indeed, there are parallels on the left), misconceive and misrepresent premises and conclusions of his political philosophy with which they strongly disagree as, ipso facto, indications of inferior intellect rather than, indeed, a coherent if opposing view. “Facile” oratorical prowess usually offers up themes with which we disagree; pleasing themes are always the product of trenchant speechmaking. The teleprompter meme I think a cheap and, yes, facile, one. All Presidents use teleprompters when giving speeches; off the teleprompter, Obama is a measured and deliberate thinker and speaker, rather than inarticulate and bumbling, if that sounds familiar. If you want the fireworks of speedy verbal prowess, I might recommend you to Michael Eric Dyson, but I suspect he doesn’t please you either. For the moment, there is our different perspective on reality. I’ll look forward to more. Thanks for joining this debate.

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Geoffrey Britain October 2, 2009 at 8:09 am

Naomi,

The case in point you’ve made is about yourself. You dispute Shrinkwrapped’s comment and yet offer neither logic nor reason to substantiate your assertion that his position is lacking in reason and logic. Perhaps you’re not as open to persuasion as you regretfully suppose others not to be?

Holding an opposing premise is not necessarily an indication of a lack of reason and logic, simply an indication of disagreement as to perception.

And the words “shit shit shit” is an expression of emotional frustration, not an illustration of “very smart words”. You appear to equate agreement with your premises and conclusions with confirmation of intelligence, not a very ‘smart’ thing to do, but quite human.

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Naomi September 30, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Oy. Case in point.

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ShrinkWrapped September 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm

I have spent a lot of time listening to Barack Obama and when he is off the teleprompter he says a lot of things that are not terribly smart (his campaign stops in 57 states comes to mind, for example.) I know of too many academically “smart” people who are rather limited to accept credentialism as dispositive. Right now I am trying to understand whether the President is out of his depth when it comes to dealing with some of the world’s thugs or if he is so much more subtle than most peopel recognize that his three-D chess will only become apparent when he checkmates our enemies. Time will tell.
One more thing, ultimately intelligence in a leader is far less important than judgment and the jury will be out on Obama’s judgment for quite some time. Usually, we can’t tell until well after the fact.

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Naomi September 30, 2009 at 7:52 am

Wow! The point you make in this point is so simple, eloquent and logical. And when I read such things I forget myself for a moment and get excited. The excitement reads something like this: “This is great. Yes. I could not agree more. This is so logical and obvious and well written that if only everyone reads it we should be all set.” I say I forget myself, because then it hits me: people who argue he is novice and unintelligent are not susceptible to logic and reason in the first place. So, while it was nice to have some one put such a fine point to the matter, I feel doubly depressed that it can not penetrate where it would be of most use…. And so to quote your very smart words: “shit shit shit!”

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A. Jay Adler September 30, 2009 at 10:53 am

Piss, too.

Nice to hear from you.

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