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Another Interesting Obama Quote:

Hyde Park Citizen, Dec. 28, 1995:

Obama made mention that since America has fallen off as a dominant economic power in the world, race relations have worsened in America.

"In an environment of scarcity, where the cost of living is rising, folks begin to get angry and bitter and look for scapegoats. Historically, instead of looking at the top 5% of this country that controls all the wealth, we turn towards each other, and the Republicans have added to the fire."

The first sentence is paraphrased, but it nevertheless makes me wonder if Obama really thought that as of 1995, America had "fallen off as a dominant economic power in the world," and that race relations were worse in 1995 than in the past. The second sentence, meanwhile, suggests not that Americans struggling economically shouldn't be looking for scapegoats, but that they should be looking for the right scapegoat--"the top 5% of this country that controls all the wealth."

Mr. Liberal:
Or, it might mean that "the top 5% of this country that controls all the wealth" is not a scapegoat.

I think there is something to be said for a story that suggests a causal link between economic elites and increasing inequality in this country.

On the other hand, obviously not everyone in the top 5% is a bad guy. And I am pretty sure that this is not what Obama was saying. Rather, he is saying that their is a causal link between the actions of certain elites in the top 5% and increasing economic stress, and that instead of addressing that through peaceful political action, individuals respond to that stress by turning on each other.
2.18.2008 10:19pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Unfortunately, that's just standard Democrat class warfare rhetoric.
2.18.2008 10:20pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
That's easy - on the question of America's economic standing, he was wearing blinder - liberal blinders - and on the matter of scapegoating the top 5%, well, that's just standard Democratic Party Class Warfare rhetoric....

I notice that the Republicans don't blame economic conditions on the poor; am I missing something?
2.18.2008 10:22pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
That's it. I'm voting for Hillary tomorrow instead of Ron Paul.
2.18.2008 10:23pm
CJ2:
Are we really going to critique Obama via "interesting quotes"? The Audacity of Hope carefully lays out his views on the causes leading to "struggling economically," and he explicitly says that ending intergenerational poverty needs to be based in work. He discusses personal responsibility, behavioral patterns, cultural factors, and, yes, providing opportunities to work for a living wage and for upward mobility (including discussing uneven distribution of wealth). "Interesting quotes" don't capture much, for any candidate, do they?
2.18.2008 10:25pm
CJ2:
And Brooks - yes, Republicans do blame poor economic conditions, suffered by the poor, on the poor.
2.18.2008 10:27pm
Steve2:

Unfortunately, that's just standard Democrat class warfare rhetoric.

"Standard" doesn't equate to "accurate", but it doesn't equate to "inaccurate", either. Nor, for that matter, does labeling it as such do anything to answer the central question: can class war qualify as a just war?
2.18.2008 10:28pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
can class war qualify as a just war?

Only if you are a Marxist.
2.18.2008 10:34pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
CJ2, you have it exactly backwards. Unscripted comments from someone from before they became a national candidate are much more revealing that whatever a candidate says on his website or prepared speeches.
2.18.2008 10:34pm
EH (mail):
Hmm, the comments here cause me to ask whether it is a hoax that the economic policy of the US would never allow the unemployment rate to reach 0%.
2.18.2008 10:41pm
Cornellian (mail):
The context (following the America's place in the world stuff) makes me wonder whether he's talking about America as compared to other countries. So that quote may be him saying that compared to other countries where they do turn on the extremely wealthy during bad economic times, in America that has, historically, been less likely to be the case.
2.18.2008 10:41pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Are we really going to critique Obama via "interesting quotes"? The Audacity of Hope carefully lays out his views on the causes leading to "struggling economically," and he explicitly says that ending intergenerational poverty needs to be based in work. He discusses personal responsibility, behavioral patterns, cultural factors, and, yes, providing opportunities to work for a living wage and for upward mobility (including discussing uneven distribution of wealth). "Interesting quotes" don't capture much, for any candidate, do they?
I would think they do. I would think a book which "carefully" lays out a candidate's views is probably not reflective of anything but his poll-tested focus-grouped ideas.

If one is going to criticize this approach, I think a better criticism would be that these quotes are out of date; a 12 year old statement doesn't necessarily reflect his current views. (OTOH, he's not 30; people change their views a lot between 18 and 30, but not so much between 35 and 47.)
2.18.2008 10:43pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
CJ2-

And Brooks - yes, Republicans do blame poor economic conditions, suffered by the poor, on the poor.

In some instances. (Of course a lot of Republicans are d-bags too.)

But I'm a libertarian (registered Republican, basically just so I can vote in the primaries when relevant) and I mainly blame high taxes, high spending, a lot of regulation, and a fiat currency that can be manipulated by a central bank.
2.18.2008 11:08pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

can class war qualify as a just war?

Only if you are a Marxist.



and then only if it actually exists.
2.18.2008 11:10pm
jdh (mail) (www):
Heavens to Betsy, we can't blame the people with the money, political influence, and connections for the country being badly run. It's probably the Mexicans' fault.
2.18.2008 11:25pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Steve2-

"Standard" doesn't equate to "accurate", but it doesn't equate to "inaccurate", either. Nor, for that matter, does labeling it as such do anything to answer the central question: can class war qualify as a just war?

The class warfare stuff is generally Marxist claptrap.

The capital stock - the capital in the private economy that is used to create businesses and employ labor - is the only thing that creates and grows wealth in society. The government is dependent on it: no private economy to create wealth and pay salaries and taxes, no government. Since the wealthy provide most of the capital stock, attacking them is counterproductive - if you confiscated their assets this would tend to deplete the capital stock and actually harm the economy. So Marxist ideology in this case is actually a formula for creating more poor people.

That's not saying that there aren't bad rich people - there are lots of them. This is one of the things that makes Marxist ideology so powerful, even though its economically incorrect. It plays on envy, which is a very real and powerful emotion, and it also plays on the fact that there are some rich people that really are bad - crooks, thieves, frauds, swindlers, etc. So you can get people really riled up with it, but its a recipe for more poverty, a lower standard of living, a destroyed economy, often starvation, and lots and lots of misery.
2.18.2008 11:27pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
CJ2 -

Actually, I meant overall economic conditions, not those suffered (or enjoyed) by any particular group.

Certainly, as you point out that Obama points out, the poor do share some of the blame for their condition. Of course, much of this is (or ought to be, unless we like a totalitarian nanny state) beyond the reach of politics and government (except perhaps the public schools, which don't seem to be doing all that well in getting people out of their poverty rut).
2.18.2008 11:30pm
bla bla:
I have a sneaking suspicion that Obama is a true socialist on the inside ...
2.18.2008 11:32pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
jdh-

Heavens to Betsy, we can't blame the people with the money, political influence, and connections for the country being badly run.

You're right, there is a lot of overlap between the wealthy and politics. But on the other hand the wealthy provide the bulk of the capital stock. And in many cases they are harming themselves as well by running the country badly.
2.18.2008 11:33pm
BT:
Hmmm. Who was president in 1995? Gee could it be that a democrat was in the White House at the time, and therefore, since the economy was so lousy (in his view) then, if we take him at his word, we should not return a democrat to the White House in 2009?
2.18.2008 11:35pm
Houston Lawyer:
Most of the poverty in this country is caused by the poor choices of those who are poor. Those who avail themselves of the opportunities offered may not all be wealthy, but they are not likely poor either. Far easier to blame those who actually provide the wealth in this country.
2.18.2008 11:40pm
therut:
Is he speaking of the USA or a place like the outskirts of cities in India. Really if this is hope I would hate to see despair. Scarcity is not a word that even fits the poorest in this country and espically the middle class the Democrats are always harping about.
2.18.2008 11:43pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
One shouldn't read too much into one quote, but Obama's comment strikes me as reflecting a very dangerous "zero-sum" mentality: if the top 5% are wealthy, they must have somehow taken the money from the less wealthy, and are therefore to blame for the less wealthy's situation. This is true to a limited extent, with regard to those who steal through government lobbying, or commit fraud (and to the extent it is true, by expanding government Obama would make the former more prevalent). But in a market economy, most people get wealthy by producing goods and services that others want to buy from them, benefiting both sides to the transaction. One hopes, but cannot be confident, that Obama gets that.
2.18.2008 11:52pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Rather, he is saying that their is a causal link between the actions of certain elites in the top 5% and increasing economic stress, and that instead of addressing that through peaceful political action, individuals respond to that stress by turning on each other."

I suppose there is also a causal link between economic stress and the actions of legislators, union officials, single women having babies, drugs, alcohol, Chinese competition, high taxes, and high school drop-outs.
2.18.2008 11:53pm
JBL:
Actually, he may have a point. Though I'm hardly an expert, it seems that is really how racial/ethnic/religious tensions break out - different groups can live together peaceably while times are good, but then when a conflict arises people tend to take sides along existing group identity lines. The recent violence in Kenya is a good example.

Blaming the top 5% for economic troubles isn't correct in terms of economics or public policy, but it's probably more useful than blaming racism.

And in 1995 the US was by far the world's largest economy, but it didn't take a great leap to suggest that with the rise of Asia, capitalism beginning in Russia, and the increasing development of the EU, the US would be losing much of its pricing power.

Of course I have no idea if that's what Obama was thinking. But the statement is more reasonable than a lot of the blathering we hear from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
2.19.2008 12:01am
CrazyTrain (mail):
David, why don't you just post the Republican talking points memos that you are obviously pulling these post from?? You are being a good little foot soldier; maybe when the Republicans take the white house in 2016, this effort will be remembered. . . .
2.19.2008 12:06am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Crazy Train, I found these articles from the "Ethnic Newswatch" database. You're free to look them up, too, and find more flattering quotes. Wait, it's easier to blame the messenger! (BTW, if I had any desire to serve in a Republican administration, we just had seven years of it, and I'm local).
2.19.2008 12:10am
Ryan:
Obama is among the least protectionist and least economically paternalistic of any of the Democrats. The effort to paint him as a socialist (which is a ridiculous caricature of any Democrat--just ask Sweden) is more a reflection of the RNC's fading attack handbooks than any critical appraisal on the part of conservatives. I expect better out of the authors and commenters on this blog.

Where is your integrity Mr. Bernstein? Posting an ambiguous, context-less quote from 13 years ago instead of discussing Obama's stated positions isn't intellectual honesty or a search for "the real Obama." It's smear tactics.
2.19.2008 12:17am
BruceM (mail) (www):
I don't care what Obama says, he could say the verifiably dumbest thing ever said, I will still vote for him if for no other reason than principles of racial estoppel. And no matter what, he's more intelligent than Bush.
2.19.2008 12:25am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Ryan wrote:

Where is your integrity Mr. Bernstein? Posting an ambiguous, context-less quote from 13 years ago instead of discussing Obama's stated positions isn't intellectual honesty or a search for "the real Obama." It's smear tactics.

And there's nothing more despicable than smearing a man with his own words.

Also, many of the national Democrats are very much socialists--even if they won't self-identify as such. Of Obama, Clinton, Gore, Edwards, Kerry, and Kennedy: which of them would not opt for "single payer healthcare" (i.e., nationalizing a private industry)?

Admittedly, they all have limits to their socialist ideology, but that seems to entail them getting to keep their wealth while taking everyone else's.
2.19.2008 12:36am
Truth Seeker:
he's more intelligent than Bush.

That's debatable. Let's see some test scores.

In any case he'smuch more dangerous.
2.19.2008 12:50am
PC:
I notice that the Republicans don't blame economic conditions on the poor; am I missing something?


There were those welfare queens that were driving Cadillacs per Saint Reagan. And something about those illegals taking all the good jobs.
2.19.2008 12:50am
Kazinski:
What is the shelf life on quotes or behavior from a politician? I'd say 13 years isn't over the top, after all 13 years ago he was 33.

I seem to remember a week before the 2000 election it came out that Bush had been popped for drunk driving 24 years earlier. What was the shelf life on that?

Maybe it is just a fluke in the time space continuum, loopy quotes or unethical behavior by Democrats is always ancient history, like Obama's quote, Hillary's cattle futures payoff, Kennedy's depraved indifference homicide, Byrds's KKK recruiting, Murtha's Abscam episode. But when Republicans do something wrong it always happened only yesterday. Actually that isn't quite true, when a Republican gets caught at something, even just infidelity, they usually get thrown out of office by their Republican constituents, Democrats keep re-electing their crooks.
2.19.2008 1:05am
therut:
Talk to any Family Physician and they all know people on welfare and disability who have and are scamming the taxpayers. I know many. Don't even get me started on insurance fraud with auto accidents.
2.19.2008 1:13am
Randy R. (mail):
I was going to make a joke that conservatives always blame the poor for being poor, but then several people beat me to it.
And they, as usual, were not joking. (sigh)

I guess my cousin is poor because he's lazy, and not because he has Huntington's disease which prevents him from working. All those silly people without health insurance -- I guess they just would rather be let their kids do without proper medical care than get a job at Walmart.
2.19.2008 1:17am
Ryan:
Wuzzagrunt,

The words aren't the smear. They can't be. Taken alone, they are entirely ambiguous. The smear is to read into these words that Obama wants class warfare. The smear is to post them as evidence of Obama's "socialism".

I put the term in quotes because you seem to use it differently than the vast majority of the english-speaking world. A single-payer system, whatever it's merits and problems, is an attempt to solve market failures (at least in a society where we don't believe in denying emergency care). There is no good conceptual distinction between nationalizing health care and nationalizing education. So it is clear that what you call socialism is not socialism to most of humanity.

I suppose those who support Medicare/Medicaid are also socialists in your lexicon. What about government control of highways and drinking water? Pure socialism! Maybe, under some pedantic definition of socialism. But most Americans don't think of universal kindergarten, toll-free roads, government-run water utilities, or universal health care as socialism. It's all a spectrum, of course, but if we're labeling things as binary capitalist or socialist, you're in a fringe minority who would label any national control of an industry as socialist.
2.19.2008 1:17am
therut:
I want a one payer system for lawyers. Most people can not afford to defend themselves at all or with quality legal care. And insurance to pay for a lawyer is too high for the middle class to afford and besides small business is hurt by the cost. I have a right to this and the government should pay if I can not afford my insurance or no lawyer will take my case for free. Forget giving him part of my compensation that is totally not acceptable. I want the government to pay and make those rich lawyers take care of me. Everyone should be treated equal and share the cost and the top 5% should pay alot. Put those lawyers on a fee schedule. How about paying a set rate for each type of case. Say car accident 100.00 no matter how much time or difficult the case is. Like DRG's in Medicare. Might as well let the government take over the private practice of lawyers while we at this game. Or at least regulate the fees and why not a windfall tax on their obscene profit. No one should make that much when their is poor people in this county. Yep.
2.19.2008 1:59am
Cornellian (mail):
And no matter what, he's more intelligent than Bush.

I have little doubt that all the remaining candidates, Hilary, Obama and McCain, are all more intelligent than Bush. The only one I'm not sure about would be Huckabee and even Huckabee is more articulate.
2.19.2008 3:10am
Cornellian (mail):
Also, many of the national Democrats are very much socialists--even if they won't self-identify as such. Of Obama, Clinton, Gore, Edwards, Kerry, and Kennedy: which of them would not opt for "single payer healthcare" (i.e., nationalizing a private industry)?

Admittedly, they all have limits to their socialist ideology, but that seems to entail them getting to keep their wealth while taking everyone else's.


Heck, on that definition every Democrat and every Republican candidate (even Ron Paul) is been a socialist. To the extent they hold a non-socialist position on any issue, they're just recognizing "limits to their socialist ideology."
2.19.2008 3:16am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Cornellian: I agree completely. Hillary, Obama, McCain and Huckabee on their worst days would be better presidents than Bush on his best. Huckabee, however, is nothing more than a preacher and I think he'd make a horrendously bad president.
2.19.2008 4:46am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"And no matter what, he's more intelligent than Bush ..."

What's the evidence for that? He won't publish his LSAT scores (a heavily g-loaded test). That leads me to believe that it's not particularly high.If it was he would gladly tell if asked.
2.19.2008 5:28am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"But most Americans don't think of universal kindergarten, toll-free roads, government-run water utilities, or universal health care as socialism."

None of those things taken individually is socialism. But at a certain point the sum total of nationalizations brings you close to state capitalism or a socialist economy. Medicine is a very big piece of the American economy, something like 15%. The Veterans Administration is a good example of a government-run medical services provider program. How happy are the veterans with it? If given a choice do they opt for VA doctors or private ones?
2.19.2008 5:38am
BruceM (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov: LSAT scores have little bearing on intelligence. Bush is a lot of things, but intelligent is not one of them. I don't need IQ tests to let me know one person is smarter than another. How much smarter, quantitatively, yes. But just like you can tell one person is more drunk than another (but not what their actual BAC is), you can tell one person is smarter than another. Obama is clearly more intelligent than Bush. Ditto for Hillary, McCain, Huckabee, Romney (magic underwear aside), Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Bill Clinton, Ron Paul, and countless others I can think of. My belief in Bush's lack of intelligence is purely bipartisan. I don't think all republicans are stupid.

As for socialism, America has crossed any reasonable definitional line into socialism decades ago. We've been a socialist state since the late 70's and certainly since the late 80's.

If one public handout, individually, does not equal socialism, why do so many people (you too, it seems) say universal healthcare equates to a prima facie socialist government? Opponents even call it "socialized medicine."

I'm very much against government handouts and I don't believe in government programs. That was never the intent of the framers. There is no enumerated power to provide public benefits to the people aside from handing out patents, copyrights, bankruptcies, and letters of marquee and reprisal... to the extent those are public benefits. However, knowing that's just not the way it's going to be, I think free healthcare for all citizens/residents should be the one thing our government provides. Get rid of all the other stuff... HUD grants and crap like that. And legalize drugs and tax them, that will pay for it 10 times over. People should always have the choice of private healthcare, though. Which doctors work where (public/private) is something that can be sorted out.
2.19.2008 7:34am
William Spieler (mail) (www):
who are you going to vote for, McCain

Really?
2.19.2008 8:17am
BGP (mail):

EH (mail):
Hmm, the comments here cause me to ask whether it is a hoax that the economic policy of the US would never allow the unemployment rate to reach 0%.
2.18.2008 10:41pm


Coming from this statement, I would bet that you have never signed the front of a paycheck (as opposed to the back). Have you ever been involved with hiring, firing or being part of the employment process, other than the employee side?

There are some people who are unemployable. In my time, I have seen:

Applicants showing up with no pen or pencil or resume
Smelling of pot and/or alcohol
Want to have a cigarette while they fill it out
Not know their basic info (i.e. street address, phone number)

These are just some of the quick examples.

In other words, the government doesn't control the unemployment rate. Individual actions do. If someone is a good employee, they will find a job. Plain and simple. It may not be at the rate that they would want BUT it should be enough to survive and work towards something more for themselves or family.
2.19.2008 8:50am
Mr. Liberal:

There is no enumerated power to provide public benefits to the people


Article I, Section VIII

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States...


It would probably help if you actually read the Constitution.
2.19.2008 8:50am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Obama is among the least protectionist and least economically paternalistic of any of the Democrats.


And the winner of the Damning with Faint Praise Award goes to . . .
2.19.2008 8:58am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Mr. Liberal: Providing for the general welfare of the United States is not a blanket grant of power to create social programs. It's been held to be a limitation on Congress' power to tax and spend, not as an enumerated grant of power. Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548 (1937). Congress can tax and spend so long as it's for the general welfare. That's a very broad power (tax and spend)... much broader than the Framers intended, as seen by the writings of Madison and Jefferson. But the General Welfare Clause itself is not, as you suggest, an individual enumerated power.

It would probably help if you learned about the Constitution.
2.19.2008 9:22am
A.C.:
The quote that started this discussion does have a certain class war flavor to it -- "controls the wealth" is a buzzword. But the more interesting social criticism doesn't try to wind an audience up over the fact that other people are rich. The real question is what DECISIONS the people who run our businesses and political institutions choose to make. There will always be someone running them, and therefore someone with more access to wealth and power, but I think it's entirely fair to question the values and priorities of the elite.
2.19.2008 10:11am
PLR:
If Obama's latest positions on gun control and the widening gap between rich and poor are more nuanced, or articulate, or just plain different than these 1995 and 1999 reports, should he be evaluated on that new position? Or is he just a flip-flopper?

He's fortunate that his main opposition is Hillary Clinton...
"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members." --Nov. 2001

...and presumably John McCain...

"Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this [Iraq] war." --GOP convention 2004

"Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father." --1998 GOP fundraiser
2.19.2008 11:10am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
A poor person does not create poverty in the aggregate, unless his reason for being poor is, say, crime. In which case his most common targets who are already poor or close get poorer by being victimized.

I have a friend who, after retirement, works with Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer. Part of her work includes getting people into a situation where they can manage a home and a budget.
She is frequently in despair about her "clients" who see nothing amiss about grocery shopping at the gas station, for example.
Some of the simplest concepts, such as budgeting for seasonal swings in heating costs, using coupons and sales, not smoking, are completely unknown to a substantial cohort--from her point of view--of the population.
Others are poor because, after having one or more children, the man in question, husband or not, left.
The use of the poor in the aggregate as a tool with which to reproach, oh, practically everybody is not much use to the poor.
The idea that the poor are poor because the economy victimizes huge portions of the helpless is...useful for political purposes.
2.19.2008 11:18am
Orielbean (mail):
"But another class of reasoners hold the opinion that there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed; that there is no such thing as a free man being fatally fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer; that both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them groundless. They hold that labor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed; that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior -- greatly the superior -- of capital. They do not deny that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital. The error, as they hold, is in assuming that the whole labor of the world exists within that relation. A few men own capital; and that few avoid labor themselves, and with
their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them."

Lincoln on Slave Labor vs Free Labor.
2.19.2008 11:21am
The Ace (mail):
He discusses personal responsibility, behavioral patterns, cultural factors, and, yes, providing opportunities to work for a living wage and for upward mobility (including discussing uneven distribution of wealth).

And when does he "discuss" these things on the campaing trail?
And, since when is the "uneven distribution of wealth" the government's business? (Note: nobody can name any society in the history of man where wealth was evenly distributed).
2.19.2008 12:20pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
BruceM:

" LSAT scores have little bearing on intelligence."


There's a large body of psychometric evidence spanning many decades, that a latent variable called "the g factor" indicates general intelligence. We can't measure g directly, but we can design unbiased tests that correlate with it. The LSAT is a heavily g-loaded test. Meaning that you will get a high correlation with IQ tests such as the Raven's progressive matrices test. Knowing Obama's LSAT score or even his SAT scores (less g-loaded) would give us some idea of his general intelligence, and provide a basis of comparsion. If you don't accept the concept of general intelligence then you will need to tell me what you mean by intelligence. Let's not confuse it with wisdom.

You claim that you can remotely rank order people's intelligence. I'm skeptical of that. We are easily fooled by engaging personalities. However if you work with someone closely on cognitively intensive projects and watch how they approach and solve problems, then I think you can rank order them without using intelligence tests.

Unfortunately without direct contact we really know very little about politicians. They don't even write their own speeches. Hillary and others surround themselves with handlers. I have never seen her get interviewed by a confrontational questioner. Similarily for Bush, McCain, Bill, and Rove. On the other hand, Ron Paul and Huckabee have been willing to face the heat, so at least I have some idea of how they stand up to stress.
2.19.2008 12:22pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
I don't know what so many have against tobacco. It is medicine.

Schizophrenia and Tobacco
2.19.2008 12:24pm
The Ace (mail):
One shouldn't read too much into one quote, but Obama's comment strikes me as reflecting a very dangerous "zero-sum" mentality: if the top 5% are wealthy, they must have somehow taken the money from the less wealthy, and are therefore to blame for the less wealthy's situation.

Yes, but notice that this never applies to liberals. The Clinton's are easily in the top 5% of income earners, but of course they didn't take it from anyone. It's just all those other people dammit!

This is standard Democratic economic boilerplate ignorance. Obama knows less than McCain about economics which is why he makes comments such as these.
2.19.2008 12:26pm
The Ace (mail):
Heavens to Betsy, we can't blame the people with the money, political influence, and connections for the country being badly run. It's probably the Mexicans' fault.

Uh, you just described the Obama's.
2.19.2008 12:28pm
Ben P (mail):

"Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father." --1998 GOP fundraiser


........seriously?



Anyway, for my 2c, the debate here seems to be on off the cuff comments vs pre-prepared comments.

I do see a bit of a fundamental problem in using an old, off the cuff remark to make a permanent judgment about someone's policy views. We don't really know the entire context of this, nor what he meant by it. If it was truly off the cuff, he may well not have known what was meant by it. I can't count the times I've said or written something that, when reviewed days or weeks later, means something substantially different from what I intended it to mean.


I'd say this this makes analyzing it as if it were some carefully considered statement an essentially useless practice, and even at the risk of falling for "propoganda," I'd much rather rely on a carefully thought out opinion in a written work.
2.19.2008 12:52pm
PLR:
I do see a bit of a fundamental problem in using an old, off the cuff remark to make a permanent judgment about someone's policy views. We don't really know the entire context of this, nor what he meant by it. If it was truly off the cuff, he may well not have known what was meant by it. I can't count the times I've said or written something that, when reviewed days or weeks later, means something substantially different from what I intended it to mean.

I think the point was to illustrate his mindset, not his policy views. His mindset of richer versus poorer does not inevitably mean that he will allow the Treasury to be looted by advocates for the homeless, usurping the traditional roles of farmers and pharmas.
2.19.2008 1:36pm
Mac (mail):
That's not saying that there aren't bad rich people - there are lots of them. This is one of the things that makes Marxist ideology so powerful, even though its economically incorrect. It plays on envy, which is a very real and powerful emotion, and it also plays on the fact that there are some rich people that really are bad - crooks, thieves, frauds, swindlers, etc.

I agree with American Psikhushka on this.

However, I would add to this part, and it also plays on the fact that there are some rich people that really are bad - crooks, thieves, frauds,

Yeah, and most of them are in Congress.

It might be worthwhile to remember that whether you have a right wing dictatorship or a left wing one, the people guaranteed to be rich are those that are part of the ruling class. Everyone else seems to be equally poor. We seem to be getting that in our own Republic and, with McCain-Feingold, it has and will only get worse.
2.19.2008 1:42pm
The Ace (mail):
Obama is clearly more intelligent than Bush.

Really?
Uh, at least Bush ran on substance, that is, he had actual policy proposals. Not vague promises where people wonder where he stood or what he meant (hence the postings on Obama here for example).

He also flew F-102's. I'm sure they let plenty of dummies do that.

Obama is clearly less intelligent than Bush.
Clearly.
2.19.2008 2:13pm
GW Crawford (mail):
Bush is less intelligent than Obama?

Wow, BDS at its worst!

I have no wonder as to why liberals hate Bush so much: he is this complete dummy who has outfoxed them two times

Sooner or later, if someone keeps outsmarting and outmaneuvering you, you may just have to say 'maybe he is not so dumb'

I will give you that Obama speaks clearer. But at the risk of invoking the wrath of Godwin's law, Churchill had a speech impediment while his two continental opponents both spoke quite eloquently.
2.19.2008 3:10pm
R. (mail):
I love discussions which denigrate Bush's intelligence. If one generally measures intelligence by the achievement of one's goals, then Bush is smarter than Gore, Kerry, Reid, and Pelosi, QED.
2.19.2008 3:11pm
Smokey:
"Obama is clearly more intelligent than Bush."
Using that baseless 'logic,' then Al Gore and John Kerry are clearly less intelligent than Bush, since Bush beat them fair and square.

I remember Bush being interviewed on TV just after his defeat of Kerry. The interviewer asked something about the popular vote versus the electoral vote. Bush told the interviewer that his strategery was based on the Electoral College, and if he'd been going for the popular vote, he would have run his campaign differently. Then, Bush actually *smirked* at the interviewer! Ooh, that must have really stung the libs: the dummy fell upwards into the presidency -- twice -- never really understanding how it happened. To this day, our lib friends can't admit that Bush might know what he's doing.

Then there's Odumbo, a closet communist. And as we know, communists are just socialists in a hurry.
2.19.2008 3:12pm
More importantly...:

Which doctors work where (public/private) is something that can be sorted out


Indeed it can: those of us with [1] basic intelligence and [2] sufficient means will offer the better doctors more money--and a less onerous, more autonomous private practice system in which to work--to provide private/boutique care.

Just like law, the rest can wind up in "public interest." Good riddance.
2.19.2008 3:14pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Posting an ambiguous, context-less quote from 13 years ago instead of discussing Obama's stated positions isn't intellectual honesty or a search for "the real Obama." It's smear tactics."

Absolutely. If Robert Byrd can get a pass for being a KKK leader in the past, then any Democrat should get the same consideration.
2.19.2008 3:24pm
Bleh:
I do see a bit of a fundamental problem in using an old, off the cuff remark to make a permanent judgment about someone's policy views. We don't really know the entire context of this, nor what he meant by it. If it was truly off the cuff, he may well not have known what was meant by it.

It must take a Columbia and Harvard grad to make words mean so many different things - and things that might even contradict their obvious meaning, no less!

I view off-the-cuff remarks as far more significant indicators of underlying mindset than the insipid platitudes (about Hope! and Change! and the Hope of Change!) mouthed in prepared speeches.
2.19.2008 3:34pm
Derrick (mail):
Then there's Odumbo, a closet communist. And as we know, communists are just socialists in a hurry.


I'm not sure that the Net Nanny on your computer is working properly Smokey. Odumbo. Closet communist. Maybe you should stick to your Hannah Montana fan sites.
2.19.2008 3:35pm
The Decider:
If one generally measures intelligence by the achievement of one's goals, then Bush is smarter than Gore, Kerry, Reid, and Pelosi, QED.

Capture of bin Laden? Check, achieved.
Victory in Iraq? Check, achieved.
Peace and Stability in Afghanistan? Check, achieved.
Democracy in the Middle East? Check, achieved.
Social Security reform? Check, achieved.
Temporary guest worker program? Check, achieved.
Effective disaster relief? Check, achieved.

Yes, you really can measure intelligence by the achievement of one's goals...
2.19.2008 3:39pm
Davebo (mail):
I'm not sure if we've "fallen off as a dominant economic power in the world," but I do know I wouldn't mind trading in my 2008 dollars for some of those 1995 dollars!

If only so I could switch them to GBP.
2.19.2008 3:39pm
Derrick (mail):
Absolutely. If Robert Byrd can get a pass for being a KKK leader in the past, then any Democrat should get the same consideration.


Aah, the "Robert Byrd was a KKK leader(TM)" defense. I swear that comes extra with every Republican registration card. I bet 50 years after he's long dead young Republicans will still trot that one out.
2.19.2008 3:41pm
rrm:
I'm not at all surprised that the Messiah defenders felt the need to make us ignore his actual words. That, to me, is the audacity of hope.
2.19.2008 3:43pm
R. (mail):

Capture of bin Laden? Check, achieved.
Victory in Iraq? Check, achieved.
Peace and Stability in Afghanistan? Check, achieved.
Democracy in the Middle East? Check, achieved.
Social Security reform? Check, achieved.
Temporary guest worker program? Check, achieved.
Effective disaster relief? Check, achieved


And how much worse would it be if one of those other dummies had been in charge?
2.19.2008 3:47pm
Triangle_Man:
David (Bernstein), Your assertion that unscripted comments are more revealing of a candidate than prepared statements is an interesting one. I take it that by "revealing" you mean that unscripted comments are more predictive of a candidates future actions in office than prepared statements. This would seem to be a testable hypothesis. Are you aware of any work that would back you up on this, or is this intuition?
2.19.2008 3:47pm
The Ace (mail):
Yes, you really can measure intelligence by the achievement of one's goals...

Yep:
Tricking Democrats into voting for a war they never would have supported with "lies" about WMD: check
1.1 trillion dollar tax cuts: check
Decimating al Qaida: check
Capturing and killing Saddam: check
Lebanon abandoning WMD programs: check
Become became the first President since 1936 to be reelected while gaining seats in the House and Senate: check
Preventing a terrorist attack on CONUS since 9/11/01: check
2.19.2008 3:48pm
The Ace (mail):
Typo above: Libya abandoned its WMD program
2.19.2008 3:49pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"All those silly people without health insurance -- I guess they just would rather be let their kids do without proper medical care than get a job at Walmart."

And let's not forget all those millions of young people without health insurance who choose to be without health insurance because they are healthy. Many a nanny may call them silly, but it's still their decision. Does anybody knw the percentage of law students without health insurance?
2.19.2008 3:49pm
The Ace (mail):
Aah, the "Robert Byrd was a KKK leader(TM)" defense. I swear that comes extra with every Republican registration card.

"Defense" of what, exactly?

You've obviously missed the point.
2.19.2008 3:50pm
Bill Woods (mail):
Lebanon abandoning WMD programs: check

Libya :-)
2.19.2008 3:50pm
Parker Smith (mail) (www):
About this top 5% -

Is that the same 5% that pays well over 50% of all income taxes?

Is it the same 5% that made possible every paycheck I've ever received?

Just wondering...
2.19.2008 3:51pm
The Ace (mail):
I guess they just would rather be let their kids do without proper medical care

Lack of insurance and lack of care are 2 different things.

You, nor anyone reading, can provide proof these children go without medical care.
2.19.2008 3:52pm
Mike Z (mail) (www):
Ryan: "The effort to paint him as a socialist (which is a ridiculous caricature of any Democrat)..."

So when Hillary said "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good", she wasn't thinking like a Socialist?

Both Hillary and Obama worked with Saul Alinsky's organization - Hillary with Alisnky, Obama after Alinsky died. Unlike Christopher Hitchens, we have no reason to believe that their views have changed.

Decider: "Capture of bin Laden? Check, achieved."
NBC Nightly News, 2004: Former President BILL CLINTON: We will use all the means at our disposal to bring those responsible to justice....
MYERS: What you're about to see is extraordinary secret video shot by the US government and obtained exclusively by NBC News. It illustrates an enormous opportunity the Clinton administration had to kill or capture bin Laden. Critics say, a missed opportunity."

Mr Liberal: "There is no enumerated power to provide public benefits to the people." Unfortunaltely most Democrats seem to think that "general welfare" means "welfare sate".
2.19.2008 3:55pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
increasing economic stress,

I know that back in early to mid '90s during the horrific KKKlinton Admin, there were all those books and articles about how America was over that came out just before the boom.

Now they are coming out again. Guess what - idiots - Americans are richer than ever. Even with a "credit crisis" home ownership is at or near record. Americans eat out more. They spend more on entertainment (including the broadband connection I'm currently using). Car ownership is at an all-time high. If people were really hurting, they'd cook at home; cancel cable, internet, and cell phones; cut travel; etc.

The fact that they don't do these things proves that they're not short of cash.

"I'm for Change because after I'm elected that's all you'll have left -- Change."
2.19.2008 3:59pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Aah, the "Robert Byrd was a KKK leader(TM)" defense. I swear that comes extra with every Republican registration card. I bet 50 years after he's long dead young Republicans will still trot that one out."

Of course they will. How could anyone let that one go? Maybe a poster on the left showing Byrd in his sheet in front of a burning cross, and another on the right showing him as the elected Democratic Majority Leader? And a caption, "You've come a long way, Baby?" And, we shouldn't forget it's not an issue from the past; he's still caucusing with the dems in the Senate. Probably even a super delegate.
2.19.2008 4:02pm
Ken A (mail):
At the time of Obama's quote, we were only 3 years of the LA/Rodney King riots.

And only a few months out from the Simpson verdict.

The Simpson verdict created a national dialogue about race relations, and one could conclude at the time, just by looking at the vehement diversity of viewpoints being expressed, that all was not well.

In that context, I don't think that Obama's comments about race, and indeed about wealth, were too off-the-charts.
2.19.2008 4:04pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Smokey: surely you're not saying the smartest candidate wins the election. That seems quite a ridiculous notion. 90% of it is having the best hair. That's like saying the winner of a Grammy award is the best musician, or the winner of an Oscar is the best actor. Ben Affleck has an Oscar.

A. Zarkov: after 7 years of Bush, I have no doubt that he's an incredibly unintelligent individual. I'm not a republican hater (though I do hate religious people) and I even voted for Bush the first time he ran for governor here in Texas.

I agree that there is some general intelligence, but I dont think there's an accurate way to quantitatively measure it. I think we can develop averages for people and determine that some people average higher intelligence than others. The notion that one person is x points smarter than another is simply nonsense in my opinion. Maybe Obama did poorly on his LSAT because he was sick, or because he has slight ADHD and got screwed over by the time limits. Why should there be a time limit on an intelligence test anyway? Rushing someone seems like a piss poor way of measuring their innate intellect. The LSAT is horribly rushed, by far the most rushed test I've taken in my life, far worse than any portion of the bar exam. Certainly worse than the SAT.

From everything I know about Obama and everything I know about Bush, I'm more than satisfied in the fact that Obama is more intelligent than Bush. And while I can't say how much more intelligent, I don't think it is very close at all. Bush is a truly dumb human being. From lacking inquisitiveness to still being unable to say "nuclear" (after 7 years he still says "nookular"), he is simply not intelligent. Maybe the best comparison is to animals. We don't give dogs, monkeys, dolphins, or horses standardized tests, yet we can still tell one dog is smarter than another. Some breeds are known as being very smart, some are known as being very dumb. Intelligence is like porn, I know it when I see it. Likewise, I know stupidity when I see it. Bush is stupid. Even worse, he's been a horrendous president.
2.19.2008 4:07pm
George852 (mail):
Seeking one quote from someone's past and trying to tie their whole political record to it is not fair. But there is nothing wrong at looking at a pattern of quotes and speeches and writings...and I suspect that a compilation of Obama's spoken and written words will yield a lot of anti-rich, anti-business, anti-free enterprise rhetoric that he really believes in, and that his concept of "change" is warmed over big government and big labor principles nicely wrapped in "just words". Obama's lack of substance isn't that apparent against Hillary, who has much of the same problem, but it will be much more obvious in a general election, where it is hard to serve up yesterday's platitude to the hungry hordes of pundits.
2.19.2008 4:15pm
TallDave (mail) (www):
The Dems' attitude toward the rich is like greedy villagers who storm the farm with the goose that lays golden eggs, then after killing and eating it are mystified to find the village much poorer.

Bush is a truly dumb human being. From lacking inquisitiveness to still being unable to say "nuclear"


What's truly dumb is judging someone's intelligence on their regional pronunciation. I guess you would've thought Einstein's German accent made him an idiot too.

The "lack of inquisitiveness" is bunk too. Bush is an avid reader. He just doesn't read the NYT editorial pages, which makes him persona non grata among the self-anointed elites.
2.19.2008 4:23pm
Lonetown (mail):
Its knee-jerk socialism. Sandard pap. Changes with the ages.

Also, after reading many entries I would suggest that an individuals intelligence is inversely proportional to their speculations on Bush's intelligence.
2.19.2008 4:26pm
TallDave (mail) (www):
I don't need IQ tests to let me know one person is smarter than another.


No, clearly all you need is to hear repeated unfounded claims from polemicists.

Pop quiz: how smart do you have to be to keep your pants on in the Oval Office when chubby interns are flirting with you?

Extra credit: how dumb do you have to be to leave your DNA on their clothes?
2.19.2008 4:36pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
I've always been amused by the fact that Jimmy Carter pronounced "nuclear" the same way George W. Bush does. If that is proof that GW is unintelligent, then JEC gets painted with the same brush. Carter was a horrible President, but he is not a stupid man.
2.19.2008 4:44pm
George852 (mail):
It's funny how people still have time to waste on the "Bush is dumb" . Bush is the son of a President and grandson of a US senator. He went to Yale and Harvard Business School. He flew fighters in the National Guard. He made millions in private business. He was a two term governor of the third largest state with excellent approval ratings and was re-elected with 70% of the vote. He has served two terms as President of the U.S. He has a very nice family and a beautiful ranch. I know, he had it delivered on a silver platter,etc., bla, bla, bla, but even among the privileged I would say he stood out rather well. I wonder what he would have accomplished in life had he been intelligent.
2.19.2008 4:48pm
celebrim:
BruceM: "LSAT scores have little bearing on intelligence."

Really?

"Bush is a lot of things, but intelligent is not one of them. I don't need IQ tests to let me know one person is smarter than another."

I heard a question once, "How many Americans said that they were smarter than President Bush?" The answer is probably, "Almost all of them." The dumb ones thought they were smarter than Bush because they were dumb, and the smart ones thought they were smarter than Bush because they were. My guess is that Bush's IQ is somewhere in the 125 range. There is a pretty good that he is then smarter than someone that doesn't think there is a correlation between LSAT scores and intelligence.

Bush is alot of things, but eloquent on camera he is not. I don't think I've ever seen a politician exhibit so much stage fright on camera as Bush. I've heard him speak in person, and he comes off very differently. My suspicion is that if you think Bush is unusually stupid, or even just unusually stupid for a politician, is that you aren't a very good judge of intelligence.

I heard a story about the young Bush at Yale. It was said that Bush was a poor student, but that he the name of every single person on campus. Now, I am an intelligent person and you'll just have to take my word for it because I'm not going to spend time trying to prove it to anyone. But, most of the time I can't remember the name of someone I met 3 minutes ago. If you put me up on stage, I'd look at least as tongue tied and stupid as Bush, and my IQ is higher than all but less than 1% of the population. He's not an intellectual by character or inclination. He's not uncommonly intelligent. But he is not stupid either, and if you say he is it reflects more on you than him.

I've heard this song and dance before. They said the same things about Reagan. Endless skits, comedy reutines, and even puppet shows demonstrating how stupid Reagan was. They said that he simply read from the teleprompter. That he was just an actor. That he was dumb. Nevermind that back in reality, he made far more money and achieved more success working as a professional speech writer than he ever did as an actor because he was never a very good actor but he was a really good speach writer. Never mind that back in reality, he was probably the only President in my lifetime that wrote most of his own speeches. Never mind that you read the man's diary you see the thought processes of subtle thinker. No, it was the recieved, unchallenged, conventional wisdom of the day that Reagan was an idiot.

Bush is a very inelloquent man, but one thing that he isn't is stupid. Or least, not stupid by comparison to his peers and rivals.

"How much smarter, quantitatively, yes. But just like you can tell one person is more drunk than another (but not what their actual BAC is), you can tell one person is smarter than another. Obama is clearly more intelligent than Bush. Ditto for Hillary, McCain, Huckabee, Romney (magic underwear aside), Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Bill Clinton, Ron Paul, and countless others I can think of."

So, do you think that you are smarter than Bush?
2.19.2008 4:49pm
The Ace (mail):
Intelligence is like porn, I know it when I see it.

Gotta say, that's pretty damn persuasive.

For a self aggrandizing boob (you use "I" in your posts a whole lot)
2.19.2008 4:50pm
JohnCK (mail):
BruceM

Jimmy Carter was a nuclear engineer and Woodrow Wilson and Ivy League University President and they are probably the two worst Presidents of the 20th Century. In contrast, Eisenhower for example was an average student at West Point. Raw intelligence or scholarly ability does not necessarily translate into wisdom or decision making ability. Further, you can't judge a President fully until a few years after he leaves office. History will most likely prove Bush right about taxes and right about Iraq, despite making numerous mistakes in the first three years after the invasion. When that happens it is going to be very difficult for the smugarati like you to explain.

As far as Obama, I don't care what his LSAT score was; anyone who in 1995 thought the US was no longer the dominant economic power in the world is stupid or worse yet willfully ignorant.
2.19.2008 4:52pm
The Ace (mail):
By the way, another great momement in socialized medicine:


Seriously ill patients are being kept in ambulances outside hospitals for hours so NHS trusts do not miss Government targets.

Thousands of people a year are having to wait outside accident and emergency departments because trusts will not let them in until they can treat them within four hours, in line with a Labour pledge.


I'm sure that would never happen in America! Not with all those benevolent, caring, liberals in charge.
Change!
Hope!
42 million uninsured!

Then you die in an ambulance outside the hospital.
2.19.2008 4:52pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Why should there be a time limit on an intelligence test anyway? Rushing someone seems like a piss poor way of measuring their innate intellect."

I suppose that's true unless we are looking for someone to fill a job with tremendous stress and demands for rushed decisions effecting millions of people, often with little time for careful consideration. I imagine those secret LSAT scores will prove very amusing in the coming months.
2.19.2008 4:54pm
newscaper (mail):
Richard Aubrey said

I have a friend who, after retirement, works with Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer. Part of her work includes getting people into a situation where they can manage a home and a budget.
She is frequently in despair about her "clients"...


At the risk of sounding like a Scrooge, the TV show Extreme Home Makeover bothers me because in their extravagance of masturbatory charity they lavish on one family resources that could have easily made a life changing difference to 3 or 4 equally "deserving" families. One always wants to know the followup -- a couple years later has the property been maintained, lost for lack of paying vastly increased property taxes,lost as collateral on a defaulted "cash out" loan?

Sometimes I think Habitat for Humanity is Extreme Home Makeover writ small. Everyone pitching in gets to feel good, someone gets something for [next to?] nothing... but a roof over ones head does not make a homeowner/solid citizen. You have to wonder how many people are able to hold on to a Habitat house for long. It seems like putting the cart before the horse -- basic self-sufficiency and discipline are the prereqs that foster ownership. It doens't work that well in reverse.
Like EHM, HH seems a bit over lavish -- what if instead of giving one or two people a house, HH instead built some kind really cheap but safe temporary quarters, dorm style (like the big city YMCAs used to have decades ago) where people looking for a fresh start could have a place to stay? A place not at all shy about evicting slackers or troublemakers. To me *that* seems to be in short supply, something between living in a crack house or cardboard box,and an actual apartment.
2.19.2008 4:57pm
Mike Keenan:
"I've always been amused by the fact that Jimmy Carter pronounced "nuclear" the same way George W. Bush does."

It seems to be a hard word for even smart people to get right. I think Mondale pronounced it wrong too. Maybe because it is confused with similar words like secular and jocular and others.
2.19.2008 4:58pm
JohnAnnArbor:

Then you die in an ambulance outside the hospital.

To be fair, that would only happen if you would mess up their statistics on emergency care. If not, they'll let you in, then make you wait anyway.
2.19.2008 4:59pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Few people are entirely uninsured.
Workers compensation covers a quarter of the employee's week, more of his waking hours. Auto insurance in its various configurations in the several states covers people hurt in auto accidents.
And, as an acquaintance said, if there's some other kind of accident, there's always somebody to sue.
I knew of one guy working from his home--for an insurance company-- who fell off his porch. Sued his employer. It was so stupid that I was always too embarrassed to ask how it went. But I'm guessing 50-50 he won.
The 43 million number is put together by counting everybody who had a period where he was not covered. Even if a few days. The permanently non-covered are considerably less than that. But with activists, if some is bad, more is better. So the books get cooked. Not the first time.
2.19.2008 5:02pm
JohnAnnArbor:

A place not at all shy about evicting slackers or troublemakers.

THAT's the key. Good luck with that. Remember what fun public housing was/is.
2.19.2008 5:06pm
celebrim:
"Carter was a horrible President, but he is not a stupid man."

In terms of IQ, Carter was probably the smartest man to hold the office. We don't know the actual IQ's of many of the Presidents, but we do know that JFK's was about 120. That's probably a tad lower than Bush's, but you'd never guess it because JFK has gobs of something Bush doesn't - charisma. We know that Nixon had an IQ of about 143, and that he was intellectually one of the smarter men to hold the office. We know that Al Gore has an IQ of 134 on the public record. I had to guess, it would be that the IQ of the two Clinton's (not on the public record) is similar, but its always dangerous to try to guess these things. Most of the smartest people I met were at a distance superficially similar to mentally retarded people.

My understanding is that Carter is the only president to have tested out on an IQ test in the super-genious range - I've heard 170, which puts him well above even Nixon's genious level score by about 4 standard deviations.

But of course, if you are really intelligent you've probably met alot of people in the 160+ IQ range and you are well aware that there gifts don't necessarily make them good leaders. Most of them can barely manage thier affairs, much less anyone elses.
2.19.2008 5:06pm
JohnAnnArbor:
celebrim, don't get all caught up in IQ. It may be a measure of something, but overall intelligence isn't it.
2.19.2008 5:15pm
Houston Lawyer:
I'm waiting on the McCain is dumb meme. Apparently, he managed not to be dead last in his Annapolis class, but just barely.

Wickedly smart people often lack common sense. Common sense is apparently more important.
2.19.2008 5:27pm
huxley (mail):
I don't get the controversy of this topic. Today Obama and his wife are still talking about the United States as though we were trying to dig ourselves out of the Great Depression, the rich guys are taking advantage, the little guy just can't get a break and racial relations are terrible.

If things weren't so grim, we wouldn't need hope, and hope wouldn't be audacious.
2.19.2008 5:39pm
SteveB (mail):

Hmm, the comments here cause me to ask whether it is a hoax that the economic policy of the US would never allow the unemployment rate to reach 0%.


Are you proposing that the US change its economic policy to enable a 0% unemployment rate? If so, do you realize that the only way to reach a 0% unemployment rate is to stop job transfers between companies? If a person is unhappy with their job and quits then they are included in the unemployment rate until the begin a new job.

So now under our new and improved economic system, an individual is no longer able to quit his job. Say hello to slavery.

If you are a business owner who is losing money, should you be allowed to fire employees so that you don't have to fund losses in perpetuity out of your bank account? If not, why would anyone every hire an employee? Say goodbye to any new businesses or any new job creation in the economy.

What starts out sounding like a simple proposition quickly turns into a complete disaster. Essentially, the only way to ensure full employment is a totalitarian communist government. I think history has shown that this isn't the best route for ensuring people good lives.
2.19.2008 5:40pm
Chimaxx (mail):
George852:
Obama's lack of substance isn't that apparent against Hillary, who has much of the same problem, but it will be much more obvious in a general election, where it is hard to serve up yesterday's platitude to the hungry hordes of pundits.


I totally understand many of the faithful Volokh commentariat disagreeing with the substance of Obama's campaign, but the whole "lack of substance" meme is just silly. These dozens of position papers and proposals and speech transcriptions have been up there for months.

It's almost as if people here believe the "conservation of virtues" myth—that if one is an inspiring speaker he must needs not have much of substance to say. Is a leaden speaking style then be a clear and unambiguous sign of pithiness?
2.19.2008 5:47pm
SteveB (mail):
I think you are all missing Bruce's point on intelligence. The true measure of a person's intelligence isn't determined based on a test. The only true way to measure a person's intelligence is by the degree with which he agrees with Bruce. If a person agrees with Bruce on everything, he is obviously very intelligence despite what any other criteria might imply. If a person disagrees with Bruce, he must have subpar intelligence.
2.19.2008 5:49pm
LM (mail):
JohnCK,

America has fallen off as a dominant economic power in the world

does not necessarily mean

the US was no longer the dominant economic power in the world

So when you declare Obama "stupid or worse yet willfully ignorant" regardless of his LSAT score, is that your way of saying you don't think much of reading comprehension as a measure of intelligence?
2.19.2008 5:54pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Celebrim: I'll concede that Bush is probably not as dumb as he looks and sounds when he's speaking publicly. That's a rather big concession, my friend.

TheAce: I suppose I do use "I" a lot. It's gotta be because I'm always defending things I've said in previous posts. I'm not talking about myself, though. It's not "me me me." Lots of my sentences start with "I think" or "I believe" which is preferable to bare assertions of fact (at least, I think and believe it is). Looking at other people's posts, I would say my use of "I" is about average, maybe slightly above, at least on this thread.

JohnCK: I readily concede that intelligence is not directly proportional to quality of presidency. It's not like Bush is deciding things. He may claim to be "the decider" but Cheney, Rove, Wolfowitz, and many others have been the ones telling him what to do. However, all else equal, I'd rather have a more intelligent guy in the office than a less intelligent guy. And for what it's worth, I'm sure Bush will be remembered as a worse president than Carter or Wilson. Both were bad, though... I certainly concede that. And just because Obama is smarter than Bush is no guarantee that he'll be a better president. Until the Bush administration, I have hated liberal ideology just as much, if not more, than conservative ideology. Calling Bush a "conservative" maligns and twists the very meaning of the word. Conservatives don't go to war and cut taxes at the same time. When I think of conservative, I think of small government and fiscal responsiblity. Barry Goldwater is surely rolling in his grave, and has been for 7 years. I'd give my left testicle to have Barry Goldwater brought back to life and elected the next president.

Elliot123: That's a good, very valid point. If nothing else, the LSAT tests your ability to read, parse info, and think quickly. Making quick decisions is certainly an important aspect of being president, as you point out.
2.19.2008 6:03pm
Smokey:
Maybe Obama did poorly on his LSAT because he was sick, or because he has slight ADHD and got screwed over by the time limits. Why should there be a time limit on an intelligence test anyway? Rushing someone seems like a piss poor way of measuring their innate intellect.
And if those excuses are insufficient, I'm sure that BruceM can come up with more...

...like, "The man holdin' me down!"

That one's always good.
2.19.2008 6:10pm
Mac (mail):

Conservatives don't go to war and cut taxes at the same time

.

Bruce M,

If revenues to the Treasury dropped by cutting taxes, I would agree with you. But, they haven't. They have risen dramatically because they got us out of a recession that started at the end of the Clinton Administration and was made much, much worse by 911. I would call anyone who engages in something that will cost a lot of Government money (nationalized health care, anyone?) and raises taxes even though historically that will reduce revenues to the Treasury, stupid and dumb.

Please remember, 75 cents of every Federal tax dollar goes to entitlements with Social Security at the head of the list. That leaves 25 cents to pay for everything else including the war in Iraq. Obama and Hilary want to raise taxes and start many new entitlement programs. By raising taxes they will reduce revenues to the Treasury and increase cost to same, dramatically. That's smart?

This is going to get very interesting when Social Security starts paying out more than it takes in in 2018 and the Treasury is hit by the bills for huge new entitlement programs at the same time.

Bush had a great plan for Social Security, but the Democrats refused to go along with it. They even said there is no crisis. Of course, now they are talking about the Social Security crisis. I am still trying to figure that one out.

Of course, if Johnson hadn't thrown Social Security into the general fund to pay for Vietnam and the Great Society, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Also, Bruce, you wrote,



It's not like Bush is deciding things. He may claim to be "the decider" but Cheney, Rove, Wolfowitz, and many others have been the ones telling him what to do.




Every single one of the above deny that and that was not the conclusion Woodward came to. How smart is it to believe people who are not and have never been part of the process and have no way of knowing?
2.19.2008 6:26pm
celebrim:
"celebrim, don't get all caught up in IQ. It may be a measure of something, but overall intelligence isn't it."

I'm sorry, but I thought that was my point. Or, at least if not my only point, I thought it was one of my central points. Why else would I point out that the capacity to remember the names of thousands of casual acquiantances was an intelligence of a sort not covered by IQ? Why else would I point out that one of America's most incompotent Presidents had the highest IQ? Why else would I point out that many really high IQ individuals are barely able to function outside of very specific areas.

Intelligence is something I'm deeply intested in. I'm well aware that the word doesn't mean what most people think that it means. I used IQ only because it is one commonly recognized standard of intelligence. People with above average IQ are not stupid by any common language use of the word. But, on the other hand, a sub-standard IQ person once commented to me that, "He may be smart, but he's an idiot." I think there is alot more to that than the speaker either realized or could articulate, but it was a really smart thing to say even so.
2.19.2008 6:37pm
Kazinski:
BruceM:
Conservatives don't go to war and cut taxes at the same time. When I think of conservative, I think of small government and fiscal responsiblity.

I don't think you understand economics any better than you understand intelligence. It is idiotic to increase taxes (or leave them at rates that are too high) in wartime in order to enforce shared sacrifice, the name of the game in total war is isn't fiscal responsibility it is winning, and the key to winning is industrial production. And if you don't believe me look at what happened to the national debt during WWII.

Lowering taxes will do two things in wartime: free up private investment for war industries and motivate the labor force to work harder for longer hours.
2.19.2008 7:04pm
Mac (mail):

I guess my cousin is poor because he's lazy, and not because he has Huntington's disease which prevents him from working. All those silly people without health insurance -- I guess they just would rather be let their kids do without proper medical care than get a job at Walmart.


Randy R/,

I am sorry for your cousin. This, however, is where we must, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, distinguish between fate and choice. Of course your cousin and anyone else hit with a terrible illness that is beyond their control should be helped. There would be a lot more money to help these people if there were not so many folks who are poor by choices they have made and continue to make. For instance, there is an abundance of help for homeless Vets. However, until we choose to live in a country where people are forced to accept treatment, you will always have homeless Vets. Until and unless they choose and decide to change and give up drug and alcohol addictions, they will remain homeless and all the programs in the world won't help them.


I have a friend who, after retirement, works with Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer. Part of her work includes getting people into a situation where they can manage a home and a budget.
She is frequently in despair about her "clients" who see nothing amiss about grocery shopping at the gas station, for example.


Richard Aubrey,

As one who spent many years as part of the Great Society, I know that your friend is correct. It is much easier to just tell people to blame "the rich" than it is to teach people how to become rich or at least middle class. After all, if the "poor" ever figure it out, they may demand quality schools that are not run by the Teacher's Union or school voucher's. Our local food bank was always running out of food long before the current economic downturn. They are still running out of food. I have to wonder if the fact that we have two casino's in our community doesn't have something to do with that? I did notice during the 2004 election that the vast majority of cars in the parking lots of said casino's had Kerry bumper stickers.

I have an acquaintance who works in a computer store. She is in school and seems very intelligent. However, she is always complaining that she and her husband can't afford the down payment on a house. I don't know where she has been during the entire sub-prime mortgage experience, (I think it is bad credit from husband #1) but she gave a computer class and displayed her ITunes. She had to have at least 20,000 to 30,000 dollars worth of DVD's CD's TV series, movies, etc. on her computer. In addition, she bought her husband a brand new truck even though he can't hang on to a job more than 6 months because he is a drug addict. I guess she pays for that, too. She has blown more than enough money to have a down payment. Somehow, unlike Randy R's cousin, I can't feel too sorry for her. How is it Obama is going to "help" her?
2.19.2008 7:05pm
TallDave (mail) (www):
BTW, people might be interested to know that the United States has not met the definition of recession (two consecutive quarterrs of decline) in 17 years.

That's right: seventeen years. People who have never lived through a recession are almost old enough to vote.
2.19.2008 7:56pm
ManBearPig:
There is no way that Obama is smarter than Bush. Listen to WHAT Obama says, not HOW he says it. Do the same for Bush. (these statement were only made to illustrate how silly the converse statements about Bush are).

People think Obama is smart because of the pleasing cadence of his speeches. The substance of his speeches isn't overwhelming—it's just delivered well. As a result, some people like him and have a high opinion of his intelligence.

I realize that many people do not like Bush. That's fine. Too many people, however, allow their disagreements with some of Bush's policies (mostly his decision to go to war), his speaking abilities (style over substance -- this factor probably accounts for 90% of people's opinions), and their resultant hate to become the determining factor of their opinion of his intelligence. This says more about the perceiver than it does about the perceived. It seems that a person's hate for Bush and that person's opinion of Bush's intelligence are inversely proportional.

Bush isn't stupid. He was demonstrated to be smarter than Kerry (and this has nothing to do with Bush beating Kerry in an election). People just disagree with Bush. It's a lot easier for a person to distill his reasons for disagreeing with Bush down to "bush is stupid" than articulate the reasons that Bush may be wrong.

I also saw someone say that bush wasn't inquisitive. How on earth could any of us know that? I think the best argument would be that he once said that since being in the white house, he hadn't read the newspaper. This could have something to do with the fact that most of what is reported in the newspaper is about stuff he's doing, has been (or will be) reported to him by underlings, or is irrelevant to the job of POTUS. It would seem a horrible waste of time, to me, for a president to read a NYTimes article about an event that he was already/will be briefed about.

As far as knowing intelligence when you see it, that's style over substance. We only ever see Bush give speeches, etc. Candidates just give their opinions as to the best way to solve problems. We don't see him work through problems (complex or otherwise). In essence, we've never seen the guy tested. No useful opinion can be generated from this sort of stuff.

I think, for some, it's just cathartic to say that Bush is stupid. Others, however, might not understand what intelligence is (never having been exposed to it themselves).
2.19.2008 7:59pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
I disagree with lots of republicans (and democrats), but I've never been heard to call Dick Cheney stupid.

Smokey, I initially stated that my prime reason for wanting Obama to be president is for racial estoppel. Once an African American becomes president, you'll never hear "the man is keeping me down" again. Ever. I'd be the last one to make racial excuses for Obama's deficiencies.

As for the prudence of cutting taxes during a war, it comes down to economics and that means everyone can pick and choose numbers and statistics which purportedly make their case. The economy is crap right now, the dollar is worthless, and the federal government is running the biggest debt in a very long time. But some say the Bush taxcuts were beneficial to the economy and to the war in iraq. I don't buy that for a second. Forget about notions of trickle-down economics, it's financially irresponsible if nothing else. We're spending like 8 million dollars an hour in Iraq, and the government is cutting taxes? Cutting the taxes of primarily the same people who support going to war in the first place? If taking out saddam and policing Iraq is so important to you, you should be willing to pay more taxes (at the very least) to support the war effort. You really want to argue that you paying less taxes helps us in Iraq? Really? I've heard the huge debt justified, but I've never heard that one.
2.19.2008 8:25pm
Mark Fradl (mail) (www):
All this over two sentences he spoke 13 years ago? A pity you didn't, or couldn't, provide a link to the rest of the speech, or at least the rest of the paragraph.

I would guess that almost every poster here (who all seem very intelligent, whether I agree with them or not) hates the way the media gives us only sound-bites and how any candidate's policy gets reduced to a bumper-stick sized explanation - if it's even mentioned at all. And yet here we are with thousands of words trying to interpret and extrapolate from a whopping two sentences.
2.19.2008 8:56pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Cutting the taxes of primarily the same people who support going to war in the first place? If taking out saddam and policing Iraq is so important to you, you should be willing to pay more taxes (at the very least) to support the war effort. You really want to argue that you paying less taxes helps us in Iraq? Really? I've heard the huge debt justified, but I've never heard that one."

If lowered tax rates result in higher treasury revenue, then one can argue it is helping in Iraq. That's what our experience shows. This happens because the money that would have gone to the government is invested in various enterprises which increase jobs and the entire economy. This results in higher a tax base that delivers an increased amount of total taxes.
2.19.2008 8:57pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
BruceM:

"I agree that there is some general intelligence, but I dont think there's an accurate way to quantitatively measure it."

There is, and that's what the subject of psychometrics is all about. We can measure a person's general intelligence using a variety of techniques. We can also predict outcomes using intelligence tests, and that's why the military uses them.

"The notion that one person is x points smarter than another is simply nonsense in my opinion."

Why is it nonsense? What can't we rank people on g?

"Why should there be a time limit on an intelligence test anyway?"

We don't have to put a time limit. Some versions of intelligence testing have no time limits. But we can correlate reaction time with g. You give everyone the same easy task, but measure the time it takes them to do it. Reaction time correlates with other measures. Also remember everyone gets rushed on the LSAT.

I probably dislike Bush more than you do, but my objections to him are based on policy.
2.19.2008 9:07pm
Uthaw:
my prime reason for wanting Obama to be president is for racial estoppel. Once an African American becomes president, you'll never hear "the man is keeping me down" again. Ever. I'd be the last one to make racial excuses for Obama's deficiencies.

Oh please, that's never going to happen. Never! Especially if you think this will lead to the dismantling of the vast apparatus of racial preference. Why would Obama dismantle this, when after all, he is the primary beneficiary of racial preference? There is simply not a chance in the world he would be where he is now if not for the fact that he is black (he wouldn't even be a Senator now if he was a white Democrat of his age and experience, much less the leading Presidential candidate). It is particularly absurd to think that two people as clearly race-obsessed as the Obamas are somehow going to pave the way to a Truly Color Blind Society. If anything, I would expect them to expand the preference regime to even greater extremes.

I'm waiting on the McCain is dumb meme. Apparently, he managed not to be dead last in his Annapolis class, but just barely.

Don't forget he broke a lot more airplanes than Dubya. =)
2.19.2008 9:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I believe the dirty little secret of HH is that they are holding a bunch of bum mortgages.

As Thomas Sowell (I think) said, cultures vary and differences have consequences. I think the same could be said for lifestyle choices.

Last I heard, the per-cap income for intact black families had caught up with the per-cap income for intact white families. Both are substantially higher than the per-cap income for unwed mothers, white or black. From which we can deduce that economics, raw and unnuanced, count for more than racial discrimination.
Correct for the imbalance in unwed mothering--not a result of the evil rethuglicans--and you would flat lose one of the most important clubs of the race/privilege/culture wars.
Which is why certain statistics could get you into trouble with speech codes on campuses.
2.19.2008 9:51pm
Mac (mail):
Richard,

And we could be even more politically incorrect if we pointed out that it is the Government who promoted unwed motherhood via it's policies, see the Great Society. Welfare has managed to do to the Black culture what 200 years of slavery and over 150 years of Jim Crow laws couldn't do. It destroyed the Black culture. In 1968, 66% of Black families were intact. Today it is 17% and Bill Cosby is vilified for pointing out that this could be why the Black community has so many problems. Go figure. All the whining in the world about the top 5% isn't going to change one life unless this problem is dealt with.

The same goes for all races. If you are a product of an unwed mother, you have a far greater chance of being poor, having psychological problems and ending up in prison.

It is an unfortunate fact. It's not going to help one person to blame "the rich", but it is a hell of a lot easier.
The same people who agonize over "the Poor" are the very ones who won't hear of school vouchers. How many more generations do we waste waiting for the nationalized education system to get it's act together? Obama is for the Teacher's Union, not the children. He will throw more money at it. I never understand how giving the same people who are not doing the job now more money is going to get the job done. What, are they holding back?
2.19.2008 10:12pm
LM (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

HH?
2.19.2008 10:21pm
celebrim:
""Why should there be a time limit on an intelligence test anyway?""

One of the good reasons for having a time limit on intelligence tests is that it becomes increasingly hard for a test creator to design problems difficult enough to measure a difference in intelligence between people at the upper end of the bell curve if we don't also measure time. The problem you run into is that these people are as smart and almost certainly smarter than the person creating the test. You are likely to get very large numbers of them with the same (perfect) score. How can we distinguish between different levels of ability? Probably not by making the problems harder. Possibly not even by making the test longer (because there is such a thing as mental endurance and at some point we start measuring that). The only reasonable way to do it is by measuring how much effort they expend solving the problem, that is, how long it took them to do it.

Granted, to a certain extent this isn't intelligence either, but by the time we realize that we are beginning to have sophisticated enough notions of what intelligence is and isn't that we are likely to be much more humble about our own or any percieved difference between our own and anyone elses.
2.19.2008 10:39pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"I don't know what so many have against tobacco. It is medicine."

Until you get inoperable lung cancer at age 43, like a schizophrenic of my acquaintance. He still smokes, and he's still calmer than without it, but he's only got a year of life left. Apparently there are "side effects."
2.19.2008 11:50pm
John D (mail):
Compared to every other country in the world, and I have lived in several, Americans have the highest standard of living in the world. Even our poor people are wealthier than 3/4 of the other people on earth.

I blame the top 5% of this country.
2.20.2008 3:18am
NikFromNYC (mail):
"the top 5% of this country that controls all the wealth"

No, their wives do!
2.20.2008 3:50am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
LM Habitat for Humanity.
A group of very nice people who think every poor person is really a middle-class person with strong inclinations to deferred gratification but who are down on their luck.
Problem is, as the economy gets better, the down on their luck crowd gets to be a smaller piece of the group. I mean, it's a problem for those who reproach our society.

My wife has been on several mission trips to Costa Rica. I expected to hear about the poor being the victims of an inadequate economic structure. Wrong. Two reasons: The influx of Nicaraguans, first to escape the Sandanistas, and, second, to get to Costa Rica which is generally better off, anyway. There is a huge labor surplus. And the other is that most of the poor were women with kids whose men--husbands or not--had left them.


Mac. Yeah. Shelby Steele said it took white liberal guilt to destroy the black family which had survived what would, ordinarily, be considered worse.
Unless the legacy of slavery is a sort of harmonic thing which submerges, humming along, for decades or a century or something, only to reappear later.
2.20.2008 8:13am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Here's a quote you will NEVER, EVER hear from Obama:

"Thank God Jeri Ryan has scruples."
2.20.2008 9:56am
Yum Yum:
Even our poor people are wealthier than 3/4 of the other people on earth.

And America can proudly claim the fattest poor people of any country on Earth!
2.20.2008 10:30am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Uthaw, while I'm sure Obama will do things and have policies that help/favor minorities (he's certainly not going to be against affirmative action), the very fact that he is president would negate the prime necessity for all such policies and programs. I'm not saying a lot of african americans won't still have a chip on their shoulders about whitey (which nowadays I really don't think is warranted, though it certainly was in the past), but that chip loses a lot of credence once the president of the US is a black man. All complaints about institutional racism are defeated with two words: "President Obama". As for whether Obama would be where he is if he was not black.... yeah exactly, that proves my point. There are benefits to being black nowadays, and I don't mean having your own waterfountains and bathrooms like in the past.
2.20.2008 6:26pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
BruceM.

I don't think the poverty pimps and race hustlers would give up so easily, nor would white liberals give up their masochistic guilt just because Obama is president.
2.20.2008 7:51pm
Uthaw:
Bruce, I couldn't disagree more. The goalposts will be moved. We will always have "a long way to go." Too many people benefit from racial preferences for them ever to admit that institutional racism no longer exists, because if they did, then obviously there would be no further need for such preferences.
2.20.2008 8:00pm
Elliot123 (mail):
If Obama becomes president does anyone think black kids' SAT scores will immediately soar and affirmative action in college admissions will be dropped? A President Obama would demonstrate that opportunity exists. But the problem we have is that so many people don't take advantage of the opportunities they have.
2.21.2008 12:49am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Ricahrd, they wouldn't give up, but their arguments would carry exponentially less weight. Over time, they may even quit making them.

Uthaw: people of one race will always be somewhat unselttled by people of others, particularly when they look very different. That will never change. But I think we've eradicated institutional racism (at least against African Americans). What more could we do? Any remaining problems are either private, insular instances of racism by racist individuals (a white guy hires a white guy over a black guy... but there are black guys hiring black guys over white guys... you'll never remediate that), or disparate impacts caused by certain facts of life that may stem from a racist history, but are not caused by current racist intent. Those disparate impacts dissipate with time.

I think a better example is to say the goalposts have always been moving - away from the kicker. President Obama would cause the goalposts of opportunity to finally be planted firmly at the endzone. Now fieldgoals are possible for everyone. It's then up to each indivual to kick their fieldgoals. Sure, some might have to kick farther than others. But that's life. Some people are born first and goal.
2.21.2008 2:24am
Smokey:
BruceM:

Try to understand this clear and simple statement from Uthaw. Maybe reading it again might help it to sink in:
The goalposts will be moved. We will always have "a long way to go." Too many people benefit from racial preferences for them ever to admit that institutional racism no longer exists, because if they did, then obviously there would be no further need for such preferences.
True. All true.
2.21.2008 2:36pm
Mikey W (mail) (www):
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2.22.2008 7:10pm