Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Expertise matters

Now that Gov. Palin has actually granted one journalist an interview, it seems that people are beginning to notice that her knowledge of foreign policy is... how shall I say it... a bit lacking. I guess being able to peer across the Bering Strait just didn't give her all the expertise she hoped for. Last week Robert Kagan, a McCain advisor, said the following in her defense:

“I don’t take this elite foreign policy view that only this anointed class knows everything about the world," he said. "I’m not generally impressed that they are better judges of American foreign policy experience than those who have Palin’s experience.”

Which made me think: I wonder how far Republicans would be willing to carry this "knowledge is elitist" claim? I mean, how egregious does your lack of knowledge have to be before you're deemed unqualified? Apparently, "not really focusing on" the war in Iraq, and not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is, or what a vice president does, isn't enough. If a candidate didn't know where Washington DC was, would they praise him for being an "outside the Beltway maverick"? If he didn't know where Canada was, would they call him a patriot?

The classic Rovian strategy seems to be: turn your weakness into strength, and your opponent's strength into weakness. So if Obama finished at the top of his class at Harvard, is an expert in constitutional law, and can speak intelligently about foreign policy, he's "out of touch with mainstream America." And Palin is a hockey mom "just like one of us."

Hey, I enjoy a beer with the guys at happy hour just like anyone. But if any of them ran for national office, I'd punch them in the face. (OK, metaphorically.) And I hope they'd do the same to me. Neither I, nor the guys I used to drink with in DC, are smart enough to be President of the Freaking United States. The country -- especially at this moment -- needs someone exceptionally smart and capable to be in that position. It's just plain dangerous for us to belittle expertise in favor of the Average Guy Candidate.


Patrick said...

Rove has taught us that to be politically successful, all you have to do is be confident and talk a lot of b.s.

That doesn't give me a lot of hope for Obama running a campaign about having the intelligence to govern.

But it does bode well for Mike Fitzgerald for President.

Dan Chong said...

Mike Fitzgerald for President.... possibly the four scariest words in the English language. :)