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by Paul Jacob
Monday, Dec. 01, 2003 at 3:02 AM
They say Bush is dumb.
I don't want to foster disunity in our country by disputing the merry consensus about this. Certainly our president has been rubber-lipped on occasion, giving at least the appearance of intelligence deficit disorder. He once said, "More and more of our imports are coming from overseas." (I guess that's analogous to how so many of our exports are now originating domestically.) Another time he said he hoped that politically ambitious people would "realize that they are more likely to succeed with success as opposed to failure." And there were other times when other such things were said.
Clinton was glibber than Bush, that's for sure. Of course, Clinton could be a real dummy when it came to public policy or his personal life.
Bush can be dumb on policy too. If he's supposed to be pro-free-market, his approach is often less than genius level. I don't want socialist-lite in my capitalist presidents, and I don't want a "compassionate conservative" (if that means robbing people with a smile instead of a frown). What I want is a full-bore gung-ho free-marketeer who, when he does compromise out of political need, does so from a start-out position of advocating the right thing, not 80% of the wrong thing as opposed to 90% of the wrong thing--yielding a "compromise" that is 85% of the wrong thing.
Granted, President Bush does essay a few nudges toward greater freedom in his various domestic policy initiatives--even as he plumps for drug subsidies for seniors, protective tariffs for a rusty steel industry, and mammoth expansion of federal control over public-school brainwashing of our kids (I firmly believe that such brainwashing should be handled at the local level). Any time the president wants to lower taxes you'll find me whooping for joy right there in the front row. I could always use that extra couple of bucks on something. But the guy needs to stop doing so much heavy lifting for bad policy in the name of corking even worse policy. That cork is a sieve.
Still, our easily misunderestimated president is probably not as dumb as the Democratic presidential candidates often suggest. In any case, they tend to regard him as dumb for the wrong reasons. Furthermore, their own capacity to judge the depths of dumbness is highly suspect given the frequency with which they themselves say dumb stuff. There is, indeed, ever-mounting evidence of their own dumbness and, so far, it seems they may be even dumberer than Bush.
Though no scholar myself, I have managed to collate the following instances of Democratic dumbitude. Alas, there's not enough space here to report more than a smattering of the dumb statements made by the Democratic candidates in recent weeks, let alone those of all politicians of all parties. But I promise to tackle other examples--including that dumb thing Newt Gingrich just said--in future episodes of my free Common Sense e-letter, subscribed to by all in-the-know political junkies.
We may as well start with Al Sharpton, race-baiter of Tawana Brawley scam fame, who opined in one of the debates that we "can't act like just because something is trade that also makes it right. African-Americans are here on a bad trade policy." One suspects that even Sharpton knows that slave trade is bad because of the enslavement part, not the trade part--and that in 2003, the kind of trade that policymakers debate has to do with the exchange of goods, not people. But this degree of disingenuousness is dumb in its own right.
Contemporary "fair" traders (as opposed to free traders) want to ban or penalize trade when the goods issue from societies that have politically incorrect labor or environmental laws or which do something or other else that might possibly be complained about. The objections of the fair-trade crowd are not always just. But since, just or not, such criticisms can be launched against any society, including America's, the chief consequence of a consistently implemented "fair trade" policy must be the elimination of all international trade and the progressive impoverishment of the whole world. Which would be dumb.
Then there's Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who announced his candidacy by saying that he was "running for president of the United States to enable the goddess of peace to encircle within her arms all the children of this country and all the children of the world. As president I will work with leaders of the world to make war a thing of the past, to abolish nuclear weapons."
Again, dumb. If Kucinich knows how to make war a thing of the past merely by "working with" world leaders, he should not be waiting until he's president before releasing the secret formula. Let's have world peace right now.
Then there's former five-term Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who as he stooped to pet 600-pound hogs on an Iowa family farm, proposed the following photo caption: "Governor speaks with Washington lobbyists!"
Dean thus intimates that he is in no way a career politician who would do deals with hog-like special interests. Which is a dumb implication because as an advocate of nationalized health care, ever-higher taxes, and ever more handcuffs on business, Dean is indeed a career politician who would do deals with hog-like special interests. The premier special interest he would be throwing slops to is the something-for-nothing interest.
Another dumb aspiring front-runner is General Wesley Clark: "Democrats are desperate for someone who's got a coherent message and the courage to deliver it," Clark told The New Yorker. But apparently this yen for coherency is misguided. "It just seems to me that much of the Democratic dialogue, pre-election, in recent years has been stressed in terms of policies. It's 'He believes in universal health care.' Or 'He believes in something else.' Or it's been expressed in terms of labeling. Like 'He's a moderate,' 'He's a liberal.' I think that my candidacy is not as easily tagged."
So...nobody knows what we're gonna get if we get Wesley Clark? And this is a good thing?
Shall we end with something from Dick Gephardt? "I will be a president who always understands that we are bound together. As Martin Luther King said, 'I can't be what I ought to be until you can be what you ought to be.' And that's the kind of president I will be."
Great. Chain gang as self-actualization.
What a bunch of dodos.
Paul Jacob, Senior Fellow, U.S. Term Limits
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