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Thursday, December 2,2010

Is Sarah Palin smart enough to be president?

By Paul Danish


Is Sarah Palin smart enough to be president?



Good question. Are you? Come on now — no false modesty. No quips about being smart enough not to run for president, or any other dodges. The question is do you think you are smart enough to be CEO of the United States of America, and to, as the presidential oath puts it, “faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and … to the best of [your] ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?” That’s a pretty simple and straight- forward job description — think you’re smart enough to handle it? Or put the question another way: Do you think you’re too dumb to be president? Again, no false modesty. Fess up. If it’s any comfort, I think it’s a good bet that you are smart enough to be president. This isn’t because you’re so damned smart; it’s because being president of the United States, although it requires some extraordinary personal attributes, doesn’t demand extraordinary intelligence and erudition.


The truth is that when it comes to running the United States, you don’t have to be much above average in terms of smarts. The genius of the Constitution is that it created a government that doesn’t require a genius to run it. Academic credentialing, which supposedly says something about a person’s smarts, hasn’t been much of a predictor of success when it comes to the presidency.

While it is true that most American presidents have had university degrees, the two greatest — Washington and Lincoln — did not.

Washington was home-schooled; his hopes for a formal education in England ended with his father’s death in 1743 when he was 11. (He eventually earned a Surveyor’s Certificate from the College of William and Mary.)

Lincoln had about 18 months of formal schooling. His legal education consisted of reading law books after he was elected to the Illinois legislature.

You would have to be pretty dumb to argue that the lack of formal education, never mind college degrees, rendered either Washington or Lincoln unfit for the presidency.

Between 1789 and 1869, seven of the first 17 U.S. presidents didn’t have college degrees. (Washington, Jackson, Van Buren, Taylor, Fillmore, Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.)

From 1869 to the present, only two presidents lacked college degrees — Grover Cleveland and Harry Truman. History’s judgment of both has been “better than average.”

If you are going to run the United States, it certainly helps to be intelligent and reasonably well educated, but there are more important qualities to have.

What might those be? Well, that’s a question that a senior colloquium in American government could argue about all semester. However, my personal answer comes not from political science, but from poetry. It’s the list of character traits in Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If.” Here are some of them, cast as questions to a potential candidate and semi-delyriced (if that’s a word) to keep the poetry from distracting from the content:

Can you keep your head in a crisis when all your advisers and political allies are panicking and blaming you? (It’s something that can be a big plus when your finger is on the nuclear trigger.)

Can you trust yourself when everyone doubts you, but make allowance for their doubting, too? (Like Bush, ordering the surge in Iraq.)

Can you dream — and not make dreams your master? Can you think — and not make thoughts your aim? ( JFK and Theodore Roosevelt could.)

Can you talk with crowds and keep your virtue? (Obama may have a problem here.)

Can you walk with kings and not lose the common touch? (Reagan could and did.)

Can you wait and not be tired by waiting? (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter, and Reagan could. That’s why we won the Cold War.)

Do you have the inner strength and tenacity to keep going after you have nothing left in the tank physically, intellectually or emotionally except the will that says to you, “Hold on.” (Think Lincoln in 1864. Think Ulysses S. Grant’s entire life.)

Do all men count with you, but none too much? (The prime directive for any democratically elected political leader is to do the greatest good for the greatest number. In order to do that, all men must count with you, but none too much.)

And so on. These “presidential” qualities are expressions of morality, integrity, character, even wisdom, but not necessarily of smarts.

So to return to the original question: Is Sarah Palin smart enough to be President? Yes, she is, and so are you.

But the real question is does Sarah Palin have what it takes to be president? It’s too soon to say, but I think if measured against the Kipling standard, she would stack up pretty well — probably better than a lot of those who have occupied the Oval Office.

Would you?

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Are you kidding? Most people did not have a college education until the last 50 years. College was only for the children of privelege until then. Now, we are a nation of meritocrity... and we have had the great good fortune of having some phenomonally, wonderfully meritocritous people who have become president. However, and I do realize that this is a right-leaning publication, most of the great heros of our American history would have been shredded to ribbons by exactly what you all stand for: They would have been ripped to shreds by Fox/Murdoch et al...and we would all be poorer for it. Could Washington have survived his evil lying ways vis a vis the Cherry Tree? Could Abe Lincoln have survived being uneducated? I am a Democrat, I have many Republican friends. I feel so so sorry for them, their party has been hijacked by crackpots. When did the party of the "ruling party" become the party of the imbecile? GBush I had Dan Quayle, and then nominated Clarence Thomas. (Perhaps this is where it began) GW Bush when running for Pres in 2000 said, "I will NOT be a nationbuilder" (which is precisely, emphatically what he did become) and then the Republican Party, in response to the obvious intellectual divide between Bush and Gore stated that "we have had a smart president for the last 8 years, we really don't NEED that..." I remember being horrified by both of those statements. OK so now we go to Katrina, where "Brownie" a totally ol'boy appointee flamed out spectacularly, but who cares about HIM- his flame-out caused many deaths, no one talks about that, though. And now, we come to Sarah Palin: McCain, thank GOD did not win. His judgement was truly questionable in so many ways, but what will live in history is the fact that he brought this dumb bunny to the forefront. If there ever was a clearer comment on his ability to lead this was it...and it lost him the presidency. Thank goodness for the intelligence of the American public. However, he unleashed the beast. I know women just like Sarah, they were the "crazy" mothers in our school. I do not believe that the people of our great nation would ever fall for this. But, the people of the great GREAT nation of Germany (they were the MOST cultured nation at that time) fell for Hitler...but Hitler did force them into hell. Will all of you accept being forced into hell? Really? Think about it, read about it, or history might repeat itself. Hitler was no intellect, he ridiculed intellect, is this really the way that you want to go? The way of the Cultural Revolution of 1960's Communist China? The way of 1940's Stalin's purge of the intellectuals? The way of the Khmer Rouge in the 70's--"Kill all the intellectuals, especially those that wear glasses"? This is what is happening and it saddens me. I fear that our great epoch is now coming to an end, just like the great Roman Empire that had so many heros, also had Caligula and Nero...it all devolves. So, get ready to learn Chinese: they will be the next superpower as we fall into dust.


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This article is such blather.

You've opened it by trying to draw comparisons between the so-called “2 best presidents" Washington & Lincoln, and the Ex-1/2-Term Governor Palin, based solely upon Washington & Lincoln's lack of formal college education...

…where to begin? 

First, it should be noted that it wasn't abnormal for a white man to be well-educated in the 18th and 19th centuries without ever stepping foot in a college classroom.  Imagine that!  In comfortable households where there was plenty of “help” – i.e., slave labor – to do the actual work, children were often taught by parents or tutors at home.      

You've omitted the fact that Washington was trained in military leadership, extensively, right around the time that might be considered his college years, and he took that training seriously.  That he turned out to be a somewhat deficient military leader doesn’t really matter because he was a decent president, so he must’ve put that leadership training to good use.  Additionally, he grew up in a fairly comfortable household where his brothers were sent off to respected private schools – so, one could expect that schooling was a priority in his household and his childhood education was probably better than average.

As you've already pointed out, Lincoln studied law. It wasn't just a passing fancy – he studied extensively for years, and took those studies very seriously and turned out to be a talented, thoughtful lawyer.  In addition to studying law, though, he read everything in sight, with a love for history and philosophy.  If he wasn’t reading law, philosophy or history, he was talking to smart people about the things he had just read.  What a nerd, huh?  

We have plenty of evidence, unless you haven't been paying any attention, demonstrating Palin's lack of seriousness and general lack of intellectual curiosity.  She is a clown, a fool, a fraud.  To date, she has shown that she takes nothing seriously except her petty grudges, and wears her ignorance of the world as a badge of honor. 

Fact is, our smartest president have been our best; the dumbest, oftentimes the worst. 

With all the problems currently facing us, it is crucial we get the best for our money. 



Mr. Stein, I'm sorry, but did you just call the Boulder Weekly a "right-leaning publication"? That is all kinds of funny. 



Palin was nowhere near as qualified to be VP as Obama was to be President. I mean wasn’t Obama a successful mayor and chief executive of a U.S. city prior to running for president!  Oh wait, I think that was Sarah. I’m sorry. Well at least Obama was Governor and Chief Executive Officer of the largest State in the union dealing with state budgets and making tough decisions. Oh wait, I think that was Sarah again. I’m sorry. Well at least Obama was Commander in Chief of the men and women of the National Guard units of his State. Oh wait I think that was Sarah again. I’m sorry. Well at least Obama stood up against political corruption as well as big oil and managed to force big oil to reimburse the state coffers and every Alaskan resident. Oh wait I think that was Sarah again. I’m sorry.  Well at least Obama ran a successful family fishing business and all that entailed which included employing others and meeting payroll. Oh wait on I think that was Sarah again. I hope all you detractors and haters continue to attack and under-estimate the admiration, love and political power real America has for Gov. Sarah Palin and her family. You got spanked at the midterms and you'll be spanked again in 2012. As for the GOP establishment I don’t understand you guys!!! She’s more than qualified to be President than Obama ever was. Everybody knows she is going to run away with GOP primaries and be the nominee. No one can beat her appeal and political savvy! So stop being selfish and elitist!!! Rally the troops and get behind Gov. Sarah Palin now before it’s too late. She can beat Obama if the old school GOP stops throwing tantrums and under-minding her. Can’t you feel the chill? There’s an unstoppable Arctic Blast racing across the lower 48!!! You can’t stop the Palin express so get on board unless you want 4 more years of Obama!!!


WOW!! Someone in Boulder that can think and understand.



We had a "rhodes scholar" in the White House not long ago that should have stayed in the roads. Impressive credentials do not guarantee success. This is not to imply that Sarah Palin is less than Slick Willie on the qualification scale. I would vote for her in a heart beat.


OMG and this article trys to convince me Palin is up to the job --this writer is dumber than Palin. She doesn't have the intergity or smarts.