Tuesday, November 17, 2009

That Smarts

Perhaps you haven't heard, but Sarah Palin's come out with a book. Palin doesn't mean that much to me either way, so I'm amazed at the interest--and venom--she inspires.

I read a review in The New York Times. (They were amazed the McCain campaign would pick such an inexperienced politician to run for Vice President--forgetting the presidential candidate on the other side shared the same problem). Apparently she spends a fair amount of time attacking the McCain campaign. I realize they may have held her back, and said nasty things about her, but this still seems kind of petty, as they're also the ones that made her famous.

A lot of opponents denounce her for her alleged lack of intelligence. While she performed dismally in interviews, I really don't know how smart or dumb she is. I'm sure I disagree with her on a lot of things, but that doesn't make her stupid. (You'd be surprised how many people make this elementary mistake.)

But the bigger point is there's an unspoken implication that the smarter you are, the better a leader you'll make; that if you're smart enough, you can figure out the solution to problems facing your consituents. While intelligence is a desirable trait in a leader (and you want a certain amount no matter what), it's trumped by ideology. "This candidate is really smart so no doubt she'll do the right thing" is a non sequitur. A brilliant leader would be a disaster if he believed, say, communism was the way to go. (Some might say if he were that brilliant, he wouldn't think that. See the paragraph above.)

I hope I'm not belaboring the point by noting people don't start fresh when dealing with a problem. They have underlying beliefs--about freedom, about government, about whatever--that help lead them to conclusions. Even if they surround themselves with experts who differ significantly (which is overrated, and usually doesn't happen anyway), they'll still most likely go with the opinions they have sympathy for.

Leaders either make good decisions or bad decisions. How they come to them doesn't matter to me. What matters is predicting which ones will make the good decisions. No one can be sure how well someone will lead until she's tested. But knowing how intelligent that person is (beyond a certain level) is less helpful than commonly believed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does smart even mean? Generally, everybody thinks their candidate or team is smart rather than picking the smart guy to be their candidate.

5:35 AM, November 17, 2009  

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