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Amazed And Amused all the morons who proclaimed what a great pick Joe Biden was for Barack Obama (particularly moron-in-chief Chuck Hagel). Here, here and here are my own thoughts at the time.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Confusing glibness with intelligence:

The meme that has arisen that Sarah Palin isn't smart enough to be Vice-President (and potentially President) strikes me as quite implausible. Focusing on the big picture: she has been an extraordinarily successful governor with substantial policy accomplishments in a short time, she has an 85% approval rating, and she knocked off an incumbent and former governor to be elected. And, as I've previously discussed, based on my experience working with and in government, being governor of a state is an extremely difficult job, much more difficult than being a Senator (for instance). Sure there are some things that people are picking at, such as the trooper story or what really happened with the Bridge to Nowhere--but none of those things raise any doubt about her intellect or ability. With respect to the issues to which she has set herself to mastering and implementing, and the most important issues for Alaska, by all accounts she has an extremely strong understanding and mastery of the issues. It is simply not plausible to believe that she is dumb any more than it was credible that Ronald Reagan was dumb back when the establishment said the same thing about him.

Put another way, to believe the view that Sarah Palin is unintelligent you would have to have an awfully low opinion of the voters of Alaska and the overwhelming majority of Alaskans who approve of her job as governor. It seems much more plausible to me that when you are dealing with someone who has an impressive record of accomplishment as governor, won a couple of very tough elections, and has hugely high approval ratings, there should be a strong presumption that the person is capable and intelligent. And it is very difficult to hide if you are an incompetent governor (unlike being in the Senate, for instance). Alternatively, you would have to believe that she is simultaneously dumb yet so smart that she can fool the voters of Alaska into not realizing how dumb she is. There are probably some people out there who do believe that Alaskans are that dumb, but that's not who I'm thinking of. And when it comes to the issues that Palin has dedicated herself to mastering and acting on, such as energy policy, there seems to be little doubt that she understands quite well what she is doing.

Emphasis mine.


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Bob wrote:

I think this comment is on-topic, but just delete it if it isn't and you don't like it.

Haven't most new presidents been tested in the way that Biden described? Bush had the "spy plane" incident in China, and 9/11, although perhaps 9/11 is a special case. My brain doesn't index historical events this way, so I need help here. (Or maybe there are already liberal talking points on this subject, but I haven't looked, because this blog is so much fun.)

Bill Maron wrote:

The point is Bob, Biden has been hiding in the Senate for years and Obama never even bothered to show up. Palin had no choice but to sink or swim and swim she did. She has results. Biden has gaffes. Remember also, every one talks about how great Kennedy was and he failed his test and we almost had Armageddon.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Haven't most new presidents been tested in the way that Biden described?

Yes, but it's a matter of degree, and what the test is and who administers it. I don't think that Vlad Putin, for example is likely to "test" John McCain. And in fact, McCain is one of the least likely people to be "tested," because pretty much everyone knows how he'll respond.

And Kennedy's "test" when he went to meet with Khrushchev was disastrous, resulting in the Cuban missile crisis.

Bob wrote:

(I posted my comment before the Palin-related addition to this blog post. I was guessing at what Rand was amazed and amused about.)

Rand Simberg wrote:

That was what I was amazed and amused about.

Jay Manifold wrote:

Considering that the alternatives in 1960 were Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, it is hard to imagine a worse outcome than what actually happened. With either Nixon or LBJ, there would have been no Berlin Wall, no Cuban Missile Crisis, a brief and victorious conflict (if any) in Vietnam, and very likely liberalization of the Soviet Union without the 21 years of Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko. Could JFK have been the worst President of the 20th century?

II wrote:

Clearly Jay deduces right. JFK was the worstest. Only one worser was FDR.

Jonathan wrote:

Is this what John Kerry meant by "pass the global test"?

Rand Simberg wrote:

Lookee here the Corner has given up

Huh? That link doesn't mean what you apparently think it means...

Bill Maron wrote:

II you are a slimy POS but you are close about FDR. He is the closest we came to a dictatorship and he instituted some of the most socialist programs our country has ever seen.

Rand Simberg wrote:

He is the closest we came to a dictatorship

Actually, Wilson was worse in that regard, but FDR was pretty bad. They were both classical fascists.

Karl Hallowell wrote:

Considering that the alternatives in 1960 were Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, it is hard to imagine a worse outcome than what actually happened. With either Nixon or LBJ, there would have been no Berlin Wall, no Cuban Missile Crisis, a brief and victorious conflict (if any) in Vietnam, and very likely liberalization of the Soviet Union without the 21 years of Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko. Could JFK have been the worst President of the 20th century?

Jay, I don't buy that. Kennedy can be held partially responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis and some of the negative consequences of interactions with the USSR in the early 60's. But my take is that Kruschev would have implemented the Berlin Wall no matter who was president. As I see it, Kruschev was driven by an increasingly unstable political situation and construction of the Berlin Wall was low lying fruit. Still a more effective president would have scored some diplomatic and propaganda victories off of the USSR's violation of treaty.

Further, the failure of the war in Vietnam was clearly due to Johnson and Nixon. Kennedy did the first missteps (including alienating North Vietnam in the early 60's). But Johnson was the president who conducted the war and lead to the untenable position that Nixon came to. Nixon in turn drew the war out for another six years without any gain for the US. His actions also contributed to the genocide in Cambodia.

Given their mediocre performance, if either had been elected in 1960, I imagine things would have been much as they turned out, with the communists in control of Vietnam. What could have gone differently is that North Vietnam could have been more independent of China and the USSR, like Yugoslavia. That would have gone a significant way to thwarting the communist "domino effect" in Southeast Asia.

Continuing on, it's sheer fantasy to assume the USSR would have "liberalized" earlier than it did. Kruschev was already weakening by 1960. All a more competent president would have done is hasten the transition to Brezhnev.

Carl Pham wrote:

Karl, I think a case can also be made that JFK by himself was not as bad as in combination with Eisenhower and Nixon just preceeeding him. The Eisenhower Administration pressed the Soviets very hard, for example by secretly flying sorties of nuclear bombers over Moscow, a flagrant act of war that must have positively freaked the normally paranoid enough Russians. They worked frantically hard on their missile tech, including antiaircraft missiles, for good reason. Plus the restlessness in Easter Europe, e.g. Hungary in '56, must have made them feel like a bear at bay.

Then along comes the newbie, and he looks like a pretty boy pushover whose Daddy bought him the office. Time to get some of our back, huh?

Also, I think the world is still waiting for the liberalization of Russia, so we really don't know what will eventually prove the key.

Also also, I think Johnson deserves way more of the blame for Vietnam than Nixon, who along with Creighton Abrams seems to have had a strategy that, like the similar Bush/Petraeus strategy, would've worked, had their "surge" been deployed earlier. As it was, Johnson and Westmoreland fucked up the war in Vietnam so badly that by 1969 when he took office Nixon had very little political support for it at home. Arguably, he did the best he could, although in hindsight a frank cut 'n' run in the spring of '69 would have given the same result at much lower cost.

But I agree JFK bears very little blame, and I also agree Nixon's election would not have changed things in the USSR very much. At least, not by itself. But on the other hand, it's impossible to see LBJ getting elected without being JFK's heir -- and then what? Assuming Nixon dumped the Vietnam war as picayune, and was able to exploit the Sino-Soviet split and the ripening Chinese Great Leap Forward disaster in the early 60s, who knows what he might have achieved in eight long years? Perhaps some retrenchment of the Soviets in southeastern Europe, e.g. a successful Prague spring, a liberation of Hungary and the Balkans, much earlier liberalization in Greece. (I can't see the Soviets pulling out of East Germany in the 60s under any circumstances.) And whoever succeeded Nixon in 1969, although likely a Democrat, I can't see it being a McGovern/Carter wing Democrat -- more likely a Scoop Jackson/Truman Democrat, who would have been just as tough on the Soviets. While I don't think that would have changed the USSR at all, I think the lack of an extended period of what looked like decadent decline and weakness in the United States might have had a profound influence on the rest of the world, then pondering the relative advantages of the two political systems. Africa might have been spared the misery of Afrosocialism! The Middle East might have escaped Baathism! That's worth millions of lives right there. The Chinese Communist Party might have imploded when Mao died. Who knows? I can't see the citadel of the USSR going down, but I can easily see it embattled behind a much narrower moat of client states.

Further, deprived of the Vietnam War as a recruiting tool, would the asinine Pied Pipers of the Flower Power generation have been so successful at getting their peers to invest so much of their identities in the narcissist memes we've come to identify with the boomer generation? That would be a big change.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on October 21, 2008 12:15 PM.

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