Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Newt Gingrich Speaks Well. But Is He Smart?"

An excellent question by John McWhorter.

Gingrich is good at taking fairly standard conservative views and dressing them up in academic-sounding verbosity. I don't find that very impressive.

In this video, Glenn Loury and my mom, Ann Althouse, start out talking about Rick Perry's infamous moment of forgetfulness, but then broaden the topic to how much intelligence matters in a president:

The fact that there are many smart people who shouldn't be president is true but beside the point. Intelligence isn't a sufficient condition for being a good president, but it's a necessary condition. In other words, a smart president might be mediocre, but a dumb president isn't going to be good. Another example of a necessary-but-not-sufficient condition: I wouldn't vote for a presidential candidate who can't speak English or who can't read. Still, most literate English-speakers aren't qualified to be president. Here's a theme I plan to return to in a future post: we're observing a job application process, and we (Americans) get to hire someone for the job. Most job requirements aren't guarantees of doing a good job, but they're still requirements.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I like how McW says that Gingrich "speaks well." That's the classic condescending white liberal praise upon encountering an educated black person.

John Althouse Cohen said...

McWhorter himself has pointed this out, saying people praised Colin Powell's intelligence in a way they wouldn't do with Bill Clinton.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

And yet McW does something similar in giving too much credit for logic to an ebonics-speaking kid in the article you link to; and he short-shrifts the logic of the relatively articulate professor with whom the kid is contrasted.