It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.’ Abraham Lincoln
‘Light is faster than sound. That is why some people look smart until they open their mouths to speak.’ Tammy Bruce.
What is intelligence? How is it some people are widely known to be intelligent, and some are not, despite the fact that their respective IQs remain unknown?
Intelligence doesn’t exist in isolation. Determining the relative intelligence of others is a social and survival necessity. There must be evidence of it, words and acts through which it is revealed and demonstrated, and not just once, but over time.
We think others intelligent not because they are poseurs–at least not for long–but because they do intelligent things, because they demonstrate wisdom and the ability to make correct, useful decisions, because not only their words, but their actions, are, in kind and accomplishment, better, greater, of more value than those of others, greater perhaps, than even our own.
Unfortunately, even demonstrably intelligent people sometimes fail in determining who is actually smart, and who merely has a reputation for intelligence. Caroline Glick is a fine writer, and obviously, a very intelligent woman. She’s demonstrated that over and over, for decades. What then, are we to make of this?
As an intelligent man, as the consequences of these four policy lines [his failures in Syria and elsewhere] began smacking him in the face, Obama could have been expected to change course. George W. Bush for instance changed his foreign policy stance from one of sparing internationalism before September 11 to democratic interventionism in its aftermath. And when his democratic interventionism failed in Iraq, he abandoned it in favor of a more traditional realist approach.
Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were also quick to change their policies when they were faced with evidence they had failed. Ronald Reagan changed his policy for bringing down the Soviet Union from one of confrontation to one based on cooperation when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.
In other words, unlike his recent predecessors Obama has never shifted gears. He has never found fault with his judgment. He has never revisited a decision.
It is easy to chalk this up to arrogance. Obama is certainly one of the most arrogant leaders the US has ever had – if not the most arrogant president in US history. But given his intelligence, it is hard to escape the impression that Obama’s epic arrogance, which makes it impossible for him to admit failure, is just as much of a style preference as a character trait. That is, arrogance, like coolness and ‘Spockian’ rationalism, is an attitude that he has adopted on purpose.
What that purpose may be is indicated by the consistent strands of his foreign policy. Obama’s belief in America’s moral turpitude, his eagerness to trample US credibility, reject traditional US policy goals; his refusal to see the dangers inherent in his radical policies or acknowledge their failures let alone accept responsibility for their failures, and his trampling of US allies while appeasing its enemies all point to Obama’s true doctrine.
Are the foreign policy debacles, failures that have cost countless lives and will cost countless more, about which Glick speaks evidence of intelligence? Perhaps she is writing with tongue in cheek, but remember that Barack Obama is the man who spent at least a million dollars, perhaps more, to keep his college transcripts hidden. Grades surely aren’t absolute proof of intelligence, but he often brags about his Harvard legal education. If those grades have no value, if they must be hidden, why do he, and his supporters, brag about their result?
He is a man whose only accomplishments have been election to public office. His only executive experience prior to becoming POTUS was as head of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which was supposed to improve educational outcomes for poor Chicago children. Internal Annenberg Foundation audits found that Mr. Obama burned through more than $150 million dollars in several years and accomplished nothing for Chicago school children or schools. What he did do was give away that money to radical leftist activists and causes. Is this indicative of intelligence?
Consider these quotes from a recent interview of Mr. Obama, provided by Powerline:
ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States. Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.’ Obama explained that climate change worries him in particular because ‘it is a political problem perfectly designed to repel government intervention. It involves every single country, and it is a comparatively slow-moving emergency, so there is always something seemingly more urgent on the agenda.
Climate change/global warming is perhaps the most lucrative scam ever perpetrated. It has nothing to do with preserving the Earth. We have no control over the climate or the weather. It is a massive wealth redistribution scheme, yet Barack Obama is directing the resources of our military, intelligence agencies, of America away from national security for this purpose. Is this intelligence?
Early in 2014, Obama’s intelligence advisers told him that ISIS was of marginal importance. According to administration officials, General Lloyd Austin, then the commander of Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the White House that the Islamic State was ‘a flash in the pan.’ This analysis led Obama, in an interview with The New Yorker, to describe the constellation of jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria as terrorism’s ‘jayvee team.’ (A spokesman for Austin told me, ‘At no time has General Austin ever considered ISIL a ‘flash in the pan’ phenomenon.’)
Is such a fundamental, ideologically driven miscalculation of a national security threat indicative of intellect, particularly in the wake of the ISIS attacks in France and Belgium? Is misrepresenting the views and advice of a subordinate the mark of a superior intellect?
Obama on ISIS (to Valerie Jarrett): ‘They’re not coming here to chop our heads off.
That would be a surprise to the woman beheaded in Moore, Oklahoma in September of 2014. Is this lack of attention to detail indicative of intelligence?
Goldberg adds: ‘Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do. Several years ago, he expressed to me his admiration for Israelis’ ‘resilience’ in the face of constant terrorism, and it is clear that he would like to see resilience replace panic in American society. Nevertheless, his advisers are fighting a constant rearguard action to keep Obama from placing terrorism in what he considers its ‘proper’ perspective, out of concern that he will seem insensitive to the fears of the American people.
Terrorism does indeed take fewer lives than the misfortunes Mr. Obama named–until Iran or other terrorist entities get nuclear weapons–but this argument is a classic Obama straw man. Car accidents, falls and bathtub accidents are just that: accidents. Many of the deaths and injuries by gunshot each year are accidental, and the rest are either suicides or common criminality. Israelis are “resilient”—though it’s difficult to imagine that Mr. Obama actually admires any Israeli—because they are a small nation actually surrounded by barbarians determined to murder every Jew. Despite their best efforts, Israelis die every day, murdered by terrorists. Is this what Mr. Obama seeks, an opportunity, through his negligence, to test American resilience in that way? Is this why he is anxious to import as many potential terrorists as possible? This is intelligence?
Some, including many that should know better, cite Mr. Obama’s supposed brilliance in public speaking as evidence of his stunning intellect. He is not, in fact, a good public speaker. He is, at best, a mediocre speaker, and a reasonably competent teleprompter reader, as I explained in Barack Obama: Rhetorical and Rational Malpractice, in 2014.
Any speaker will make the occasional mistake, particularly those who speak frequently. However, seldom has there been a speaker so prone to absolutely stunning gaffes so protected by the press from the consequences of those gaffes. On October 24, I posted a list of some of his more revealing and hilarious mistakes. In Mr. Obama’s case, it is truly hard to square the narrative that he is the most intelligent, intellectual man to ever inhabit the Oval Office with even this, scarcely exhaustive list. A man with a law degree from Harvard thinks “Austrian” is a language and Navy medics are “corpse-men?” His historical and general knowledge lapses call into question the quality and specifics of his vaunted Ivy League pedigree every bit as much as his carefully buried college history and transcripts. My favorite gaffe? Mr. Obama’s appreciation for our troops who made the ultimate sacrifice, many of whom he announced he saw in the audience that very day.
And in Pardon Me in 2014, I wrote:
Professor Kagan is right as well. There is a substantial element of ignorance, even rank stupidity in much that Mr. Obama has done and will do. This is a natural result of the arrogance and narcissism of a man that believes himself more brilliant than any of his advisors, and surrounds himself with people whose primary function is to praise him. When one cannot learn from mistakes because nothing he does can possibly be wrong, ignorance, error and stupidity become the inevitable drivers of policy.
And there is Mr. Obama’s bizarre Cuba trip, where he, embodying the term “useful idiot” like none before him, is being repeatedly outwitted by an elderly communist dictator, providing priceless propaganda photos and talking points for one of the few despotic, blood-drenched Communist regimes left in the world.
There is no doubt that Barack Obama has the feral cleverness of the con man, of the Chicago political Machine thug, but by what measure do we determine the brilliance, the unmatched intellect of Mr. Obama? The two legacy “accomplishments” his supporters trumpet—Obamacare and the Iran deal—are absolute debacles. He has romanced our worst enemies and abused our friends. No foreign nation trusts America under Barack Obama. The world, and America’s relations with it, are in far worse shape than they were before he became President. His college transcripts remain under lock and key. Where, exactly is Mr. Obama’s god-like intellect to be found, and how may it be quantified?
David Brooks found brilliance in Mr. Obama’s pant creases. Where do rational Americans find it?