Thursday, November 06, 2008

Too clever to be president?

I know many readers - particularly those on the other side of the Atlantic - were looking for WARTE to take a clearly defined position on the outcome of the US presidential election. Would this highly influential blog lend its support to the learned, pragmatic, yet inspirational Barack Obama? Or would it instead opt for the eccentric, geriatric Vietnam vet and self-styled maverick, John McCain, and his Girl Wonder - the moose-munching Governor Palin who believes that humanity once shared the earth with the dinosaurs.

In the end, I decided not to interfere in what must be a decision for American citizens alone. But let's put it this way. They managed to get it right on this occasion. The absence of my personal endorsement didn't seem to make a fundamental difference to the result.

One of the most surprising aspects of this election has been the victory of a candidate who is a fairly unashamed intellectual. In recent times, the Americans have opted for Republican Presidents with few intellectual pretensions (Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr and his son) or elected Democrats who have gone out of their way to hide their book learning. Jimmy Carter is better known as a Georgian peanut farmer than the physicist and philosopher he actually is. Bill Clinton cultivated a folksy, down-at-home kind of image - carefully disguising his academic track record as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and an alumnus of Yale Law School.

I thought the basic rule was that it was ok to be clever, provided you didn't show it too much. Obama is ripping up the rulebook with his earnest press conferences and willingness to reflect publicly on the important issues of the day. When asked about the puppy he promised his kids, we had a minute's sober contemplation of the various options and the need to avoid a breed that triggered daughter Malia's allergies. This is rather endearing in the honeymoon period, but might make folk a little weary in the longer term.

If Obama is setting a trend and cerebral politics is making a comeback, the bookies must be currently slashing the odds on David Milliband making it to 10 Downing Street.

1 comment:

  1. One of the odd side-effects of the W Presidency was the impact it had upon reassessing Reagan's term of office. Spitting Image would portray him as almost retardedly stupid, yet alongside Bush Jr he seems a towering intellectual, looking back.