Brains, Not $Bucks$ and Brawn

Wells Hill Road in Lakeville

This time of year, the landscape is always dotted with political lawn signs. Some are rather mundane (“Roraback: Proven Leadership You Can Trust”); others, such as the doozey pictured at left, are obvious attempts to paint the opponent in an unfavorable light by associating her with something people don’t like.

I am always amused when I see this kind of political message: “My candidate is smarter than yours.” Now, I would ask you: how important is it that a candidate for U.S. Senate have a law degree from Yale, as Dick Blumenthal does?

Whenever it’s employed, this kind of tactic is almost always the domain of liberals. Progressives have a proud intellectual tradition in this country. And, truth be told, there are probably a lot more Ph.Ds walking around who subscribe to that political philosophy than to, say, the Tea Party nostrum.

But how much brains does it actually take to be a U.S. senator? Obviously, you don’t want a know-nothing in that job (e.g. Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell). However, the list of congressmen, senators and presidents who succeeded in their jobs without appearing at a Mensa meeting is also long and proud.

To name a few recent ones (and, in the realm of legislators, I will limit myself to Democrats since candidates for those offices are making this charge in Connecticut): Teddy Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. The list of presidents is even more impressive: Abraham Lincoln, whose formal education consisted of approximately 18 months of classes from several itinerant teachers; Franklin Roosevelt, whom Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously characterized at the time of his inauguration in 1933, as having “a second-rate intellect, but a first-class temperament;” Ronald Reagan, who graduated in the bottom half of his class at some place called Eureka College.

Here’s what you need to be a successful senator: a compelling vision; good communication skills and the ability to bring people along with you. And then you need to manage a small office, sit on some committees and vote. You need many of the same qualities to be a good president. Oh yeah, and for presidents, it helps if you can make your opponents fear you. Why don’t liberals understand that it’s not rocket science? Or are they merely striking a pose?

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  • VictimsRevenge

    There’s a difference between smart and intelligent. Smart is how quickly you can put things together in your mind to come up with the correct conclusion. Intelligence is the accumulation of knowledge that you’ve acquired through the years, and managed to retain. Being super smart or overly intelligent is not as important as good judgment, and common sense, especially where a politician is concerned. Also, there’s another aspect to consider, most people that are super smart or overly intelligent are usually different from the rest of us and have a hard time relating to the regular folks because their thought process works at a different level than the majority of the population, so more often than not they have a difficult time fitting in, or being accepted. It’s fairly obvious to me that Linda McMahon is considerably brighter than Richard Blumenthal, and she seems to be more connected, where as he seems to be detached from the mainstream working class. Richard Blumenthal may have a better education than Linda McMahon, but she’s sharp and she comes across as level headed, strong, and sincere. If you can see through the fear and smear tactics that the Democrats utilize, then hopefully you’ll make the right choice on Election Day.

  • Terry Cowgill

    I would mostly agree with your analysis except for two things: I wouldn't say McMahon is "considerably brighter" than Blumenthal. I'd call it a dead heat there. McMahon built a business empire from scratch. That takes lots of savvy and brains, to be sure. I've met and interviewed Blumenthal three times and he is also very smart, but as you noted, in a different way.Also, I don't think the Dems have a monopoly on "fear and smear tactics." Step back and take an objective look at the campaign commercials. Whew!

  • Michael J Flint

    One of the most important things that HAS NOT been mentioned here is a thing called COMMON SENSE.A person can be SMART (via books or via street), a person can have a wall full of degrees … If one does not have COMMON SENSE then all of that is rendered useless.I know many people who are not well educated but have great powers of reasoning due to their COMMON SENSE.BTW Mr. Cowgill … I am surprised by your comment about Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell! I believe they are both very intelligent and in fact do have COMMON SENSE.They both have followings and are able to mobilize people for a cause. One has run for Vice President and the other was elected at primary to be the US Senate candidate. This is not something that is accomplished by 'stupid' people.It appears that you are at times sipping from the Kool-Aid pool and making comments that are NOT based in the real world.Tsk Tsk!

  • Anonymous

    All of this is predicated on "if"s.If Sarah Palin is actually taking a run at the presidency, then her intelligence is flawed. The negatives run so high for her as a candidate, yet she does nothing but fan the same base. That's actually not intelligent or smart. If Christine O'Donnell is intelligent, she wouldn't have called out the national Republican Party for not supporting her. She's down 20 points and blaming them.See, the thing is with common sense is that you've got to luck at the person telling you what common sense is.Let's just be cynical and be done with it. The political movement in this country is now beautifully driven by your use of the media to sell your product. Palin is more than smart enough to know a cash cow when she sees it. She is raking it in hand over fist- people will pat to see her. What is her common sense move there? One she does well? Give the people exactly what they want. Cold, calculating smart one. Scary as hell though… Christine O'Donnell is like the college co-ed who's so damn cute, but well over the Mendoza line for cute-crazy. I will give her this. She can persevere. She's spent a lifetime with people saying she's nuts- and still smiling! Also scary.And let us not get started on Sharron Angle- do you think she added an "r" to her name to seem unrelated to Ariel Sharon?