Would We Prefer a Stupid President?

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Barack Obama is the president of the United States. He is also history's greatest snob. We know this because he likes spicy mustard on burgers, reads Richard Price novels, and pays attention to the NBA before the playoffs start. In his Washington Post column yesterday, former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson contended that public wariness of the "intellectual upper class -- conditioned to believe their superiority is founded not on wealth or lineage but on 'facts and science and argument'" is the reason behind the president's declining poll numbers. "[Obama] is an intellectual snob," Gerson declared.

Does Gerson really think people would prefer a stupid president to a snotty one? That's the question Politico's Michael Kinsley pondered in his column today. Unlike Gerson, Kinsley isn't convinced Barack Obama wants to close down Delta house, make the Karate Kid feel tiny and inferior, or take away America's caddy scholarships. Rather, Obama is just singularly bad at hiding the fact he thinks he's the smartest guy in the room. According to Kinsley, the fact that he is smart more than makes up for any indelicate moments. He writes:

Intellectual snobbery is bad politics.

If an “intellectual snob” is someone who secretly thinks he’s smarter than the average Joe, we’ve probably never had a president—even Harry Truman-- who wasn’t one. It’s true, I think, that Obama hides it worse than most. But having a president who thinks he’s smart, and shows it, is a small price to pay for having a president who really is smart. Or would people really rather have a stupid president?

Oh sure, there are people in places like Cambridge and Berkeley, still pining for Adlai, who think that being smart is everything—in life and in a president. It’s not. But it’s not nothing, either, let alone a negative.

So, in conclusion, Barack Obama will not be shutting down the Ghostbusters, at least not until he can study the EPA's findings at greater length.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.