1981: Conan the Barbarian is released, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. At the end of the movie, Conan is asked what is best in life. He replies, "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."
Flash forward to 2003. Enemies crushed? Check. Lamentation of women? Check.
In the final days of the California recall, with Governor Schwarzenegger seeming less a fevered nightmare and more a possible reality, a litany of charges came out suggesting he fell somewhere between being guilty of a wandering eye, and single-handedly setting male-female relations back to the Stone Age, with men clubbing women over the heads and dragging them back to their caves by the hair.
Such accusations (many of which I'm sure are true) of course beg a comparison with Bill Clinton, who would surprise no one if he took the opposite course of Schwarzenegger and went from politician to movie star (American Pie 4?), if not all the way to Mr. Universe. For some reason though, Clinton, for all his harassment going back decades, was beloved by organizations such as NOW. The difference?
"The difference is that Clinton was so brilliant. If Arnold was this brilliant pol and had this thing about inappropriate behavior, we'd figure a way of getting around it," said Patricia Foulkrod, a Codepink activist and film producer.
At least she's honest. It was okay for Clinton because he was so brilliant, but Arnold's a dumb ox with a thick accent and a political affiliation with the GOP. Isn't there something twisted about this? Shouldn't something that is wrong still be wrong regardless of IQ? Of course, and Foulkrod knows this. That's the twisted part.
But somehow modern liberalism has given intelligence ultimate value. Nothing else matters and everything else is relative. Unless you are actively trying to prove your mental worth by disproving everyone who has come before you, unless you're arguing that they all had it wrong but miracle of miracles, you figured it out, you might as well be sitting around making grunting noises, hitting others on the head with rocks and staring in amazement at the magic of fire. If it's new, if it's bold, if it hasn't been tried before, it simply must be tried! It's brilliant! It could be revolutionary!
This isn't to mock intelligence or to argue the merits of a mediocre mind, but instead to question why smarts have become the excuse that privilege used to be. We used to wink at bosses and presidents who behaved inappropriately because they were powerful and privileged and boys will be boys and so on. Now, we let them off because they're brilliant.
Intelligence is crucial, but it isn't easy to measure intelligence in our elected officials, so we use signals, indicators that give us a clue. We stereotype. One of the signals we use is party affiliation. Democrats get the benefit of the doubt over Republicans. This isn't necessarily wrong-Republicans are more interested in promoting candidates who will uphold traditional, time-tested policies. Their candidates are therefore less likely to be on the cutting edge of new ideas.
Over time, Democrats have come to be seen as members of the 'intelligent' party. Their ideas are well progressive, regardless of whether their changes truly bring progress.
At the same time, those who argue that the best candidate is the most intelligent candidate recoil in horror at the suggestion that we assess people's IQ via a test, so that we would actually have some measurement of their intellectual ability. The results of tests like the SATs could then be used for admission to colleges and universities! No no no. The tests are biased. Well, okay, but certainly we're measuring our candidates intelligence some way?
And we do. We measure intelligence through policy. Gun control is smarter than no gun control. Abortion is more progressive than no abortion. Higher taxes are more socially just and therefore more enlightened than lower taxes.
Bill Clinton is indeed a smart man, not just for his academic achievements, but for the manner in which he can read people and understand what they want and need to hear. However, he achieved 'brilliant' status amongst his supporters for his liberalism. Show me a member of the environmental lobby who may disagree on policy but thinks George Bush is intelligent and I'll show you someone who's going to lose his status as a member in good standing of the Sierra Club.
I'm no fan of recalls, and I'm wary of a Guh-vah-nay-tah Ah-nold. There
is no way or reason to defend his inappropriate actions, just as there
shouldn't have been a way to defend Clinton's. I'm not even surprised
that some would ignore what is inconvenient for the advancement of their
politics. Both parties do that. The distressing part is the logic that
the intelligent must always be right and more pure. By my last count,
there were about 5,000 movies about evil geniuses making this point. As
we make the personal more and more political, we risk driving out the
best candidates of both parties, most of whom are intelligent but know
that there is more to governing than what amounts to public perception.