Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Alcoholic and the Torture Victim


A diverse country of 300 million people, continental in scale, the United States is full of talented individuals. So why was a dullard like George W. Bush put in the White House? A man who challenged the nation with such penetrating questions as, "Is our children learning?" A man who assured us, "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." A man who told Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, "Germany is important." A man who declared to President Lula, "Wow! Brazil is big." That remains a mystery. But some day, with the benefit of hindsight, our country may come to realize, as Bush himself once observed, "people that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."
Fortunately, 2008 brings a new opportunity to select a national leader. Will Americans seek a person with the innate intelligence and cultivated wisdom to do the job properly? The Republicans think not. Their candidate, John Sidney McCain III, graduated from college with a class rank of 894 out of 899 students. This confirms, in spades, the reason McCain comes across as so lackluster and uninformative in his public remarks: he simply is not very smart.

Lack of intelligence in the White House impedes good policymaking, as has been amply demonstrated by George W. Bush. But what about other obvious warning signs in a presidential candidate? In my view, it always was clear that nobody who was an active alcoholic until age 40, as Bush was, should be voted into the presidency. It is welcome news whenever a problem drinker gives up the bottle, but that does not mean that the ex-drinker should go on to lead the entire nation. Clearly, decades of inebriation is poor preparation for such a task.

In McCain's case, his status as someone who was tortured during the Vietnam War gives great pause. How terrible that any human being is ever abused, and how difficult the recovery from such a harrowing experience must be. But McCain's five years in a POW camp, and the torture he endured there, are hardly solid preparation for taking the helm of the United States of America. America desperately needs a smart, steady hand in Washington. Any presidential candidate whose resume features a black hole in the middle, no matter how unfortunately come by, should be turned away. Let those wrestling with awful ghosts do so far from the halls of power.


Richard Cretan said...

Well said, Michael.

McCain looks and sounds nuttier than General Buck Turgid!

My guess is his electability is in direct proportion to his craziness. That's a function of the sheer numbers of the Suckiest Generation as well as the notorious fickleness of young voters (idealism rarely gets you to the polls on election day until you're old enough to have seen it mangled by "pragmatism").

POTUS 44, leer and all.

Michael Blaine said...

Well, the more I see of McCain, the more repellent he becomes.

jonathan liedl said...

You forget to mention a slight subtlety. John McCain did not graduate 894 out of 899 at Central Lakes Community College, he graduated 894 out of 899 at the United States Naval Academy, one the nation's most reputable and academically rigorous institutions. You base McCain's lack of intelligence entirely on his apparently poor performance, without taking into account whom he was competing against: some of America's brightest minds. In doing so, not only is your argument fallacious, but you arrogantly slap our service academies across the face. You seem to believe that the Naval Academy and other institutions like it are in the business of accepting and graduating individuals who are "simply not very smart." Let me ask you, Michael, where did you graduate from? Where's your acceptance letter or diploma from the Naval Academy? Who are you to judge McCain's intelligence, honestly? Your writings drip with the same patronizing and condescending elitist tone that is exemplified by Obama, and is the reason why this "not very smart" individual will be in the Whitehouse come 2009.

Michael Blaine said...


There is nothing subtle about graduating in the bottom one percent of your class, regardless of the institution.

Faced with academic cometition, McCain foundered. It's just that simple.

Jonathan Liedl said...

Michael, the institution in question is extremely relevant. You say that McCain foundered when faced with academic competition. Tell me, would he have been ranked so poorly if he had attended a less rigorous institution, with student body that was not as intelligent as the one found at the Naval Academy? Most likely, yes.

Furthermore, as I stated before, you equate intelligence to how well one does in a controlled and rigidly constructed academic environment. In fact, your entire argument that John McCain is "simply not very smart" is based on the fact that he possessed such a base ranking at his college. However, history is full to the brim with extraordinary intellectuals who failed in structured academic arenas, and by your standards, are not smart. Examples include Bill Gates and Thomas Edison. I am, by no means, arguing that John McCain is of the same intellectual ilk as the aforementioned gentlemen. However, I am certainly stating that your assessment of intelligence is faulty, given the fact that it rests on one criterion which has been proven to be an incomplete measurement of true intelligence.

As they say, your IQ doesn't measure how smart you are, it measures how good you are at taking the IQ test. To call John McCain "not very smart" because he had a low class rank at the Naval Academy is a ridiculous and arrogant argument, based on a piece of data that does little to substantiate it.

Michael Blaine said...

Well, Jonathan, since you don't believe that one's academic record during his four years as an undergraduate is a legitimate yardstick, maybe you can tell us all what "true intelligence" is, and how we can measure it in the case of McCain.

jonathan liedl said...

I don't need to provide an elaborate counter argument proving that McCain is above average intelligence in order to refute your claim that he is "not very smart". The fact is, your argument is fallacious. Your statement that McCain is not intelligent because he graduated at the bottom of his class is faulty logic, as I believe I have shown, and therefore your argument is crap. I am not necessarily trying to persuade you that McCain is intelligent, I am just encouraging you to present more thoughtful and logic-driven arguments in the future.

jl said...

Oh, and pardon me. In my second comment on this page, the last word of the first paragraph should be "no."

My apologies.

Michael Blaine said...


I have said that presidential candidate McCain sounds dumb, and have pointed to the fact that he graduated in the bottom one percent of his college class as evidence that indeed he suffers from a lack of brains.

You have asserted that McCain is not stupid and have pointed to nothing.

Whose argument is devoid of thoughtfulness and logic?

JL said...


Please be more analytical in your approach. Let's review:

You made a case that McCain was not intelligent. To quote, that "he is simply not very smart." You base your claim on the fact that a) his orations are "lackluster" and he "sounds dumb" and b) that he graduated in the bottom one percent of his class.

Firstly, claim a) is based entirely on opinion, so in a truly objective and logically sound argument, it is not applicable. In fact, I find McCain a compelling speaker, far more "informative" than the likes of Obama (this statement isn't meant to argue that McCain is intelligent, simply to point out that your opinion of McCain's speaking abilities cannot substantiate a thoughtful and logic-driven argument).

This leaves claim b) which I believe, in my previous posts, I have shown to be an incomplete piece of supporting data, at least when considered independently.

With this being said, I think it's evident that you have no factual, non-objective data to support your argument that John McCain is an idiot.

My point has never been that John McCain is not stupid, it has simply been that your argument that McCain is stupid is unsubstantiated and uncalled for. I don't need to prove some other point in order to refute your argument. Here's an analogy, Michael, although I'll admit it isn't a perfect parallel. However, I believe it does get the point across:

If you approach me and claim that a soccer ball is a cube, I can go to my dictionary, read that a cube is a six faced 3-dimensional object with equal measurements in height, width, and length, and accurately tell you that your soccer ball is not a cube. It is not necessary for me to prove what geometric shape the soccer ball is in order to refute your claim. I simply need to prove the factuality of your original claim wrong.

Now let's transfuse the principles of the above argument into our little discourse. You claim that McCain is not intelligent because he is a bad speaker and had a low rank in college. I analyze your argument, and determine that it is built on subjective opinion and data which is, at best, relevant only in conjunction with other information, and is therefore not a credible point. With this in mind, I inform you that your argument is not factual, and not logically based. It is not necessary for me to provide you with a sound alternative in order to refute your argument. If you still don't understand this, please feel free to say so.

Michael Blaine said...


It would be helpful, if only for yourself, if you could explain why the candidate you support for president has the intelligence required to properly head our nation's government.

In my view, John McCain is too old, too ignorant on economic and countless other matters, and too bellicose to make anything but a disastrous president. (McCain may also have been rendered emotionally disabled in Vietnam. Why take the chance?)

It can easily be argued that the smartest thing the guy has ever done is marry a rich woman.

JL said...


Haha, well I'd argue that that's a very smart move indeed, especially considering she's smoking hot as well as loaded.

I assure you, I do have my reasons why I support John McCain and, equally as importantly, I am against electing Obama. In fact, I wrote up a pretty lengthy response that summed why I'm a "McCanianc" and why i don't think his age, admitted lack of expertise in the arena of economics, or perceived desire to nuke the world are substantial detriments to his candidacy and his potential for success as our next president. Unfortunately, my computer turned off before I could submit my ramblings and it is now gone. As you may know, the worst feeling is retyping something and knowing that you forgot something/didn't present it in an equally compelling fashion, so I choose not to retype it.

I will share with you one reason why I will be voting/supporting Mr. McCain this election year. Abortion. You may laugh and scoff at me, or consider me some backwards, uneducated, religious nut who can't think for himself. You may consider abortion a petty issue with no real relevance, at least compared to "The Economy" or "The War." I respectfully disagree. I am Catholic, not an "Easter/Christmas" Catholic but a "My Parents Made Me 'Altar Boy' Until I Graduated From High School" Catholic. Believe it or not though, I feel like my position on abortion is not religiously rooted, but is substantiated by biology. I don't need the Pope to tell me that a 2 week young fetus is alive. Anyway, I could never vote for a candidate that openly supports the continued extermination of human life in the name of "choice." Bull-shit. McCain is Pro-Life, and it also doesn't hurt that he shares nearly all of my other political views (at least far more than Obama), is a seasoned veteran in world-affairs, and is by far the best candidate for bridging the gap and ending the partisan grid-lock (ironically, this is an item that McCain doesn't stress enough, and Obama, the most liberal senator in DC, has built his campaign upon).

Well that about sums it up. Oh, and regarding McCain's age: a little tid bit that, judging by your perceived political persuasion, will do little to validate a 70ish president in your eyes, but does just that in mine: Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was inaugurated, only two years younger than McCain will be when he's sworn in.

Michael Blaine said...


Your last comment was more thoughtful than I might have expected.

Thank you for it.

I voted for Reagan in '84, but I've since grown up politically.

You may, too, someday.


Louis J. Concierge said...

I think the confusion here lies in mistaking what JL's original point was. I don't think it was that "McCain is NOT dumb!" but rather that the fact of his academic standing wasn't sufficient evidence to prove that he IS dumb. In other words, he may well be stupid, but academic standing at the Naval Academy is insufficient data to come to a definitive conclusion. At least I think that was his point.

Much was made, and is still being made, of Bush's academic standing being one of the proofs of his intelligence, or lack thereof. The mainstream media brought it up over and over again, ad nauseum. Strangely enough, W's opponents both times he ran for office escaped this airtight proof of their stupidity being aired for all to see.

Odd, isn't it, that Al Gore's "C" average at an ivy league university or the fact that he flunked 5 of 8 classes at divinity school was never broached and held in evidence to prove his stupidity? Gore's dullness in public speaking, the wooden demeanor and the frequent exasperation he suffered during debates was not because he was misunderstood or unappreciated. It's because he is as dumb as a post, and not even the Clintonesque visits he and his daughters made on various late night shows could spin it away.

Unfortunately, in 2000, the nominees for both parties were stupid. Only Bush got taken to task for it, but his dyslexic delivery made it even worse. I wonder, would we have been better off if a dullard like Al Gore would have been in office to deal with the economic disaster that Clinton left in his wake? Not to mention dealing with the aftermath of the Al Quaida cells, trained and made ready during Clinton's watch, when they unhatched their plan on 9/11? Which academic dullard, which challenged public speaker would have been better at dealing with all of that? The C average brain of Al Gore or of George W Bush?

Judging from public speaking and academic grades, which are the two characteristics of interest used to judge a president's intellect and fitness for office in the original post, for us to have either Gore or Bush in office would have left us with an idiot in charge.

The second time W ran for office he was up against Kerry, another C average college student. Which dullard would have been better, considering academic standing alone?

I used to think I knew better, but now I'm not so sure anymore. I'm likely to vote this next election for the man who I think is LESS likely to send our troops into Iran or Myanmar or wherever else pops up later. I think McCain is a poor choice, but that leaves me with choosing either Clinton or Obama.

Can I just not vote? Is there a reset button here someplace for do-overs? The evidence is huge that mankind is just plain unable to govern himself effectively for any length of time. For me it all boils down to one issue now: who is likely to do us the least harm?

Michael Blaine said...

Thanks for the comment, Louis. Unfortunately, I think your Hippocratic approach to voting may be the best we can do. MB.

Louis J. Concierge said...

Hey, is it me, or does McCain remind anyone of H. Ross Perot?

Can you imagine if that man made it into office? What a spectacle that would have been.