General Powell, next time go easy on the i-word, please

General Colin Powell issued yesterday his endorsement of candidate Obama in the upcoming US presidential election. Which is interesting, but not the zenith of credibility or even good judgment: you may remember seeing Powell wheeled out by Bush, Cheney and Rice to testify before Congress that Saddam Hussein’s regime posed some sort of danger to the United States – he looked like a man whose arm was being painfully twisted behind his back so that he would toe the party line on the necessity and desirability of another invasion.

And this time, while he certainly looked more like he’s speaking his mind, his choice of words was odd. Very odd. Consider the following reports:

  • Powell praised Obama’s “steadiness,” his “depth of intellectual curiosity” and his “intellectual vigor.”
  • He praised Obama’s “calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach to problem solving.

Oh man. That’s three too many utterings of “intellectual”. The Republicans are going to have a field day.

Of course, factually Powell is right. One doesn’t get through Harvard Law School without a decently evolved cerebral cortex, and as an intellectual Obama probably towers among his generation of politicians, even if that’s not saying much (it doesn’t take much to look and sound like Karl Popper, in comparison with Sarah Palin). But voters rarely vote with their cerebral cortex: they vote with their reptile brain.

Berlusconi was voted into power, repeatedly (quod erat demonstrandum). Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was voted into power.

Gordon Brown, who has refrained from calling an election, was terribly unpopular (in contrast with the congenial Tony Blair) and only regained ground in the polls in the last few weeks, when it became evident that some intellect would actually be of use in rolling out a rescue plan for the financial system.

So, future endorsers of Candidate Obama: please endorse him all you want, but don’t highlight any of his intellectual vigor or intellectual problem-solving approach. Congress has passed the rescue package, and most Americans want to get on with their lives. Please carefully consider your choice of words when endorsing your candidate: you don’t want to put the final nails in the coffin of a potentially transformative U.S. presidency.

One thought on “General Powell, next time go easy on the i-word, please

  1. Very good points, though I can relate to his frustration with the anti-intellectual tone and the temptation to counter it. Newsweek editor, Meacham, said it well, I thought, “… the vice presidency of the United States in any age, but especially in an age of terror, should not be a slot for the proudly mediocre.” Bugs the heck out of me when someone calls someone else “average” but bothers me even more when someone calls himself or herself average. First, there is no such thing as an average person, we all have something special about us. Second….

    Wait, I better stop now before I get on a roll.

    Here’s the editorial:

    ps One doesn’t have to agree with her policies or values or actions to see that Sarah Palin is anything but average.

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