The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

That's how they choose their nominees in these here parts...

I've always been a little annoyed by the insistence that America is all about anti-intellectualism. Which isn't to say that the whole argument is nonsense, but you know-- it makes sense that Europeans would traditionally be much more aware of current events in neighboring countries than we would. Then there's our cultural dominance of the last century or so. Sure, I think it would be great if the culture as a whole put more of a premium on smartiness. But it isn't all that bad.

Then there's the GOP. If you remember the fawning endorsements he was getting from American conservatives as a whole back in '99, you also remember why some of us have had such a hard time with the whole business. His only "asset" had absolutely nothing to do with job competency (and, of course, he's never handled a job competently). In fact, goofy affability is something we usually associate with teenage stoners, not successful leaders. But that was what Reagan had lots of, along with his actor's delivery of lines. And in the later years of his presidency, there was open speculation that he was senile. Bush's main asset was supposed to be goofy affability-- or in the words of pundits and what passes for journalists these days, "folksy charm"-- and he's managed to out-fiasco Reagan on every front.

In spite of all this evidence that folksy charm doesn't automatically make you Ben Franklin, it's already underway again with pretend veteran, pretend 'common man,' and consummate bullshitter best known for having everything in life handed to him.

Fred Thompson has made much of his role 30 years ago as a young Senate lawyer helping to lead the investigation of the Watergate scandal and President Richard Nixon.

But a much different, less valiant picture of Thompson emerges from listening to the White House audiotapes made at the time, as President Nixon plotted strategy with his aides in the Oval Office.

Thompson's job on the Watergate committee was to lead the Republican side of the investigation. He was appointed by his mentor, Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee, who is now co-chair of Thompson's 2008 presidential bid. . . .

In this May 1973 recording, he shared his concern with then-chief of staff Alexander Haig.

"He's talking to Fred Thompson. I said you're not --," Haig begins.

"Oh sh--, he's dumb as hell. Fred Thompson," Nixon interjects. "Who is he? He won't say anything."

In another conversation some weeks later, Nixon and his advisers were still describing Thompson as not very smart but at least beginning to play ball.

"Our approach is now, we've got a pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson. He came through fine for us this morning," White House counsel Fred Buzhardt says on a tape from June 6.

"He isn't very smart, is he?" Nixon asks.

"Not extremely so, but --," Buzhardt says, interrupted by the president.

"But he's friendly," Nixon says.

"But he's, he's friendly," Buzhardt echoes.


And I suspect that's the GOP pundit class is all about with this crop of idiots-- in true Machiavellian style, just looking out for the next useful idiot.