Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Does he think he is better than me?

If you make a statement that causes injury to someone then they can sue you for damages. In America we have decided, however, that if the statement is true then it cannot be libelous. I think the legal phrase is that truth is an absolute defense against the charge of libel. I propose that we extend this principle to the suspicion that a person asking for your vote might think he/she is better than you. If they are in fact superior to you in intellect, learning and accomplishment then that should be an absolute defense against that charge.

I think that we already have agreed to this principle in most areas of life. I remember a television movie called "Brian's Song" about the relationship between Chicago Bears football players Brian Piccolo and Gayle Sayers. Early in the movie Brian Piccolo tells some of his teammates he doesn't like Sayers because "he thinks he's better than everyone else." His teammates object – "He is better than everyone else."

When we are choosing people to be our leaders we should be looking for excellence, not for drinking or hunting buddies. I would have thought that the disaster of the last seven years would have soured people on the idea of good-old-boys as president. As former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago, Barack Obama should be absolved from the accusation that he thinks he is better than most of the voters. He is better and exactly the kind of person we should have as president.

6 comments:

Dennis Moran said...

I certainly want our next president to be much smarter than me. At the same time, I don't want that president to have a condescending or stereotypical view of my lifestyle, demographic, or drinking buddies. I don't want him (or Gale Sayers) to lord it over me. That's what Obama is accused of.
But I don't think Obama does have condescending attitudes, I think he simply stumbled into a very "clumsy" way of making an interesting point, as he himself has admitted.
But actually the whole thing is (as they say in Aledo City Council meetings) a "mute point." An L.A. Times poll today shows that Obama has narrowed Clinton's longtime lead in Pennsylvania and enlarged leads in Indiana and North Carolina, the states that supposedly would reel from Obama's comments. Turns out those gun-clingin', God-fearin' folks are, like the rest of us, looking at who among the candidates might make their lives better, instead of overreacting to inevitable slips of the tongue during nonstop cross-country campaigning (been shot at in Bosnia lately, Hillary?)

Clinton pointed out that people don't "cling" to guns, they own guns to hunt or target shoot, as is their right. True, but I believe what Obama meant is that some angry people "cling" to guns as an issue in absurd ways. For example, Charlton Heston was holding a hunting rifle when he said "From my cold, dead hands." That's ridiculous. I know of no serious person or proposal that would take a hunting rifle from someone like Charlton Heston (who was, by all accounts, a kind and generous person to work with as an actor.) But Heston was pandering to anger among people who apparently aren't as smart as I am.

Dave Barrett said...

Dennis,
As Brian Piccolo soon came to realize Gayle Sayers was not lording it over him. What he interpreted as arrogance he soon realized was actually shyness.

I gather that the nit you wanted to pick with what I said is that I was claiming if someone feels a presidential candidate is lording their superiority over them that is not a valid reason to not vote for them and you think it is.
Do I interpret you correctly?

Obviously in a democracy each of us is perfectly free to choose for ourselves what criteria we will use to make our choice. But just as Brian Piccolo would have been much worse off if he had continued to dislike Gayle Sayers for a perception of arrogance that was an illusion created by Brian's own insecurities I am maintaining that voters would be worse off personally and the nation would be worse off if they decided not to vote for Barack Obama because of a feeling that Obama might secretly feel he is better than them. They would be voting against their own interests. They would be worse off and if enough people make that decision for that reason we will all be worse off.

We need the smartest and most moral and ethical people in the country as our leaders and it is a damn shame that there are so many people in this country whose insecurities manifest themselves in the self-destructive way of opposing people simply because they are smart and competent.

Ellen Beth said...

McCain graduated at the bottom of his class. Now, it was Annapolis which is pretty prestigious. but I have no idea how he got in to begin with, grades or family ties. His dad and grandfather both went there too. Either way, they apparently failed to teach him geography and world religions.

Dennis Moran said...

My 'lording over' comment was a bit flip, as was my reference to Gale Sayers. I don't remember Brian's Song very clearly, but Sayers once gave a ride to a hitchhiking friend of mine who said he was a really nice guy, and funny.
Yes, I would question a candidate who I felt displayed a condescending attitude or overly stereotypical view of some identified group, as Obama was accused of doing. So I thought the incident was worth looking at closer. But even if I agreed with Hillary Clinton's view on the matter, it doesn't mean that one thing would determine my vote. There's PLENTY of quibbles to be had with all candidates, to my mind, and many things to weigh.
As far as 'superiority,' I don't care if Obama has some ego over his abilities and accomplishments. Not at all. The question that was raised in this incident I think is whether Obama can relate to the concerns (if not 'feel the pain') of everyday people, such as those blue-collar people he was accused of maligning.

Trader Rick said...

B. Hussein O'Bama is certainly smart, as smart as a Marxist can be...

Dave Barrett said...

trader rick,
A Marxist?!?