September 24th, 2008

On intellectuals vs. doers: Palin and Truman

I’ve long admired Victor Davis Hanson’s work. In this piece, one of his very best, he nails those who think academic credentials are the true indication of intelligence.

Hanson’s background growing up in rural California, combined with his stellar university career and experience with professorial types, combine to give him an unusual perspective on the comparison between the two worlds and what sort of intellect is demonstrated by those in each sphere.

The impetus for the Hanson piece is the astonishing condescension—and downright contempt—displayed by so many supposedly well-educated people towards Sarah Palin because of her alleged lack of brainpower and her non-elite education. I’ve touched on similar thoughts in this post, but I think the Hanson article is so excellent that I’m going to quote from it at length:

…the most brilliant Greek philologists seemed no more impressive in their aptitude than the fellow who could take apart the transmission of an old Italian Oliver tractor, fix it, and put it back together–without a manual. And I knew three or four who could. The inept mechanic seemed no more dull than the showy graduate student who could not distinguish an articular infinitive from an accusative of respect.

My seventy-year old Austrian professor who, off the cuff, could recite the lettering peculiarities of some 100 or so Athenian inscriptions on stone was brilliant-but no more intuitive or impressive than my grandfather who at 86 could scan 100 rows of vines under irrigation, instantly access how many acre feet of water were in the field, how many more needed, and then screw up or down an iron gate on a 20-foot standpipe and ensure the ditch water reached the end of each row–and only the end of each row.

For most of you readers, all this is trite and self-evident. But apparently not for hundreds in politics, the media, the universities, Hollywood, and the foundations who seem to think that a fumbling nervous Obama in interviews, who grasps for a word and utters vacuous platitudes is “really” contemplative, like his Harvard Law professors; but when a Sarah Palin seems nervous under scrutiny from a pseudo-professorial, glasses-on-the-lower-nose Charlie Gibson, she is clearly an empty head with an Idaho BA.

A Ronald Reagan knew more about human nature, and thus what drives the Soviet Union than did all the Ivy-League Soviet specialists that surrounded Jimmy Carter-much less the Sally Quins and Maureen Dowds of that age. We in America, unlike the Europeans, know this intuitively, grasp that a Harry Truman figured out the Russian communists far better than did the Harvard-educated aristocrat FDR.

The Harry Truman analogy is familiar, if I do say so myself. And I do say so myself, since I wrote the following, two days after Palin’s nomination:

Palin[‘s] personal vibe is a bit like that of Harry Truman. Although he had a much longer pre-VP tenure in national political life than either candidate (twelve years as Senator from Missouri) he, like Palin, was a folksy down-to-earth plainspeaking rural sort. He even wore the wire-rimmed eyeglasses, although they didn’t look as good on him as they do on her (and Truman bears the distinction of having been the last President who didn’t even go to college).

Truman was a Vice-President who became President on the demise of FDR, although Roosevelt had kept him out of the information loop:

Truman had been vice president for only 82 days when President Roosevelt died, 12 April, 1945. He had had very little meaningful communication with Roosevelt about world affairs or domestic politics after being sworn in as vice president, and was completely uninformed about major initiatives relating to the successful prosecution of the war—notably the top secret Manhattan Project, which was about to test the world’s first atomic bomb.

Shortly after taking the oath of office, Truman said to reporters:

“Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

What a rube. And yet as President he managed to do rather well, or so I hear.

77 Responses to “On intellectuals vs. doers: Palin and Truman”

  1. Jimmy J. Says:

    Years ago I worked with a man who was Truman’s Naval Aide. He accompanied him on foreign trips as well as advising him on Naval matters. His stories of Truman’s common touch, ability to make decisions, and willingness to take the heat impressed me, although at the time, Hary Truman was not considered to have been a great President. However, historians have now taken note of all those qualities, assigning Truman a very high rating for his performance as President.

    So many people are decrying Palin’s lack of foreign policy or military experience without recognizing two things:
    1. Very few Presidents have been highly experienced in those areas when they were elected.
    2. What a President needs is not extensive knowledge of these specialities. After all, the taxpayers provide experts in those fields to advise the President. What is required is a set of core principals by which guide them in making decisions.
    3. Being the President is a lonely job that requires a great deal of courage or what I call “steel in the spine.”

    When I read about Palin’s tenures on the city council, as a mayor, on the oil council, and as Governor of Alaska, I see that she has had a set of core pricipals that have guided her. She has also not shrunk from taking on opponents who were seemingly more powerful.

    The Gibson interview was instructive. Her answers may not have always been brilliant but they showed her core values and the steel in her spine. They showed she does not have to parse words or nuance her positions to please her interviewer.

    I especially enjoyed the line from her convention speech where she told the MSM that she wasn’t running for VP to curry their favor, but to work for the good of the American people.

    None of our presidents have been “supermen.” The best have showed an allegiance to a set of core values along with the moral courage to make very difficult decisions under real duress. Nothing I have learned about Senator Obama during the campaign or in reading about his experience to date convinces me that he has the core values and moral courage to make tough decisions even if he is advised by world class advisers.

  2. Jimmy J. Says:

    Make that “three things.”

  3. Russ Armstrong Says:


    I admire you as much as I do Victor Davis Hanson.
    So . . . here’s a tip:
    Spell his name correctly.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Ooops! Thanks, will fix. I seem to have some sort of mental glitch on that—have made that error before.

    But then again—I’m a doer, not a speller!

    Or, at least not a speller. Thank goodness for spellcheck.

  5. Dane Says:

    When I think of Truman I think of the most difficult decision a president ever had to make – the unleashing of incredible destruction. As he made that decision I believe he knew two things. The first being that in the end it would end up saving lives – both allied and Japanese. The second – that the decision would haunt him for the rest of his days and that he may very well be vilified for it. Being a man of faith would have made the decision even more difficult. But he made the decision and it was HIS decision. As the sign on his desk said, “The buck stops here” and he believed it. That is what I see in John McCain (though I disagree with him on many issues) and Sarah Palin – the ability to make difficult decisions and then take responsibility for them. I don’t see any of that in Barack Obama – all I see is someone who is continually trying to shift blame and find excuses. Not the kind of person we need as President in times such as these.

  6. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Conservative Extremist Says:

    I know this is off topic, but can anybody know anything behind the rumor that Sarah Palin was behind the requirement that rape victims must pay for their own evidence kits?

    I know, I know…the rumors and hearsay surrounding Palin is fast, furious and numerous, but they are persistent. Id like to throw the relevant facts back at the rumor mongers. Is there a central debunking clearinghouse for this stuff?

    Thanks in advance.

  7. Truth Says:

    here some discussion about academic credentials matter in the presidency with regards to Palin’s skills or academic credentials.

    Also here some Sarah Palin: a true-false guide

  8. Ozyripus Says:

    Having grown up in the “upper lower-class” — an important distinction, as Hanson knows from his childhood — and spent my working life in the academy, I couldn’t agree with Hanson and Neo more.

    But, there still are lots of ignorant, bigoted people in the working classes, as well as among the Obamaphilic elites. And, IQ still counts, regardless of class.

    What seems to have been weakened, in this intellectualized age of identity politics, is the old American ideal of judging people as individuals, by their individual talents. Perhaps it’s part of the reason Palin still appeals to so many plain people.

  9. Truth Says:

    Vice Presidential Debate: Screening & Discussion — IF Fall Reception

    Thursday, October 2 at 6:30 PM

    Join us and over 100 young professionals like you with a keen interest in the election, politics and international issues to watch the vice presidential debate. We’ll provide the big screen, food, wine and a great atmosphere. After the debate, engage in lively discussion and stimulating political discourse

  10. DC1 Says:

    OT for Harry

  11. GeoPal Says:

    Just as an Ivy League (or some other Upper Crust U.) education is over-rated so is IQ. W. F. Buckley said he’d rather be governed by the first 100 names in the phone book rather than the Harvard faculty. That still applies. The insularity and intellectual inbreeding within the Ivy culture has caused most of its issue to be social, intellectual, ethical, and moral morons.

  12. expat Says:

    I just heard NYT’s Warren Hoge (now apparently at some peace institute) being questioned about Palin’s UN visits by the BBC. He was dripping condescension. I wonder whether he was embarrassed when Obama made an a** of himself in Berlin.

  13. Truth Says:

    Sarah Palin because of her alleged lack of brainpower and her non-elite education.

    Is that made her saying she visited Iraq!!

    Then she recalled she visited Kuwait and went near the borders?

    So what God Plane she talking about if she don’t know Iraq from Kuwait?
    Unless she believes Kuwait is part of Iraq as return of geography?

  14. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Conservative Extremist Says:

    Thanks much DC1.

  15. Teri Pittman Says:

    There’s another part to Victor’s story that folks don’t seem to understand. When you work in the factory or on the farm, you have a lot of time to just think. I didn’t realize it then, but now that I work in an office I miss it. You are not interrupted by constant trivia. You can follow a thought, turn it over in your mind and really take time to come to a conclusion. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met have been farm workers and factory workers, for that reason. I’ve met very few academics or corporate dweebs that I can say the same thing about.

  16. Hogarth Says:

    she believes Kuwait is part of Iraq

    Which, ironically, it would actually be if the decision to remove Iraq from Kuwait had been left to the milquetoast appeasing policies of Democrats.

    Truth. Can you handle it? Or even understand it?

  17. Thomass Says:

    Dane Says:

    “When I think of Truman I think of the most difficult decision a president ever had to make – the unleashing of incredible destruction. As he made that decision I believe he knew two things.”

    One other take on that (and it tracks with Neo’s quotes about being out of the loop). After the fact Truman claimed not to have realized the destructive power of the bombs. It was either political as* covering or the truth (that he didn’t consciously make the hard call to destroy to cities). Actually, I sort of hope he was telling the truth. I’d have rather he blew something else up besides a city, first, to make the point. It could have been step two if required. Then again, firebombing wooden Japan was pretty much the same thing…

  18. kamper Says:

    I think we all have known the proverbial brainiac who couldn’t find their ass with both hands, and I don’t know too many professors (of any discipline) whose life I would necessarily want to emulate, but it’s hardly condescending and elitist to question why Sarah Palin attended six colleges in five years (or whatever the number is). If I was interviewing her for a job it sure would come up.

  19. Bugs Says:

    I’d have to ask Obama what the hell a “community organizer” does and why he couldn’t get a real job.

  20. T Says:

    Regarding elitism and condecension, it’s not the station to which one is born, but how one lives. I can think of no more appropriate quote (also submitted to Prof. Hanson’s article) than that of John W. Gardner:

    “An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society that scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”

    Unfortunaely, I think we, as a society, are approaching that.

  21. FredHjr Says:

    When I was an undergraduate student at the University of New Hampshire, and later as a grad student at Loyola of Chicago (when I was a seminarian) and even later as an MBA student at Boston College I heard a lot of rumors about the Ivies and especially Harvard. These centered around the outrageous grade inflation there. Nearly everyone got A’s with some B’s sprinkled in. To get C’s and worse at Harvard and the Ivies YOU HAD TO WORK AT IT. Clearly, to get into those institutions you had to be very intelligent AND work your butt off in high school. But once you were in, you were in and you had to really screw up to fail or get tossed out of those schools. At Loyola I asked fellow Jesuits who had come out of the Ivies if this was true. They affirmed that it was pretty much the case, but they added that you still had to study.

    Not in all cases have I observed this flaw in the elites from those institutions, but I have observed it frequently and it sets a disturbing pattern. People who don’t know tend to think of the elites as “intellectual.” This is often not true, and I have encountered a definite intellectual sloth among the elites, particularly with respect to recent conflicts with Islam. They tend to NOT get familiar with Islamic scripture, theology, Sharia Law, and jihad conquest history. They tend to try to skate on what they received at Harvard or Columbia or Dartmouth or Stanford.

    Pride and sloth tend to be the two deadly sins that feed off of each other.

    I don’t detect in Sarah Palin any traces of intellectual sloth or pride. And that, from my angle, is a definite plus for her.

  22. Ozyripus Says:

    GeoPal said:

    “Just as an Ivy League , , , education is over-rated so is IQ.”

    Depends on which individual had that education. Just because some very bright people (very high IQ) can do some very dumb things doesn’t mean that dumb people (low IQ) can do any job they want, or do their own job as effectively as someone “brighter.” Sorry.

    Also, some people are so much fun to work with, or such good leaders, that whether they can explain a computer really doesn’t count. Particularly, if the job doesn’t require a computer, but does demand character!

    Terri Pittman said:

    “When you work in the factory or on the farm, you have a lot of time to just think.”

    What an wise observation! Except, sorry, just having the time isn’t sufficient, as you know; it’s the individual who has the time. Furthermore, one doesn’t have to work in a factory or on a farm to take advantage of times to think.

  23. Tom Says:

    I really really wish I could agree with those who feel Obama merely lacks moral courage, as if he could somehow come upon it, recognize his shortcoming, and adopt it. I think he has the sociopathic courage of the immoral.

  24. Truth Says:

    Hogarth, your frinds DonkeyKingdom Terror continue

    A fatwa against Mickey Mouse

    Saudi sheikh slams Disney icon as ‘a soldier of Satan,’ says ‘impure corrupter’ must be killed

  25. Ozyripus Says:

    FredHjr said:

    “. . . I heard a lot of rumors about the Ivies and especially Harvard. These centered around the outrageous grade inflation there.”

    It wasn’t, and isn’t just the Ivies. The last honest grades were given sometime in the early ’50s, after the WWII vets had left the Universities; they and their Profs didn’t worry about “self esteem,” although they were very respectful how they spoke to one another.

    Grade inflation really started when all “higher education” instituted student evaluations of Professors and courses, a “liberal” movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s. There are situations where a somewhat authoritarian approach gives better long-term results, and grading is one of them, along with effectiveness of an Infantry company.

    In the ’60s and ’70s “higher” education was expanding at an amazing rate, based not a little on the success of the G.I. college generation. Unfortunately, growth in numbers of students and $ available for yet more growth became more important than quality of product. Sound familiar, like more mortgages for housing for the Poor?

    Regardless, in this situation only popular Professors and Departments grew, and it’s not hard to guess how popularity is achieved in classrooms increasingly occupied by those with high self-regard but little desire to work, much less ability.

    This doesn’t mean a decent number of very able people still don’t come out of the system; just hard to know who until they work.

  26. Dane Says:

    Thomass, I wish they had dropped the bomb somewhere else first as well. But in thinking about it I am not sure where they would have dropped it to demonstrate it’s power and have it make a difference. As far as Truman saying he didn’t understand the destructive power – I think that may well be true (not sure anyone knew at that point) – but he had to know it would be terrible.

  27. Gringo Says:

    Grade inflation really started when all “higher education” instituted student evaluations of Professors and courses, a “liberal” movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

    Perhaps in social sciences and the humanities, but in math, science, and engineering, much less so.

  28. strcpy Says:

    As to picking some place other than a city – wasn’t going to do much good. We only had two of things and we didn’t really know how (or if) they would work. We had only the one test and at least one of them was quite different. Even assuming we knew 100% that they would work if you only have two bullets it’s best not to give a warning shot.

    Not to mention that if the first bomb on a city didn’t phase them my guess is that one on a deserted island would have had less effect (that is, if a body shot didn’t deter someone why would a warning shot do better?).

    Truman may have gotten away with saying that for the first, be he sure well knew the power when the second one was ok’d. I’m sure the decision to drop the second one was made largely because the first didn’t slow them down.

    I really wish that the Japanese leadership would have realized shortly after the Battle of Midway that they were not going to win. I wish that once we were down to the last islands and had mostly starved them to death that they would have given up. I further wish that after being reduced to mostly wooden boats with bombs, kids with guns, and all the people on the verge of total starvation it didn’t take *two* atom bombs to get them to surrender.

    While they are certainly the single most horrific incident they were but a drop in the bucket of what the Japanese were going through at the time. While chopping an arm off is a single bad incident it’s not really *that* bad if you have had both your legs and your other arm slowly gnawed off. It’s interesting that even in the face of those two bombs (and them thinking that we had as many as we wanted) it was *still* a close thing that the Emperor was able to surrender, a large portion believed (and some living still do) that it was better to die in a blaze of “glory” than to surrender.

  29. br549 Says:

    I can’t say this thread has ended anywhere near where neo started it, so I’m not going to feel bad for what I have to say for my 2 cents.

    All I see is the left coming up with whatever they can come up with to discredit Sarah Palin. Truth and fact be damned. It is non stop, and it is bullshit for the most part, because the left is scared shitless of Sarah Palin. Period.

    Imagine if she were running for President. As has been said, “Mars Attacks” cranial explosions would be everywhere.

    She’ll run eventually. Bet on it. And I’ll vote for her. Bet on it.

  30. michaele Says:

    Frankly, it seems like the recent screaming financial headlines prove that fancy schmancy degrees don’t guarentee great results. I’m sure that many of those involved in this current meltdown attended the ivy leagues. Give me someone with common sense who knows what it’s like to live within their means. Give me Sarah!

  31. GeoPal Says:

    Ozyripus said:
    “Depends on which individual had that education.”

    Of course it does. I wasn’t belittling an Ivy League education as worthless, only over-rated. When racial and national preferences take precedence over SATs and cumulative grades in placements you get a watered down result. The Ivy League BA, MA, et al is not so important as the connections one makes and the societies (Skull and Crossbones – or whatever the name) one becomes a member of. Yes, an Ivy League education suggests a greater intelligence than my one year at a JC suggests. Yes, an Ivy League education suggests a greater IQ than my one year at a JC suggests. No, an Ivy League education does not mean smart, industrious, ethical, moral, honest, good judge, wise, and so on. If it did we wouldn’t be in the present financial mess.

  32. Jamie Irons Says:

    I went to Yale in the mid-sixties (I was in the class just after the president’s), and though in my last two years there numerical grades were dropped for a modified “pass/ fail” system, there was definitely no “grade inflation.”

    There certainly were easier and more difficult majors (I majored in molecular biology and biophysics).

    Some of the most brilliant, and some of the dumbest, people I ever met were at Yale.

    One thing I am very grateful for I got from Yale: a life-long interest in, and enthusiasm for, learning. More than a decade after leaving there I learned, among other things, how to distinguish an accusative of respect from an articular infinitive, by seeking out teachers of Greek at UC Berkeley and UCLA on my own initiative. Alas, I’m not an especially brilliant student.

    Jamie Irons

  33. nyomythus Says:

    Hate it or love it; the ”doer” almost always trumps the ”thinker”.

  34. nyomythus Says:

    Truth, are you drunk or on heroine? Or just stupid — spell it out in plain English!

  35. FredHjr Says:

    “Truth” is an example of what has taken over the Democratic Party in the United States. They are devolving into a species of human that should frighten the rest of us into deciding that we don’t want to be like that.

    Tonight the Democratic Party in Connecticut is going to discuss censuring Sen. Joe Lieberman and throwing him out of the Party.

    These thugs somehow manage to be under the radar. But if Obama wins and he gets his national service corps for people 18-30 and they go out and do what they are trained to do, be ready for a new Brownshirt Brigade of totalitarians who will attempt to force us to be what they want us to be.

    Some of our youth are being trained by their teachers and professors to be little totalitarian monsters. I speak out against this because I was once a part of the Gramscian infiltration of academia, albeit in a very minor junior role as a graduate assistant teaching philosophy. I should have said more years ago, but I am trying to make up for it during the later part of my life.

    Make no mistake about it. Even though Sarah Palin has a sympathetic hearing from us the common people, we are not winning that battle. The elitists are winning the war right now because we’ve allowed it to go under the radar for several decades. They have a head start on us. We have a lot of catching up to do.

  36. nyomythus Says:

    Joe Lieberman is one courageous individual, much admired, very much admired.

  37. Beverly Says:

    I agree with those who say that having a reasonable intelligence, moral character, and backbone are the most important qualities in a president.

    Policy wonks are notoriously bad ones: anyone remember Jimmy Carter?

    The “foreign policy experience” obsession is a bit of canard. The incoming team needs to know what’s going on, but making broad policy decisions doesn’t draw on the same skill set as Trivial Pursuit.

    Re: grade inflation–I went to a fine university in the South in the late 1970s, and there were no “student reviews” of the professors, and they would definitely flunk your behind if you didn’t perform. I still remember a girl in my freshman class who would imbibe information but was incapable of organizing it in her mind. She would eject this slurry of uncoordinated material and sit back, confidently expecting the A she’d gotten for like efforts in high skule.

    Well. She really bombed in her lit class, and showed me the essay with some indignation. She got a D: the prof gave her that much for perfect attendance and taking the test, but she got zero quality points. I told her that her essay made no sense, and that he was actually being kind, so she never spoke to me again.

    (I’m usually more tactful, but I was really exasperated with this one.)

  38. Beverly Says:


    How do you think we should proceed retaking the ground? I was mulling this over last night, and much as I detest the Left, I think we could make use of some of their communications strategies.

    You speak of being part of the Gramscian infiltration at university: how was it done?

  39. FredHjr Says:


    They did it by stealth. Many of the tenured faculty, before they were tenured, did not engage in polemics in the classroom and generally stuck to academics. Once they got tenure then they flaunted their socialist-Marxist loyalties. No one could stop it. Not even the kids could stop it. What could they say?

    Now these tenured ideologues hire the next wave of junior faculty and serve on committees approving dissertations and reviewing them. They serve on committees that scrutinize new hires. Everyone knows what will prevent you from being hired. Now, I rather suspect that in the hard sciences, engineering and math this mostly does not apply, but I have heard a few stories from that quarter.

    I was not stealthy in my work at Loyola. I was a seminarian and grad student who had to teach a couple of intro philosophy courses. I stuck to the academics, but even so it was not an issue because I never even thought about revealing or advocating my revisionist Marxism or Liberation Theology leanings. It would be, as I saw it, unethical. But I decided to leave the Society of Jesus because I figured out I had problems with their understanding of the vow of obedience. I met my wife two years after leaving the Jesuits. I was an MBA student at Boston College at that time.

  40. Gringo Says:

    One point about Truman. While he didn’t have a college education, he was very well-read in the Greek and Roman classics. He also played the piano. So, he wasn’t exactly a hayseed.

  41. ModDem Says:

    Truman was a Democrat! A doer. Just like FDR.
    I guess you are trying to make an argument against a politician [gasp] having ideas in their head? Well it won’t work because both Truman and FDR were intellectuals and doers. Get it straight. Americans do better when they have a smart president at the helm. Even Reagan was smarter and more of a doer than Bush. Most Republicans today are not intelligent doers they are reactionary dopes.

  42. ModDem Says:

    I have known ‘normal’ working class folks my whole life and I can tell you they sacrifice a lot of time and money to get their kids into good schools. None of them would turn down Harvard or Yale for their kids. We live in a society that strives to be smart but you listen to some Republicans and they say it is nonsense. They seem to say it is more ‘real’ to stay out of school. But, ironically, the ones saying it have spent most of their days in school and then telling us how it is a bad thing. It is backward and hypocritical. The guys out digging ditches may be more down to earth [literally sometimes] but I guarantee you they are there so their kids don’t have to be.

  43. sergey Says:

    Only one test of A-bomb was performed before Hiroshima, and this was done in the desert. Nobody imagined the real destructive power of the device in urban environment, even its developers. All this happened before mathematical modelling or results of empirical testing were available.

  44. PapaMAS Says:

    On neo’s original posting: I have admired VDH’s writings for several years now, as well. I very much agree with his point that having impecable academic credentials does not mean the bearer has superior knowledge, wisdom and intelligence. There are too many well-educated morons out there for that to be the case.

    My experience getting an MBA is telling. I went to Temple U and had several discussions with my teachers on the difference between getting an MBA from Temple and from, say, Wharton. Academically there was no real difference. Half of my teachers also taught at Wharton at the same time! Same books, same lectures, same projects, same tests. Those attending Wharton did not learn anything different or better than those going to Temple. The differences were in who went to the different institutions and the associations they made there.

    One teacher described it this way: In each class at Temple there were maybe a few “stars” who were very bright and worked hard at being good students. At Wharton each class had lots of stars and they were very competitive. This made for a different learning environment. Also, many Wharton students were offspring of successful CEOs and other business leaders, again adding something to the environment. This goes back to what GeoPal posted about the connections one makes there.

    This is not to say that an education at an elite university is not worth something. It is. It’s just not necessarily the same thing it is portrayed as, i.e., the best and the brightest learning things other poor mortals could not. Elitists love to believe that getting a piece of paper from a certain place certifies them as superior to everyone else. It’s just not the case. They may or may not have been better prepared for the world they were going into after graduation, but it makes them no more intelligent and no less prone to error than anyone else.

  45. sergey Says:

    Exactly this make the burden of presidental power so awfull: in case of a sudden crisis, he needs to act without enough knowledge and information available, basically on common sense and intuition.

  46. br549 Says:

    OK, I’m a dumb ass and did not attend an ivy league school. And elitist professors (that become bureaucrats) bring out the redneck in me, making me wish to bitch slap them with the reckless abandon. Most of them couldn’t punch their way out of a beauty parlor, so I definitely wouldn’t want one next to me in a fox hole if it came to that – which it could. Ca-ca occurs.

    This brings me to the current crisis, and I have a few simple questions. From what I can gather, our nation is actually broke, correct? Now, it lives from paycheck to paycheck (yours and mine) does it not?
    It borrows our savings from banks, etc., steals from S.S. and other “safe” piles of money to fund its ever growing excess, right? It gives a lot of this money to people who don’t have any of their own, and don’t really pay any taxes. So, we are paying ourselves back via those same taxes, aren’t we? So who is ever really saving anything? Isn’t it all just smoke and mirrors?

    Loans were made that I did not really know about, and was not privy too, because I am making it on my own. I have white skin, and a penis. Lets at least be real. People who took out these loans couldn’t really make the payments. How then, could they afford a new roof, or a new hot water heater, a gallon of paint, or even fix a broken window? New slums would / will be the end result, right? What else could the outcome be?

    And if wall street is in the toilet, and all assets are frozen as far as lending is concerned, where is this 700 billion + going to come from? It doesn’t exist.

    Someone please explain. Thank you.

  47. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Conservative Extremist Says:

    I will sometimes imagine an above ground nuclear weapons test held in an enclosed sports arena…holding a “Greatful Dead” concert with “Rage Against the Machine” as an opening act. I find that image to be calming, soothing and spiritually uplifting.


    I’m sorry, I felt the need to share.

  48. sergey Says:

    “where is this 700 billion + going to come from? It doesn’t exist.”
    I would say, 700 billion worth of the supposed national wealth in form of assets in Fed. Reserv. actually does not exist: it is just a speculative bubble. Millions of people live in houses they really can not afford, or have other luxury goods they bought on credit secured by overpriced morgage now devaluated. You can not indefinitely long live on credit; someday, you have to repay it. Tough luck if the whole nation was awakened to this reality so abruptly.

  49. Vince P Says:

    Sometime last year it was made clear to me that the National debt was not around 9 Trillian.

    It was 50 Trillian.

    At that point I have been telling everyone I know that this country is bankrupt.

    This particular problem is because of government.

    br549 said above that he’s an uneducated redneck, I’m a semi-educated 3rd Gen Italian-American.

    I bet between him and I , we would have NEVER allowed the situation that the Democrats enabled with Fannie Mae to have happened.

    That is why I support Sarah Palin. All of these educated “experts” have led this country to destruction.

    They are so arrogant and think they understand the world from their elite bubble. They’re on the defensive now. Expect more attacks on McCain/Palin.

  50. sergey Says:

    The dream to make all American poor home-owners was just too lofty – well-intended, but hardly possible in real world, large-scale social engineering project. It had crushed, as all socialist experiments eventually do. There is no such thing as free lunch. What poor can do instead? Rent an apartment, work hard, save money and hope that their children someday would be able to buy a home of their own.

  51. br549 Says:

    Nope. Not the brightest crayon in the box.

    However, when your vessel’s draft exceeds the water’s depth, you are most assuredly aground. Ask anyone who owns any type boat, to the largest yacht, to an aircraft carrier.

    Any wonder why Walker (Comptroller General) quit and walked away.

    Can I quit the USA and just live on my property by myself? I’ll keep the grass mowed, all buildings freshly painted, and provide my own police force. Promise.

  52. Vince P Says:

    I want all the Leftists to pick a part of the country and we can separate… they could have their People’s States of America and the rest of us can go on living here.

  53. Toes Says:

    No doubt about it: there are lots of well-educated “capitalist pigs” behind the current crisis. What percentage of these financial elites do you suppose have an MBA and vote Republican?

    Give me someone with common sense who knows what it’s like to live within their means. Give me Sarah!

    How many houses does McCain own?

  54. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Toes – How many? About 50-50. Your stereotype is long outdated.

  55. SteveH Says:

    What comes first, an improvement in our economics or an improvement in American’s entitlement mindset?

    All logic and reason points to this coming recession/depression as much needed. People can’t be humbled with mere words. But corn flakes for dinner on Sundays will probably do it.

    A severe recession will give us the much needed medicine that a politician out to buy votes simply won’t.

    I can work with my hands. I can horse trade. I can string up fence and raise chickens if need be. Turns out i may fit the coming definition of rich.

  56. Michael McNeil Says:

    The Hiroshima bomb was a uranium weapon, which Japanese nuclear scientists (yes, they had an atomic bomb project) would have been readily able to perceive, and no doubt appraised the Japanese government of that fact — together with the implication (since uranium was so exceedingly difficult to separate out into its fissionable U-235 isotope) that the U.S. probably had few or no additional such bombs (which indeed was precisely the case: there were no more) available at the time — thus the Japanese made no move to surrender after Hiroshima.

    The Nagasaki bomb, however, was a plutonium weapon — far more difficult to construct, as the so-called “Fat Man” design (due to the physics of plutonium) necessarily utilized a spherical implosion technique to achieve detonation — a whole technological generation beyond the ”rifle” (dubbed “Little Boy”) method employed at Hiroshima.

    While harder to build and make work, plutonium can be readily manufactured basically at will in nuclear reactors — implying that destruction that might utterly obliterate the regime as well as the country’s populace might be about to rain from the skies upon Japan (which was sheer bluff, too, as the U.S. also had no more plutonium weapons at the time, and would not for many months more), but the danger could be seen by the Japanese, and they surrendered.

  57. kcom Says:

    There was a fascinating program on the History Channel a year or two ago about the period of time during and immediately after the atomic bombings in Japan. The gist of it was, even at that point, a surrender was nowhere near a sure thing. When word began to circulate that the emperor was contemplating (or planning) a surrender, certain very influential members of the Japanese military put a coup plan into effect and attempted to take over the government and continue the war. There was skullduggery on the grounds of the Imperial Palace itself and the coup was narrowly avoided. Perhaps Truman judged correctly that we had to hit them absolutely as hard as we could (almost inhumanly hard) to end the war and bring the death and destruction to a close once and for all.

    Here’s a Wikipedia entry that talks about the coup attempt

    I also think that it’s really impossible for us to know what Truman and other non-scientists knew at the time as far as the power of the atomic bomb since, at this point, we’re all Monday morning quarterbacks. We know atomic bombs and the destruction they do and have an entire history with them to aid our understanding. But at that time, nothing like the atomic bomb had ever been seen before, and I’m guessing the concept of the kiloton didn’t even exist in the average person’s mind. There’s a big difference between intellectual understanding from a piece of paper and gut-level comprehension of the true power of a brand new, unprecedented weapon.

  58. neo-neocon Says:

    On the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs and the decision to drop them: see this, this, and this.

  59. Michael McNeil Says:

    An atomic explosion had already been witnessed by quite a few people in the Trinity test. Thus, it wasn’t by any means just an “intellectual understanding” that was brought before Truman.

  60. Michael McNeil Says:

    Have those articles you pointed to been reconstructed? The comments don’t seem to be in chronological order, and all are timestamped the same minute.

  61. Sergey Says:

    It is amazing to watch how in course of history the public (and scholarly) opinion about the same leaders shifts and changes to accommodate some new views on consequencies of their deeds. For example, FDR and his New Deal once seen as saviors of the nation now look completely other way round: The Man Who Inserted “Great” before “Depression”. And Truman, once declared to be rural dunderhead, now looks as one of the best presidents.

  62. Michael McNeil Says:


  63. br549 Says:

    My dad flew over Hiroshima and Nagasaki right after the bombs were dropped (to observe the results, as he was involved). He entered Japan right after the surrender to have a look see for the U.S. gov’t.

    He found milling machinery and other manufacturing machines still running, with parts chucked into them. The machinists had walked away and left the equipment running. The Emperor said it was over. Had he not, they would have been manning those machines, even in a fire storm. I agree about the coup.

    My dad found tanks, guns, ammo, Japanese versions of the ME212 fighter jet and other German innovations, lined up everywhere, ready to go. They had no fuel. Stomachs and gas tanks – they both need to be full to fight a war. A lesson we have forgotten? Especially the gas tank one.

    We dropped two bombs because we had two types and needed to know if they were going to work. One each, uranium and plutonium, as discussed above.

    Had Hitler made as few mistakes as Japan did, we would be living in quite a different world than the one we live in now.

  64. Vince P Says:

    While harder to build and make work, plutonium can be readily manufactured basically at will in nuclear reactors — implying that destruction that might utterly obliterate the regime as well as the country’s populace might be about to rain from the skies upon Japan (which was sheer bluff, too, as the U.S. also had no more plutonium weapons at the time, and would not for many months more), but the danger could be seen by the Japanese, and they surrendered.

    Need I remind anyone that the int’l nuclear inspectors in Iran have found Plutonium traces in waste sites around Iran for several years now?

  65. Michael McNeil Says:

    The most eye-opening things for me in reading the two pieces, Richard B. Frank’s “Why Truman Dropped the Bomb” in the Weekly Standard and Paul Fussell’s Thank God for the Atomic Bomb,” is the casuaties elsewhere in the Asian theater that were ongoing: 7,000 Allied servicemen casualties each week along with a quarter million to 400,000 Asians each month. Since the invasion of Honshu, the Japanese mainland, wasn’t scheduled until November of 1946 — presuming the invasion of Kyushu Island to take place in Nov. 1945 went well, which in retrospect looks doubtful — one can easily see that the atomic bombing and hence early surrender of Japan (ignoring probably huge Japanese casualties that would have occurred in any invasion) saved the lives of perhaps 100,000 Allied servicemen and sixty times more Asians than were felled in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  66. Sergey Says:

    Plutonium traces can be found in any nuclear waste (used reactor fuel). But if they were found around enrichment plant, this is completely another story. And the size of warhead needs to be much larger.

  67. Teri Pittman Says:

    Ozyripus said:
    What an wise observation! Except, sorry, just having the time isn’t sufficient, as you know; it’s the individual who has the time. Furthermore, one doesn’t have to work in a factory or on a farm to take advantage of times to think.

    It’s quite different working on a farm or in a factory. On a farm, the work is out of doors. The work is seasonal and changes with the seasons. To some extent, you control how fast you work. The job has a beginning and an end. When I worked in factories (mostly sorting fruit and seedling evergreen trees), you were locked into yourselve due to the work. It was not an environment where you could chat easily with your co-workers. The work was repetitious and it was easy to devote your thoughts to something totally unrelated to work.

    I have been doing tech support via phone for about 13 years now. There is no flow to the work. Every call is different, sometimes radically so. Computer software changes regularly. If you are out of the field for six months, you could find yourself in trouble. There is never a beginning or end to anything. And I believe this is true for much office work. I will grant you that it is easier on the body 😉 But I am now restricted to doing my thinking during my commute home (fortunately, it’s a fairly rural commute) and on the weekends. I believe that we’ve lost a lot of the creativity that used to exist within our culture as a result in the changeover to office work.

  68. neo-neocon Says:

    Michael McNeil: What happened to all my older posts is that when I migrated them from the old blog to the new, all the comments came with the timestamp of the transfer. Plus, for some unknown reason (and this annoys me mightily), the comments came here in exactly reverse order. So you must scroll down and read up to see them in the order in which they came.

  69. Michael McNeil Says:

    Makes perfect sense, unfortunately. Thanks for responding.

  70. Ymarsakar Says:

    Don’t worry Neo. When AI gets developed, they will take care of all those nitpicking details for us from then on. ALmost as good as the Left’s social utopia, really.

  71. Ymarsakar Says:

    The center of gravity for the Japanese Empire of the Rising Sun were their traditions and ancestors, embodied in the living kami, Emperor Hirohito. However, this center of gravity was often focused through the military junta and aristocracy, who had various other ideas on how this power should be used.

    The coup de tat in Japan relied upon a secret cadre ambushing and kidnapping Hirohito as he was driven around in the evening around indoor gardens. The arrival of an American bomber over Tokyo, in addition to the direct orders that, if at all possible, the Imperial Palace should not be bombed, created a “Blackout” during the precise moment when the ambush was scheduled to occur on HIrohito’s motorcade. THere were no lights, period, once the blackout occurred. THe ambushers couldn’t even see each other, let alone Hirohito. (It is very hard to coordinate an ambush if you can’t even see your own people and can’t talk to them)

    Hirohito’s advisers did indeed tell him about the uranium vs plutonium difference. And Hirohito did surrender with the knowledge and expectation that his life would be forfeited on war crimes to placate Allied, mostly British and French, sentiments.

    I believe, if I recall correctly, that Kokuro was chosen as the second target, a military target. Bad weather conditions precluded it and the bomber went after Nagasaki instead. This conclusively answers the “military target” question.

    Btw, MOdDem is a riot. You’re an intellectual and “doer” if you are a Democrat. Funny.

  72. Ymarsakar Says:

    AN interesting analogy for Americans would be “what if all the Founding Fathers became living once more, with the same values, intelligence, and beliefs of centuries ago, and tried to convince us to pass a Constitutional Amendment concerning abortion, its restrictions and legalizations?”

    Part of the reason the Japanese were still fighting was due to wartime propaganda and lies, but most of it was due to pure ancestor worship and patriotism.

    Had the entire Executive Branch been destroyed in America, most Americans would probably go along with whatever the Founding Fathers said would be best.

    Emperor Hirohito was to the Japanese what the Executive, Legislative, Judicary, and all of the Founding Fathers are to us. Japan obeyed the orders of the prime minister and government officials because they had the approval of the Emperor, the same as people obeying the PResident because the US Constitution provides him that authority in his office.

    Something interesting would happen if the Constitution and the Founding Fathers leaped out unto the stage alive and well, to convince the people of America to give up on a war the leaders of America had taken them into based upon the assumption that this war is what the Founding Fathers and US Constitution would have demanded to see.

  73. kcom Says:

    “An atomic explosion had already been witnessed by quite a few people in the Trinity test. Thus, it wasn’t by any means just an ‘intellectual understanding’ that was brought before Truman.”

    But Truman didn’t witness it. And it hadn’t been dropped on a city so there were no casualties to deal with. He had a bunch of talking heads giving him advice about how to use a weapon that no one had ever seen used in battle before and that he hadn’t even seen demonstrated personally. That’s the intellectual understanding I was talking about. Truman’s prior military experience was as an artilleryman in World War I. He had no doubt seen what was considered, by the standard of the time, terrible death and destruction. What affect did that have on his understanding of the meaning of death and destruction and his decision to use the bomb and use it in the manner he did? I don’t think we can know.

    Also, just a point about intellectual versus practical understanding. Remember the stories of people completely vaporized by the bombs where all that was left of them was essentially a shadow on a wall? Do you think Truman or anyone understood things like that when they were deciding what to do? Those were shocking effects that were only apparent once they were there to observe. Understanding of something as big as an atomic bomb, and all its potential implications, comes gradually, I think. It has to be absorbed in the conciousness as much as learned in the brain.

  74. Ymarsakar Says:

    I think. It has to be absorbed in the conciousness as much as learned in the brain.

    It’s sort of like the paradigm shift that occurs in American’s heads when they realize that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, not a Democrat.

  75. sergey Says:

    This is quite a challenge when something entirely new emerges and change the landscape of the world we know, like A-bomb. It can not be grasped neither intellectually nor practically. Only very few and rare prescient individuals can see it clearly.

  76. Vince P Says:

    I went through something like that when I realized we’re in the age of Islam’s 3rd Global Jihad.

  77. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Truman got blindsided twice in Korea. Once when the Norks attacked, once whn the Chicoms attacked.
    Both were near catastrophes.
    Imagine if Bush were held to that standard–which is that Truman had no responsibility for either–or Truman to the Bush standard, which is that if we don’t win fast and cheap, impeach Bush (Truman).

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

Monthly Archives


Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge