A comment from Zifnab got me thinking:
I think everyone has basically hit all the numbers on this. Of course, we’re well-established and peer-reviewed blog commenters while Roger Simon is a journalist for a small time political rag at the ass-end of the beltway, so its understandable that we would catch things that he could so easily miss.
Why is it that so much of what passes for high-brow, insightful political analysis lacks the factual accuracy of drunken 3 am blog posts? Simon’s hardly the worst example — Richard “teh algebra” Cohen and MoDo are perhaps the most egregious offenders. This exchange (which many of you have probably seen before) sums up MoDo’s ethos quite well:
“Maureen is very talented,” observes Joe Klein of The New Yorker. “But she is ground zero of what the press has come to be about in the nineties…I remember having a discussion with her in which I said, ‘Maureen, why don’t you go out and report about something significant, go out and see poor people, do something real?’ And she said, ‘You mean I should write about welfare reform?'”
The idea seems to be that people like Maureen Dowd and Richard Cohen have some special thing, some je ne sais quoi, that is far more important than the ability to fact check, or research issues, or understand basic math.
It’s probably no coincidence, then that we now have a president who no one would claim was all that smart or hard-working, but who (his supporters and more than one journalist claimed) had a magical ability to produce “swift, gut-based solutions to problems“. Sometimes we were told he learned this in business school, other times that it was part of his DNA.
Clearly, there are people with some rare, hard-to-quantify ability, not obviously linked with technical knowledge, that translates into undeniable brilliant success. Steve Jobs is one example. And I know that John believes that Taylor Hicks is another. But it seems more likely that most of this is because getting the details right is hard work that we’ve been led to believe is better left in the hands of minimum wage peons than cluttering up the important time of millionaire geniuses like John Snow and Cokie Robert and Bono.
Is it really such a good idea to put so much authority in the hands of “brilliant” know-nothings? Are the Chinese doing this, too? Because if they’re not, I think it’s time to start learning mandarin.
Update: I give Bob Woodward credit for including this in his “10 Take Aways From the Bush Years” column, even if it seems obvious:
3. A president must do the homework to master the fundamental ideas and concepts behind his policies.