Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Victor Davis Hanson Says It Better Than I

From a post over at National Review, he makes the point about the value of intellect that I was trying to make in an earlier post...except, you know...better:

Third, there is apparently a philosophical difference about what constitutes wisdom in the political sense: while one is impressed that Niebuhr and other thinkers may well be instantly referenced by Obama, that familiarity does not necessarily translate into common sense or ethical judgment (cf. everything from the apparent prior admiration for Wright and Ayers to the wisdom of expanding taxation in times of financial uncertainty), nor does it suggest that Palin's own story as a working mom, without connections or capital, who pulled herself up through the rough world of Alaskan politics, is not reflective of an equally valuable practical knowledge that is too often ignored.

It's fine to be impressed with Obama's intellectual prowess. It's also fine to be frustrated with 8 years of George W. Bush's inability to effectively communicate conservative ideas to a broader audience (I know I sure am). But these things alone do not guarantee a great leader. To go to the well of history once again, with the possible exception of Churchill, Mussolini was the most intellectually gifted leader of the WWII era. He was well-read, intelligent, an effective writer and speaker, and loved by European and American intellectuals alike. In short, he was everything Obama is intellectually and more. And yet, not only was he not a good leader in the ideological sense, he was just objectively not a good wartime leader in any sense. Though he came to office earlier and was the founder of the fascist movement, he quickly became Hitler's junior partner, and Italy's military efforts were nothing short of embarrassing under his watch.

A leader may look good on paper, but a far better indicator of future ability is their past performance in a related arena. Governor Palin's time in office may be short, but it is indisputably more impressive than Obama's legislative career in many areas. She has made a career of taking on incumbents. He has made a career of looking for easy electoral fights. She has challenged her party time and time again. He has been a reliable rubber stamp for his caucus. She can point to an impressive list of achievements accrued, he can point to an impressive list of future goals. Shouldn't this be at least as important a factor in picking an executive team as Obama's extensive knowledge of socialist theologians?