Yesterday, Michele Bachmann, Congresswoman from Minnesota, announced her candidacy for President. Before I go any further, this isn't going to be a "Let's see Michele Bachmann square off against Sarah Palin in a mud pit with some canned corn thrown in for some extra fun" type of post. No, I want to be dignified. At least for a couple of paragraphs.
When I heard that Ms. Bachmann formed the Tea Party Caucus within Congress, it immediately became impossible for me to take her seriously. It seems the grandest of all oxymorons to be anti-government yet make your living as a politician. That does not jive with the values of old-school Republicans. These Tea Party jokers are an aberration that are in the middle of their 15 minutes, and will hopefully go the way of Joe McCarthy and his followers.
I didn't really know who Ms. Bachmann was, other than the fact that she's fond of spewing extremist right-wing rhetoric while simultaneously manipulating the truth to suit her purposes. What I found out yesterday is that this is a woman with a post-doctoral degree in tax law who was a successful tax attorney before switching to politics. I was surprised to learn this. I have a bad habit of automatically assuming that everyone with an advanced education is smart. My bad. My really, really, REALLY bad.
Even though Ms. Bachmann has some impressive academic credentials, this doesn't mean she's smart. She has little knowledge of American history, and a blind spot when it comes to fact checking herself. Maybe she was so busy telling childish little white lies to her 5 biological children and 23 foster children that she forgot how to speak to adults. Or maybe, she's another one of those self-centred narcissists I'm so fond of, who tend to cut and paste the truth for their own self-serving purposes. I'm aware you have to have an outsize ego to want to run for president, but there's a difference between having the confidence to do the job and being delusional. And this is where she begins to resemble Sarah Palin.
Both Bachmann and Palin are nothing more than two "Look at Me!" people. They're like those sparklers I used to be so fond of on the Fourth of July: they crackle and light up the night with their pretty colours for a scant few minutes and then peter out to nothing. You light a few more, but then you eventually get tired of them and move on to something else. Palin insists on hanging on to the dregs of her notoriety, and I'm certain she's pea-green with envy over Bachmann's current momentum. Much as I don't want to make this into the sort of cat fight I mentioned at the beginning of this post (sans the mud and canned corn), that's exactly what it will turn into if Palin decides to throw her hat into the Presidential ring. No one, with the exception of the populations of Iowa and New Hampshire, is going to benefit by that. It's political theatre; nothing more.
Which brings me back to smarts. Fredo Corleone is the perfect analogy because he really wasn't smart. There's a type of smart that has nothing to do with education; it has to do with knowing who you are and where you come from. You can have a wall full of framed diplomas, but they don't mean shit if you're not a genuine person. Having common sense and being able to discern right from wrong is more valuable than a Masters degree, or even a postdoc in tax law. Being good with numbers is a valuable skill; knowing how to write is a valuable skill. But, these skills don't define who you are as a person. A sense of entitlement doesn't get you far in life.
Being genuinely smart often has nothing to do with where you went to school or what you studied. To be truly smart is an elusive quality. On paper, education can be quite impressive, but when the chips are down, it's often the buffoons of the world who teach us the most valuable lessons. I've been schooled by a few of them, so I know of what I speak.
Iowa and New Hampshire need to wise up.