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Gerson is wrong on Obama's 'snobbery'

Michael Gerson assailed President Obama Tuesday for being an "intellectual snob." For Gerson, Obama is the arrogant, "neocortical president" who blames his problems on those idiot Americans who are too stupid to think clearly in these difficult times. Obama's opponents, writes Gerson, "[use] the more fearful, primitive portion of their brains." He continues, "His critics rely on their lizard brains -- the location of reptilian ritual and aggression."

Gerson is on target when he writes that snobbery isn't exactly the best way to court voters, let alone ideological opponents. But is that reason for him to serve, as I believe he does in this column, as an apologist for the irrational brand of politics that fear-mongers such as Glenn Beck and Christine O'Donnell promote? It's one thing to stomach the existence of, say, Tea Party politics -- the Constitution mandates that -- but it's quite another to sit around and abide those politics after the facts have borne them out as uninformed and illogical. Especially if they're ultimately deleterious to millions of Americans. Obama is understandably chagrined by the millions of Americans who cling -- for any reason -- to extreme policies that promise to strip them of medical care, safe food, and unemployment protection.

Gerson seems to be saying that, if one is too nervous to perform well on a math quiz, he should still be given an A because not to do so would be intellectually snobbish. That faulty arithmetic has as much a right to legitimacy as the mathematical facts, thank you very much.

By Katrina vanden Heuvel  | October 20, 2010; 6:21 AM ET
Categories:  vanden Heuvel  | Tags:  Katrina vanden Heuvel  
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thanks katrina since the post wouldn't allow us to post comments. mr. gerson has pretended to be a christian while getting paid to lie in print for a long time. nothing he says is credible considering the number of lies he has been caught publishing. i understand that the wapo has to give opposing views but to allow outright lies to be published as an op-ed is shameful. obama the snob written by gerson the liar.

Posted by: blinwilly | October 20, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

The American people are much more intelligent than the snobby, Democrat, intellectual elites give them credit for.

The cocoon that envelops the progressive snobocracy in their cosmopolitan digs insulates them from the lives of common folks. In effect, it blinds the elites to the real world. They are like Martians peering at the inferior life forms of earth through some super telescope.

Americans sense all that. What is happening now is a cry for help and a mini-revolution to incite real change.

The immediate aftermath of the French revolution was chaos and ugliness. In the long run, France became a better place for ordinary folks.

ObamaCare was an atomic, stink bomb hurled at Americans when all we needed was a healed economy and more jobs.

It was like throwing cake at a starving mob and expecting them to be grateful for the crumbs.

Posted by: battleground51 | October 20, 2010 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Katrina. I agree.

Posted by: martymar123 | October 20, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Gerson's piece was poorly argued at a number of points.

That people don't reason logically when afraid is a rather commonplace truth. How Gerson infers stuff about lizard brains from that is beyond comprehension.

It also isn't snobbery if the speaker includes himself in the claim... there is nothing Gerson offers that says that Obama considers himself immune from such an effect.

Saying that people don't rely on scientific theorizing when under stress isn't the same as saying one is stupid (as Gerson asserts). Fearful situations would be a time to engage in quick, often reliable, but still fallible heuristics. But these shortcuts can be wrong.... scientific and mathematical reasoning demonstrate this.

Gerson left his best argument on the table, namely, that the concerns of the tea partiers aren't based on fear at all, but quite rational. But, he was too eager to join the ranks of armchair psychologists to bother.

Posted by: ablum1 | October 20, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

"It's one thing to stomach the existence of, say, Tea Party politics -- the Constitution mandates that -- "
Clearly no intellectual snobbery here. The wonder of American democracy is that voters may not always understand the nuances of policy, but they clearly understand when the country is headed in a wrong direction, and they vote to change that direction. Bye, bye Obama.

Posted by: amazd | October 20, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mohanda Gandhi

I would say the Tea Party has reached level 3. Hopefully the winning will be completed over the next two election cycles.

Posted by: MajorTomB | October 20, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I think 'Major TomB' just likened the Tea Party to the Mahatma (the revered Mohandas Gandhi)! I'm going to expire laughing. I think MG will be similarly spinning in his grave. Aren't parties fun!

Posted by: wembleywise | October 20, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Thank You

Posted by: honeybee1 | October 20, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Most American voters do not want someone obviously intelligent as President, ala Eugene McCarthy. They want someone popular and charismatic.
The sad truth I wonder about is the alleged "dumbing down" of Americans where mavericks and hotheads are the desired candidates, ala Sarah Palin.

Posted by: nsc3 | October 20, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Katrina, I happen to disagree with you on one key point. Your suggestion that the barb of snobbery comes exclusively from the Tea Partiers and anti-intellectual Republicans is not the case.

I have read many comments by acknowledging dems and liberals who too, agree with Gerson. Respectfully, I submit that in fact, he is a snob. Moreover, I question O's intellectual status even more than his snobbery.

Posted by: jay_thompson | October 20, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

And his birthplace, and his religion, and his ability to lead...

There is only one thing that is unquestionable-his color!

Posted by: nsc3 | October 20, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse


Katrina Vanden Heuvel , in as much as you are entitled to your own opinion about your messiah –Barack Hussein Obama, you should as well be mindful never to allow your personal opinion to becloud your sense of objectivity in your quest to defend the indefensible or mortally expect others to have an understanding of Obama through your fatally impaired premise of comprehension?

Perhaps, and just may be, Katrina, you are just innocently being gullible to the antics of this ungentle politician called Barack Hussein Obama? However, it is people like you that are advertently or inadvertently facilitating the transit of Barack Hussein Obama into political oblivion than you will ever imagine or willing to accept, by singing his praises rather than telling him the bitter truth about his real image and disposition toward his critics and political opponents. “For thou shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32.

Katrina, have you ever asked yourself, why on earth does Barack Hussein Obama never for once display or show “GRACE” under fire/pressure, yet he calls himself – a leader? Do you know that, without thick skin, leadership is just but a child’s play?

Katrina, you can’t imagine a leader ever saying at one time or the other: "It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." It’s not only irritating, obnoxious and appalling, it’s repulsive in all its ramification, for CHRIST’s sake.

You can now see that Obama is a downright petty, mean-spirited rabble rouser, without class or good manners, a vulgar mouthed megalomania?

By and large, when a man of such social status deems it appropriate to condescend to such a demeaning nagging and whimpering state, attacking his political opponents and critics alike, with every political arsenal at his disposal, while playing godliness, (pretending as if he can’t even hurt a housefly abroad), then, you have to connect the dots by understanding that, this guy has many skeletons in his cupboard, which will most certainly be his political undoing.

Posted by: chrismercy2003 | October 20, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who would use the word neocortical in a sentence is an intellectual snob. Besides the president has every right to be chagrined even angry. Anerican voters are so ignorant and living in fear that they voted for George W Bush not once but twice. How does Gerson explain that?

Posted by: renegade2 | October 20, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

You said "it's quite another to sit around and abide those politics after the facts have borne them out as uninformed and illogical. Especially if they're ultimately deleterious to millions of Americans."

Well, do you believe that the solution is to make such "politics" illegal, and maybe we should even jail those who do not believe the "facts?"

Where are you from?

Posted by: alpine24 | October 20, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gerson may be right that intellectual snobbery is repellant, but so is psuedo populist anti-intellectual demagoguery. Obama is simply answering the underlying question that I and so many others have asked...Why does my Republican mother who makes $20,000 a year, has inadequate healthcare and lives in a broken down RV in a mobile home park hate Democrats so much? Out of her six adult children, only four of us have health insurance. We were all born on the dole and vividly remember bringing home commodities and going brown stamping on the first of the month. So why does she and so many like her, hate the party that fights for healthcare, unemployment benefits, and other government programs that have kept us alive and well lo these many years?
Well, if ain't ignorance, I don't know what it is. Honestly, don't you want to know why poor and middle class Republicans flock to hang out with oil barons and those of the pursuasion that we should tax the rich less?
Mr. Gerson misses the point. Being middle class myself, I understand reason based financial fear. What I don't understand is why so many of Americas poor and middle class are biting the hands that are fighting so hard to throw them a bone.
Current Republican policies: lowering taxes on the rich, eliminating social safety nets, eliminating the minimum wage, high sales taxes on food etc. could force the poor and lower middle class into absolute desperation. I know personally that without government programs during my recent unemployment my family and I would have been homeless.
Yeah, maybe Obama can sound a bit like a tired parent who just took the kids to Disney World, but Mr. Gerson should focus a little more attention on Republican candidates who are snowing the American public. Obama is,in assessing the psychic disconnect of the Republican masses, at least kind. I myself am not terribly kind. I call my Mom "Dumb Bunny". Luckily, she's too busy fighting against healthcare for her kids and grandkids to mind.

Posted by: BettyRalf | October 20, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

to all,

fwiw, BHO is a dolt, a fool & incompetent to do anything more complicated than clerk at a convienience store. otoh, he is throughly scripted by others who are smarter than he is & (as long as his teleprompter works) he sounds "fine" on TV.

his "deadly flaw" is that he will say, claim, do, agree to and/or lie about anything to make himself look like "the leader" that he demonstrably is not & cannot be. further, he is both deluded by & impressed with his "claque of worshipers", who are themselves so empty between the ears that they believe him to be the second coming of FDR.

"the general public", unlike his band of worshipers, see him for what BHO is:
a cheap scheming politician,
a knowing/shameless liar,
a weakling
an arrogant/sanctamonious shyster lawyer, who will be turned out of office on 20JAN2013.

one thing is for certain sure: BHO has convinced many of us voters that the USA is so strong as a nation that she can get along just fine W/O a POTUS.

sincerely yours, Retired MP46

Posted by: retiredMP46 | October 20, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Vanden for an intelligent rebuttal to Gerson's gibberish. President Obama is extremely intelligent, charismatic, and articulate. He's one of the nicest and most down to earth president's we ever had. He is truly cares about the people, and fights constantly for the middle class, and to preserve the American dream. I have great respect and admiration for this man who was Not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and understands what it is to work hard to gain success, and what a disaster this country will be if the democrats do not hold the house and senate.

People who are scared and ill-informed about the facts, are easily manipulated in to believing fallacies to the extend causes them to vote against their very own interests. Out of fear they are allowing their emotions to take over and ignore their critical thinking processes.

Posted by: HopeForAmerica | October 20, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

to all,

my compatriot-in-arms (RetiredMP46) is 100% correct about BHO. - he is a "snob" BUT he is NOT by any means either "a leader" nor is he "intelligent".

his LACK of "gray matter" was exposed for everyone there to see at an Obama rally during the 2008 primary, when a little girl of perhaps 11-13YO asked BHO, "Senator, what is your favorite movie?"

Obama "got the deer in the headlights look", stammered, stuttered, made STUPID jokes, congratulated her on "coming to see me", said that "young people are the future" & kept looking around (obviously hoping that someone/anyone would come to his rescue) BUT NEVER ANSWERED her SIMPLE question.
(obviously, he had NOT been briefed/scripted on that question by "his handlers".)

a person, who cannot answer such a simple question posed by a child, is intellectually UNFIT to hold any public office, much less that of POTUS. = BHO is a DUNCE!
(may i remind everyone reading this that Obama has TWO daughters of about that age? - he should have been able to "hit that one out of the park" but OBVIOUSLY was UNABLE to do what most ANY father could have.)

just my opinion.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 21, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"the irrational brand of politics that fear-mongers such as Glenn Beck and Christine O'Donnell promote? It's one thing to stomach the existence of, say, Tea Party politics -- the Constitution mandates that -- but it's quite another to sit around and abide those politics after the facts have borne them out as uninformed and illogical"
This is exactly what Gerson was talking about and VandenNozzle does it too, while arguing against Gerson's point.
She claims irrational and uninformed, just like Obama claims. Of course, just like Obama, she makes no argument at all. I listen to Beck and he sure doesn't seem uninformed and his points aren't irrational. Maybe Beck is a little out there. O'Donnell has been painted by the Libs since day one and no differently than Reagan or Bush or any conservative.

Vandenozzle poses the same tired false argument leftists make constantly: Personal attacks posing as arguments.

Like Obama does his best to insult a large (majority) group of Americans, so Katrinka will not be making any new friends soon.
Funny, is irrational always comes to mind when i think of Katarina VandenHeusen.

Posted by: glezzery1 | October 21, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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