Monday, February 9, 2009

The Literate Presidency

Mark Nickolas has consulted the Oracle of Redmond to render an objective judgment on Obama's and Bush's literacy.

While mere humans are still processing Obama's first Presidential press conference, Microsoft Word has already reached an unsurprising verdict: Obama is smarter than Dubya.

Or at least presents himself more intelligibly. In unprepared answers to reporters' questions, Obama speaks at a 10th grade level, Bush at a 7th grade level. To be fair, Obama is still talking down to us, whereas Bush was fully utilizing his English skills to their utmost. Perhaps when Obama gets more comfortable with the long-dormant intelligence and education of his audience, he will let drop more sesquipedalia. In the interim, it already gives me hope just to hear our leader speak extemporaneously on at least a high school level of written English, after the prevaricating and evasive locker room bro-speak of the previous tenant of that high office.

Or, as Henry Higgens had it, “You'll get much further with the Lord if you learn not to offend His ears.”

Mine too.


Anonymous said...

I didn't understand a word of that post, but I think you said I'm smarter than a 5th grader, right?

Scott B. said...

Where did the post decrying breakfast cereals go? I had so much to say about it...

Unknown said...


Sorry, too slow. I got there first. Even I have my standards, and it was found to be suffering the following fatal flaws:

1) Kelloggs is not a government entity, and therefore the wrong foil for a discussion on Federal drug policy.

2) Estoppel forbids me from simultaneously arguing against the use of celebrity endorsements and for the retention of Phelps' endorsement.

3) Phelps forfeited his usefulness as martyr when he apologized for the bong hit.

4) I do not actually eat Kellogg's cereal (as Marty pointed out, I'm a Cinnamon Toast Crunch™ and Captain Crunch™ man), so it is disingenuous to suggest that I am boycotting them.

5) It was too difficult (within the confines of one paragraph) to justify repeal of drug laws, advocate against drug use, and not look as though I am equivocating on both points.

6) I have little passion for the entire story, and the post was insufficiently compelling, in both form and content, to stand next to my other higher-quality posts.

7) I wanted to deprive you of compelling me to choose between retreat under fire and defending the indefensible. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Only Dubya refuses to back up when he is stuck in a corner. I promise that if you blog on the topic, I will be glad to comment!

Scott B. said...

The length and substance of your list of reasons for removing the post makes me truly wonder how it ever made it past the "publish" button in the first place.

I mean, if your thinking was so flawed in one area, who's to say...well, we'll just leave it there.

Unknown said...

I mean, if your thinking was so flawed in one area...

Thank you for clarifying why conservatives have such trouble admitting they're wrong. As a progressive, I never fully understood why I should care more about what other people thought of me than about my own convictions until just this second.

I stand enlightened.

Scott B. said...

I'm here to please.

And don't call me a conservative again, please. Classical liberal is the correct term.

bjkeefe said...

Scott: I've just started noticing this phenomenon of people I would call conservatives insisting upon describing themselves as "classical liberals."

Is this a new thing? Is it an effort to distinguish oneself from the Palin / "Joe" the "Plumber" / Limbaugh wing of the GOP; i.e., is conservative now starting to acquire a taint, the way that liberal did in some circles (for other reasons)?

Or, if this is not new, could you tell me why you prefer this appellation?

Scott B. said...


I would say that it's certainly not new--although it might be new to you (do you ever notice that with new words or idioms? You learn a new one and, invariably, you hear it used multiple times over the next couple of days?).

"Classical liberal" is simply not the same thing as "conservative", at least not in the sense the latter is used in the USA. Economists in particular (I myself being of that ilk) are fond of the label "Liberal", as that was what our "fathers" were called--Adam Smith, David Ricardo, etc...but somewhere along the line, the term "Liberal" was stolen from us. "Libertarian" is a close substitute, but there are too many gun-loving crazy people who call themselves libertarians for Adam Smith liberals to be comfortable with that title.

How do we differ from conservatives in the US? Chiefly, classical liberals are more, ah, peace loving. We differ thus on such issues as the war in Iraq, torture, etc...

Also,most conservatives prefer strong regulation of morals in society, where as C.L.'s (in my experience) prefer complete government withdrawal from most of these areas--drugs, prostitution, etc--in lieu of regulation.


Scott B. said...

Also,Dan,glorious to report, your Michael Phelps post is still alive and breathing in my google reader. I must make a copy for posterity!

bjkeefe said...

Thanks for the clarification, Scott. It fits in with the impression I had, but you've sharpened it.

I would say that it's not the term that's so new to me, just that lately, as I said, I'm noticing a lot of conservative-seeming people insisting upon the (new?) label. But as you say, this could be one of those things where once you notice something for the first time, it makes you much more receptive to noticing it again.