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President Chauncy Gardner...A Grave Failure of Intellectual Curiosity

By       Message Steve Young     Permalink
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A recent scarborough Country (MSNBC) show questioned the likelihood of an idiot in the White House.

It's not a bad question as "Being There"'s Chauncy "Chance" Gardner made that prospect a sweet possibility, though to be fair, Peter Seller's character was more a case of being mentally-challenged than being an idiot. The major problem with the "idiot" speculation was that it wasn't about future or fictional prospects. It was about idiocy already in residency at 1600.

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But is it fair to judge President Bush an idiot? By that I mean, is it fair to idiots? At least with those once deemed idiots.

Years ago, an "idiot" was thought to be a person with severe mental retardation. The term is no longer applied medically or psychologically to mental sickness, but whether intellectually-challenged or sick, most idiots don't get to be a deciders „ who decide to send thousands to their death.

While there are accounts of village idiots who may have been sick, stupid or just Mayberry-Otis drunk, there was never an entire-country idiot. Historically, those in charge who needlessly sent thousands of innocents and heros to their death were considered, not idiotic, but mad or psychotic; not by their constituency who mindlessly followed their leader over the cliff, but by those who fought for an antidote to the murderous toxicity. Those who follow but survive will normally plead ignorance (see: Nuremberg Trials or Abu Ghraib).

If you're too lazy to check fully-vetted sources, you would find that Wikipedia alleges that the term "idiot" gets its modern meaning the Old French idiote ("uneducated or ignorant person").

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Being in charge or academically degree'd once equated to one being anything but an idiot. But once my friends started to become lawyers or doctors or heads of large companies or columnists, I realized that idiots too could be lawyers or doctors or heads of large companies or columnists. Checking the recent crime sheets, it doesn't seem to take much intellect either to become a powerful politician.

On Scarborough, the discussion progressed into one not of this President being an idiot but one debating his lack of intellectual curiosity and whether or not the leader of the free world should be intellectually curious. It seemed that Scarborough thought it would be nice to have someone with his hand on the button - or someone whose hand was being held to the button by others - was intellectually curious. If true, can there more egregious irresponsibility from one who professes to have the country's safety and defense his foremost mission. Homicidal bad judgement is usually legally-deemed manslaughter, not murder I don't know if this President's bad judgement reaches the level of high crime or misdemeanor, but felony could be argued.

Keep in mind, those who are now questioning the President's decider „ smarts aren't solely from the enemy camp. In fact, there seems to be a crowd forming to the Right who doubt he knows not what he has wrought. None other than the likes of staunch conservatives by names of William Buckley, George Will, Rich Lowry and Thomas Friedman have lined up to point out this President's failures.

Failure of anything in itself need not be a death knell to the intellectual process. I don't want to go Thomas Edison all over you, but there is a plethora of historical proof that failure learned from is one, if not the most, integral part of a positive intellectual process. And it isn't a commodity exclusive to either side of the aisle. In my book, "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful," both Al Franken and Michael Medved, representing the extremes of the radio talk-show world, expressed like beliefs in how failure and mistakes used to adjust their thinking, were powerful tools that led them to personal triumph.

But the major ingredient in real intellectual curiosity is consistent appraisal and adaption. Not as a catchphrase, but as a real course of action. Staying the course „ that has proven wrong proves a stubborn lack of intellectual curiosity, not a heroic sticking to your guns. Sticking to the guns that keep shooting you in the foot only makes it more difficult to move ahead.

Chauncy Gardner "liked to watch," but he meant television, not thousands being thrown to their death. Makes one yearn that we'd chosen Chauncy Gardner president. Then again, maybe we did.
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