No Minister

Yes, Academics are this dumb!

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“Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”

There are countless examples from history – as that Orwell quote shows – as well as our present day (see Souxie Wiles and Michael Baker).

Yet I still find myself being surprised by such stupidity, as with this story of then freshly minted President Biden meeting with a bunch of US historians in March 2021.

The enlisted attendees, all credentialed progressives, included Michael Beschloss and Doris Kerns Goodwin, each of whom has written on several presidencies; Joanne B. Freeman, a Yale professor and expert on Alexander Hamilton’s life; and Walter Issacson, many of whose books touch on presidential power.

I liked Goodwin in Ken Burn’s series Baseball, where she described the agony of being a Boston Red Sox fan, especially in 1986. But it would be fair to say she’s been tarnished in recent years by (accurate) accusations of plagiarism. Freeman is excellent on Hamilton, as Issacson is on more general US history, especially when it comes to the modern Hi-Tech period.

They had all gathered at the request of another historian, one Jon Meacham, whose ethical standards shine throughout:

Meacham was credited with writing Biden’s acceptance speech at the Democratic convention; he later characterized the speech as “poetic” on MSNBC without disclosing his authorship.

It looks like Biden, like so many other Democrat Presidents, was trying for a bit of JFK magic by mixing with intellectuals as he had, reaching for his strand of the mystic chords of memory.

They had assembled to advise the President on how his presidency might be shaped to be considered “historic.” Press reports hinted that the President’s staff saw an opportunity to nudge their boss into adopting an ambitious domestic agenda by crafting an image of Biden consulting history as a guide.

The historians were fully onboard with these plans:

He was, they argued, in a special position to undertake a programmatic agenda that would transform the nation’s civic and economic life. He could achieve that which President Obama had promised but failed to produce.

The advice is reported to have come in simple phrases—go really big, go really fast. The conjured image of what Biden could achieve was a fusion of the accomplishments of FDR and LBJ, only bigger, to meet the enlarged aspirations of a woke society.

Biden had just beaten a guy with some of the highest negatives in Presidential poling history, who had almost never been above 50% approval in his term, and Biden had been helped along further by one of the biggest voter turnout operations in Democrat history, the machine fueled by some $350 million supplied from the billionaire owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

But even if the resulting 81 million votes did fool them into thinking Biden had a mandate rather than just the Trump-hate vote, the threadbare results of the Democrats in the House, where they lost seats and won none, and the Senate where they barely got the two they needed merely to get a tie, in post-2020 special elections in the state of Georgia (an unlikely-to-be-repeated fluke), surely should have been a clue that the Democrats did not.

When FDR launched the New Deal in 1933 he did so after a landslide win, plus coattails that delivered him huge majorities in the House and Senate. Same with LBJ and his Great Society programs in 1965. Obama had only slightly less power in 2009-2010.

For historians, so deeply informed not just of American history but American political history, to suddenly ignore their own knowledge because they had glittering Leftist prizes in their eyes, is almost criminally stupid.

Suffice to say that Biden, with fifty years of sometimes rough and raw political experience of winning and losing behind him, certainly should have known better as he surveyed the lay of the land. Bill Clinton post 1994 should have been the model, as it likely will soon have to be after this year’s Mid-Term elections.

But sometimes ordinary people and politicians are as stupid as intellectuals.

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