Today’s “Why Does This Even Need to Be Asked” Question of the Day

It is: Should a multimillionaire Yale Law grad who’s lived in the White House and hadn’t pumped her own gas in years before a recent Potemkin pit stop be allowed call anyone else “elitist” without being laughed at in open derision?

59 Comments on “Today’s “Why Does This Even Need to Be Asked” Question of the Day”

  1. That goes along with the shots of her in a bar having a beer and a shot. Both equally unbelievable. As is her siding with thw little people. I mean, a hundred million last year between the two of them. I wouldn’t mind being one of the regular folks at that salary.

  2. Yeah.

    Bear in mind I have nothing against the elite, said the Webb School and University of Chicago graduate. I just think one member of that class trying to use the adjective as a negative against others is mildly reprehensible.

  3. Well, if she can claim 35 years as an insider (excuse me, 35 years experience, mostly her husband’s) and still claim to not be part of the system, then I guess she can do this.

    But remember, this is her second time pumping gas. The first time was out of public view, when one of her staffers showed her how to work a gas pump.

  4. Well said. I doubt she even knows the price of gas, or milk, or any staple (like a Kw/hour of electricity) without being told.
    For some funny, watch The Empire Strikes Barack below.

  5. And then there’s Jon Stewart’s take from a few nights back. It went something like this: “The job you’re applying for is running the country. All of it. If you get the job, the decisions you will make will affect every single one of the three hundred million people living here. If you don’t think you’re better than the rest of us, what the hell are you doing?

  6. Same way the son of one Navy admiral and the grandson of another, a guy who went to one of the most elite private schools in the nation in Alexandria, Va., a guy who married a model and later an heiress, a guy who rode his wife’s father’s beer distributing fortune to his first political office, a guy whose wife owns eight houses, for crying out loud, gets to call anyone an elitist.

    The press lets them get away with it.

  7. While I second the sentiment of mild irritation at the tendency of the “caviar left” for demagoguery, I’d have to agree with Charlie at 5 (and Jon Stewart).

    This is a tough job, needs intelligent people who are surrounded by intelligent people, who occasionally remind them of some realities we all live with.

    Thinking any different is what gave us George “how can I be a bad guy, I say nucular” Bush for 8 years.

    I realize that there is a subtle difference between the two points, but political campaigns don’t thrive on subtlety.

    And once again makes the point : get on with it, choose one of them, already, or you’ll lose in November. Because the more this goes on, the more Mc Cain will have issues like this to throw at you during the campaign.

  8. Jon Stewart’s take also included these gems: “This is a job where if you get it, and it goes well, they will carve your face into a mountain.

    “I want my leader to be embarrassingly superior to me.”

  9. If you want me to vote for you, you’d damn well better be elite. I’m not going to put some random guy from down at the Jiffy Lube in charge of a nuclear arsenal.

  10. I’ll just point out that there are full states in this country where you are not allowed to pump your own gas. New Jersey and Oregon, to be exact.

    So if you’re going to slag on Mrs. Clinton for not knowing how to pump her own gas, keep in mind the millions you’re also slagging on because their state won’t allow them to.

  11. Yes, well, Julia, when Clinton starts living in either New Jersey or Oregon, your point might actually have something approaching relevance. Until then, however, it really has none, and you are missing the point by such a ridiculously wide margin that I’m embarrassed for you that you even posted the comment.

  12. Should a multimillionaire Yale Law grad who’s lived in the White House and hadn’t pumped her own gas in years before a recent Potemkin pit stop be allowed call anyone else “elitist” without being laughed at in open derision?

    No. Nor should it be a credible candidate for leader of this country. Or any country.

  13. Oh, and Bob: look at the mess the ‘elite’ have made of this country. Do you really think an average joe from the Jiffy Lube workforce could do any worse? At least he or she has a real skill that they use to help real people who they see and interact with every day. Most congressthings don’t.

    Intellectual superiority does not correlate with education — either the level reached, the type acquired, or the use it’s put to.

  14. Wolfwalker:

    “Intellectual superiority does not correlate with education — either the level reached, the type acquired, or the use it’s put to.”

    Yup. I know some very well educated dumb people, I regret to say, and some amazingly bright folks who barely finished high school (and in at least a couple of cases, didn’t get that far).

  15. Don’t confuse elite with elitist!!!

    there is a difference and I really cant see any of the guys in the race as the former.

  16. Wolfwalker: “Intellectual superiority does not correlate with education — either the level reached, the type acquired, or the use it’s put to.”

    Well, George W. Bush has certainly proved that. Phillips Academy, Yale undergrad degree and Harvard MBA, and yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a less intellectually curious man in the country (Jim Anchower, maybe, but he’s fictional). Remember J.C. Watts trying to deflect criticism from Bush in the 2000 campaign by saying, “You can buy clever”? How’s that been working out?

    If you think the fact that the elite in this country have made a mess of things is a justification for putting the Jiffy Lube guy in office, think again. If the last seven years have taught us anything, it’s that a solid record of high-level intellectual achievement should be an absolute minimum requirement for holding the nation’s highest office. Not just studying, but doing, and producing good results.

    Americans are fond of walking into the voting booth, saying “Well, we couldn’t do any worse than we already have,” and then proceeding to prove themselves wrong. Maybe we should stop doing that. Just throwing it out there.

  17. shaunduke – Shaun Duke is a podcaster, a reviewer, a blogger, and a writer. He is a host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show, a blogger at The World in the Satin Bag, a freelance editor at The Duke of Editing, and a co-owner of Young Writers Online. He also co-hosts Totally Pretentious, a movie discussion podcast, with David Annandale. Outside of fandom activities, he is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Florida, where he studies science fiction, postcolonialism, and Caribbean literature.
    SMD

    The answer: Of course. The reason: Freedom of Speech. I don’t care if she’s wrong or if she’s being a hypocrite. She can say it because she’s American and that’s sort of a rule around these parts :P.

  18. Bob:

    I’ve always found it intriguing that the characterizations of Bush given by his enemies, and the ones given by those who actually know him, sound like two entirely different people.

    If the last seven years have taught us anything, it’s that a solid record of high-level intellectual achievement should be an absolute minimum requirement for holding the nation’s highest office. Not just studying, but doing, and producing good results.

    Define “intellectual achievement,” please.

  19. “I want my leader to be embarrassingly superior to me.”

    Hmmm, when have we ever had such a leader? For that matter, name a country that has ever had an “embarrassingly superior” leader. Churchill maybe?

    If the last seven years have taught us anything, it’s that a solid record of high-level intellectual achievement should be an absolute minimum requirement for holding the nation’s highest office. Not just studying, but doing, and producing good results.

    That’s still going to permit the likes of Wolfowitz, Rice and Feith to hold office. They had solid academic / intellectual credentials, and the results… hmmm, not so good.

    And it would exclude, well, just about every single past President. The closest we’ve ever had to a President with a “solid record of high-level intellectual achievement” before he took office would probably be Woodrow Wilson, and that didn’t work out so well.

  20. “Freedom of Speech” only covers somebody’s right to call somebody elitist. If, like Hillary Clinton, she’s wrong AND a hypocrite for doing so, that same freedom provides me and every other sensible American the right to mock her openly, over and over again if we want to. The 1st Amendment doesn’t protect you from criticism by your fellow citizens, and it doesn’t even protect you from your fellow citizens telling you to STFU.

  21. I think there’s a lot of other questions that could be asked of her first, don’t you think? Like which do you prefer on your cheesecake, strawberries or blueberries?

  22. Not to drag things away from the actual topic, but any fruit on cheesecake is just a waste of cheesecake, and possibly of fruit.

  23. ” ‘I want my leader to be embarrassingly superior to me.’ ”

    “Hmmm, when have we ever had such a leader?”

    Well, I think that’s rather the problem, isn’t it? No matter how much we may *want* such a leader, we don’t necessarily have much of a way to *get* one. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though.

  24. Hillary is going after the lunch-bucket crowd. Unfortunately, she thinks they are stupid enough to fall for her “elitist” jabs, and the BS gas tax “holiday.”

    Bread and circuses.

  25. More disturbing, is a major presidential candidate dismissing the views of economists on a fundamentally economic question of tax incidence. For a brief comment from a real live reputable economist (may or may not be elitist):
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/29/gas-tax-follies/
    A potential president who threatens to ignore anyone with actual expertise in the relevant subject in the name of politicking? Be afraid.

  26. Because in politics, it seems, “elitism” is an accusation that will be used against you if you don’t use it first.

  27. #33, Flippanter:

    I’ve always seen it more in terms of George telling us about the rabbits.

    And I find it very disheartening that the public really is a big, dumb Lennie that’s easily pacified by sweet-sounding lies.

  28. I’ve recently come to the realization that Hillary is David Drumlin. In my head, I’ve started finishing any of her statements with, “…whom we lovingly call ‘Elmer.'” It doesn’t make it any easier, just highlights the absurdity just a little bit more.

    I understand the rationale for the position that “Well, ALL politicians do or say whatever it takes to get elected.” But calling economists elitist? We’re getting into some seriously desperate territory here.

  29. It’s ironic because Hillary Clinton is an “elite” in the good sense. She’s a Yale Law grad because she’s sharp and smart. She’s genuinely accomplished things that few have. The Clintons have made their fortunes themselves, like all the Bushes are supposed to have but W has not. Bill Clinton called his first run for president as the race between “the billionaire, the millionaire and me.” They didn’t become anywhere near milliionaires until after his presidency according to NPR’s analysis of their tax records. I doubt they know what it’s like to be poor, but I think that’s true of most people. But they’ve only been rich since after the turn of this century. It’s a real accomplishment to become a multi-millionaire.

    It’s sad then to see her pander like this. I’m not surprised. It’s hard to be surprised seeing a politician behave a like a politician. But it doesn’t make it any less sad to see them do it.

  30. Well, given the kind of people who voted for Bush the second time, I would say we already have a leader who is embarrassingly superior to his constituency.

  31. Wolfwalker: Define “intellectual achievement,” please.

    You seem to be think that you and I are engaged in some kind of dialogue. We are not.

  32. Re: the Jon Stewart comments–yeah, that’s why I never understood the folks who voted for Bush because they thought he was “just like them.” Aside from the fact that Bush went to private schools before attending Yale and Harvard–hardly making him an average joe–I always figured the President Of The United States ought to be better than me. I want a President who’s smarter than I am, more educated, better spoken–and I’d like to think that as lawyers go, I’m a pretty smart, educated and articulate guy.

    Originally, the representative process we have was supposed to skim the cream off the top of the elite. That’s part of the rationale for the electoral college. The founders were, by and large, wealthy intellectuals suspicious of mob rule. They were the elite. It’s really with Andrew Jackson’s election that things started to go downhill, with charisma and the “common touch” becoming the inflated pseudo-virtues we have today.

    Of course this all makes me sound like an elitist asshole, but please remember: I want my betters–my intellectual and educational betters–running the country. If you’re not smarter and wiser than I am, why the hell am I voting for you?

  33. Me: If the last seven years have taught us anything, it’s that a solid record of high-level intellectual achievement should be an absolute minimum requirement for holding the nation’s highest office. Not just studying, but doing, and producing good results.

    JJ: That’s still going to permit the likes of Wolfowitz, Rice and Feith to hold office. They had solid academic / intellectual credentials, and the results… hmmm, not so good.

    The same can be said for those guys in The Best and the Brightest. I stress the phrase “absolute minimum requirement.” As engineers say, necessary but not sufficient. That’s the starting point.

    Doug Feith has done something useful in his life? That’s a news flash.

    Listening to the talk shows this morning, all I hear is Rev. Wright and the gas tax holiday. Is anyone going to remember this stuff in a year?

  34. Wolfwalker: I’ve always found it intriguing that the characterizations of Bush given by his enemies, and the ones given by those who actually know him, sound like two entirely different people.

    You mean, the way his enemies and critics tend to say bad things about him and his friends and supporters tend to say nice things about him?

    Wow. The irony. Yeah, that really is intriguing.

  35. John, she’s allowed to call someone elitist without being laughed at in derision just like I’m allowed to run a 3-minute mile. The odds of those happening are about the same.

  36. I was of the thought that either Obama or Hillary would be fine but after she jumped on that bogus elitist bandwagon she lost any interest I had i her. Obama gets my vote tomorrow here in NC.

  37. Julia,

    Just had to say it. I live in Oregon. I don’t have a driver’s license or own a car. And even *I* know how to pump gas. (We sometimes visit other states, you see.)

    My favorite in all this elitist crap was the cover of Newsweek with the Arugula vs. the beer mug. Like, if my president eats healthy vegetables so he can remain healthy and alert on the job, thats just too elitist for me. But if he can throw back 8 beers and fail a sobriety test right before meeting with heads of state? Well, that’s my kind of world leader!

  38. It’s the Karl Rove-ian big lie. You say something often enough and loudly enough and eventually the media will be forced to quote it just because they have to quote something you say in order to keep their jobs. The public sees the quote, which despite being patently false, appeals to some fundamental belief that the average non-college-educated voter holds. In this case the belief is that the average ignorant voter is in some way a better judge of the necessary ability and policy than the elitist experts.
    Of course, because making an effort to explain to voters the economic principles behind the gas-tax-holiday idiocy will just make them more angry, the successful politician is the one who actually encourages continued ignorance.
    It’s what got Bush elected, re-elected, and continually not impeached.

  39. I went to a private girls’ school (on a scholarship, I was poor) and I clearly recall the headmistress lecturing us on how we were the elite and we would rule some day.

    At the only class reunion I ever attended I saw everyone for the first time in 10 years and found the daughters of politicians and other wealthy folks had all become a bunch of middle class losers, who weren’t ruling anything.

    Maintaining eliteness clearly required a level of work they were not prepared to put in. (Nor me, but I never felt elite, anyway. And I’m lazy.)

  40. Bob wrote: ” If the last seven years have taught us anything, it’s that a solid record of high-level intellectual achievement should be an absolute minimum requirement for holding the nation’s highest office. Not just studying, but doing, and producing good results.”

    That’s why I figure a track record of good judgement should be a requirement.

    That would have disqualified Wolfowitz and the rest of ‘Team B’ who were wrong about the Soviets.

    I like the way Obama pegged the Iraq war in 2002, particularly why it was a ‘dumb war’ (his term). Good judgement.

  41. John Chu wrote: “It’s a real accomplishment to become a multi-millionaire.”

    Not for an ex-President. Sheesh.

  42. JJ@22

    Hmmm, when have we ever had such a leader? For that matter, name a country that has ever had an “embarrassingly superior” leader. Churchill maybe?

    Well, the first one that springs to mind is Thomas Jefferson.

  43. An Eric @43: No, I mean the way that people who have never seen him except on television call him ill-read and “not intellectually curious,” while people who have met him face to face multiple times and actually discussed current events & issues with him can reel off lists of books about current events and history that he’s read and can discuss intelligently in both casual and serious conversation.

    And that behavior is intriguing because it comes from liberals, whose entire political philosophy allegedly orbits around the simple concept that you shouldn’t pre-judge people, but should first gather facts so that you can then form an informed opinion. Except, it seems, when a conservative is involved. Then, the entire notion of fair play and no pre-judging goes out the window, and they run in all directions screaming “Tool of God! Evil! Coward! Stupid! Racist! Burn him! Burn him! Raze his house, outlaw his family, attaint his goods, and let no one ever speak his name or his political ideas again!”

    It’d be fun to watch, if the cretins doing it weren’t the same cretins who run the country now.

  44. Wolfwalker:

    “No, I mean the way that people who have never seen him except on television call him ill-read and ‘not intellectually curious,’ while people who have met him face to face multiple times and actually discussed current events & issues with him can reel off lists of books about current events and history that he’s read and can discuss intelligently in both casual and serious conversation.”

    Well, Paul O’Neill met him face to face multiple times and actually discussed current events & issues with him, and said he was quite unquestioning and incurious, so I don’t suspect it’s an entirely unanimous vote, there, even among the people who knew and worked for him.

  45. @32

    A potential president who threatens to ignore anyone with actual expertise in the relevant subject in the name of politicking? Be afraid.

    Applies equally to Obama’s understanding of the capital gains tax, unfortunately.

  46. And that behavior is intriguing because it comes from liberals, whose entire political philosophy allegedly orbits around the simple concept that you shouldn’t pre-judge people, but should first gather facts so that you can then form an informed opinion.

    While I expect most of us liberals would agree with assembling facts and not pre-judging people, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen the claim that this was what our entire political philosophy orbits around. Actually, I’m not sure there’s any one thing our philosophy does orbit around–there are a number of precepts and tenets and ideals, and we do like our informed opinions. But our “entire political philosophy”? If you’d asked me, I probably would have come up with something about government existing to promote the common weal or being “of the People” or something along those lines. Maybe I’m just a bad liberal.

    But anyway, as Scalzi notes, who says the people who thinks the President isn’t intellectually curious are prejudging him? There are a number of people who know the President and have worked with him in government and in the private sector who have formed the impression that the President doesn’t ask a whole lot of questions. And I’m not sure that being well-read is a rebuttal to the charge. I happen to have the impression that the President is a rather intelligent man and that he’s not intellectually curious–I haven’t met him, so I could be wrong on either count, or both. (If you’re going to jump on me for saying he doesn’t seem to be a deep thinker without meeting him, please be consistent and jump on me for saying he’s rather intelligent, too. Thanks.) Even with family connections, I doubt you graduate from Ivy League schools and get yourself elected to the highest State and Federal offices without some kind of smarts. But there are different kinds of intelligence: I think the President is probably a smart man who makes decisions quickly, doesn’t go very deep in getting second opinions, doesn’t think through causes-and-effects, and whose interpretations of what he reads tends to confirm his beliefs rather than challenge them. He doesn’t seem to be someone who asks a lot of questions or who seeks a lot of answers. That doesn’t mean he’s dumb–I know a lot of people who completed law school, passed the bar, and make a good living as attorneys who are exactly the same way. In some ways, they’re very smart people.

    In other ways, they aren’t.

    But maybe I’m wrong. You’re right, I’ve never met him. I know some of his friends say nice things about him and some of his enemies say mean things about him. And I know he has a few supporters (less than a third of the population) and a number of detractors who will say nice or mean things about him. Since I might be wrong, I should admit it’s quite possible that he is exactly as dumb as the two wars we’re losing seems to suggest. So, Wolfwalker, I suppose I concede your point, after a fashion.

  47. who says the people who thinks the President isn’t intellectually curious are prejudging him?

    Who needs to pre-judge? We have seven years of bitter, bitter experience to inform our judgments. I just love watching Bush partisans tie themselves in knots trying to explain how yet another clearly incompetent decision is secretly really smart. This is the right-wing version of Bush Derangement Syndrome – “everything he does is pure genius if you understand it properly!”

  48. It’s really with Andrew Jackson’s election that things started to go downhill, with charisma and the “common touch” becoming the inflated pseudo-virtues we have today.

    Wow, you really DO reach back for damn-kids-get-off-my-lawnism!

    The eternal conflict between the Elite and the Common Man was reflected in the opinions of the Framers, and is why we have both a House of Representatives and a Senate (which was originally an appointed, not an elected, body).

  49. Yes, I’m aware of what the Constitution says, and that was part of the point: while the framers recognized a conflict between the masses and the elite, they had a healthy respect for the elite.

    This sounds horrible and elitist, I’m sure, and there’s some irony in it coming from me because I have strong populist sympathies. But the reality is that the public sometimes does things that are foolish. (We should distinguish between the public and the “common people,” as well–a mob is quite likely to include members of the elite.) The qualities of the elite include (1) by definition, there’s fewer of them and so they’re less likely to become a mindless mob and (2) members of the elite frequently possess qualities, such as experience and education, that ought to make them better leaders (it ain’t necessarily so, of course, but it’s not an unreasonable assumption). In the original Constitution, the House was created as a check upon the elites, but if you look closely, the remaining branches of government are made up of people selected by the elites. It’s an elitist form of governance–not surprising, given that the founders were well-educated, mostly wealthy landowners, lawyers, publishers, clerks, etc.

    Yes, Jackson is reaching back, but historically that’s when the populist shift began.

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