February 21, 2008

The secret of political success

The more we find out about Presidential candidates, the more it becomes clear that the secret to the success they've enjoyed so far in their careers is that in elections, somebody always has to win. This isn't like climbing Mt. Everest, where you either do it or you don't. Politics is graded on the curve, and the competition is only other politicians.

For example, for years we've been assured by the press that while Hillary Clinton may not be inspiring, as a manager she is Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Welch, and Stalin rolled into one. And yet, her 2008 campaign has been inept, with it becoming more obvious daily that she didn't have her staff prepare a realistic, detailed plan for what would need to be done in the later primaries if, perchance, she didn't knock out the competition on Super Tuesday, February 5.

Of the 16 years I've known about the existence of Hillary Clinton, I've spent the last 14 trying to ignore her, because she's a boring person. Has anyone ever heard her say anything interesting?

The more you look into her, the more the myth of her brilliance evaporates. For example, where does the famous description of her as "the smartest woman I've ever encountered" come from? Larry Summers? Lee Kuan Yew? Seymour Cray? Nah, it's a quote from Bill Clinton's mom, Virginia.

I'm far behind the curve on this, but I didn't know until now that, after graduating from Yale Law School, she failed the Washington D.C. bar exam. She wrote in her autobiography:
"I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington, D.C., bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me towards Arkansas. When I learned that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought maybe my test scores were telling me something. I spent a lot of my salary on my telephone bills and was so happy when Bill came to see me over Thanksgiving. We spent our time exploring Boston and talking about our future."

Lots of people fail the bar exam, but Washington D.C.'s isn't particularly hard, at least not compared to California's (which the former dean of the Stanford Law School, Kathleen Sullivan, recently flunked). In July 2007, 75.5% of first time test takers passed the D.C. bar exam. The overall pass rate in her year was apparently 67%, so the pass rate for first-time takers (which is usually higher) was probably about the same. And that would put her in the bottom quarter. (Arkansas' test, which she passed, appears to be pretty easy.)

Failing the bar exam isn't so bad, except that the media has never explained why she should be President other than that she's so smart. But if she's not so smart, then her main claim to being President is the nationally embarrassing one that nobody is supposed to talk about: that she was married to the last President, that she's Imelda Marcos in sensible shoes.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Steve, I think where she excels is political acumen. She's wanted to be president ever since she was a little child, and as a white woman lacking charisma, she's done everything it takes to get there: attached herself to someone who could be president, turned a blind eye to his infidelities, popped out a child (just one though!) so there wouldn't be questions about their marriage, moved to New York and became a senator and slowly changed people's opinions about her so that she was electable, held a bajillion group focus meetings so she could adjust her extreme-left liberalism to society's mores, and yet...

...and yet, in the end, she's being beaten by Obama, who shares her extreme-left views, but can hide it better, has more charisma, and his blackness > her femininess. From this perspective, it's easy both to find the situation enormously amusing and feel bad for Hillary.

Of course, I think both Hillary and Obama would be terrible for the country, but I agree with Auster that Obama will be worse, because he will turn race and racism into a much greater deal than it is now.

michael farris said...

Disclaimer, I think either Obama or Clinton would be a decent, not great, president, a respectable caretaker. Neither would have been my first choice, but McCain would be worse in too many ways (ymmv). Of the Republican nominees in most ways Romney would have made the best president but his political-whore tendencies make him a bad canidate.
Between the two democrats, my preference for the candidate would be Clinton simply because she's proven her ability to stand up to Republican negative campaigning. She's been the subject of the longest, most negative political hate-campaign in US history and it hasn't destroyed her. Obama is really untested in the area of standing up to unfair and untrue negative campaigning. I'm curious about what kind of campaign he encountered from the guy that beat him.

I'm also of the opinion that what really has done in Clinton (though she's not out yet and Clintons are notoriously difficult to finish off) is that she's .... female.

I think Bob Harris said it best:
"All else being equal, America’s best-loved leaders are always optimistic alpha males with will-do attitudes who project comfort with their own power and a touch of self-deprecation — in other words, embodiments of the projected self-image of the country. Over and over and over."

Anytime one nominee for president fits the profile to a significantly higher degree than his opponent, he wins.
Eisenhower over Stevenson, Kennedy over Nixon, Reagan over Carter and Mondale, Clinton over Bush and Dole.
The only candidate that had a chance against Clinton was one who closely fit the profile outlined by Harris. Obama fits it and being better in debates (and probably a more effective executive) won't do Clinton any good.

I'm not happy about Obamamania (not being a joiner in general) but I think it's funny that many of the Hillaryphobes can't really rejoice because for a lot of them the idea of a non-white male with blood ties to Muslims as president is probably their worst nightmare. Be careful what you wish for Hillary haters.

Ross said...

Hasn't Hillary Clinton's basic managerial incompetence been known for years though? The Hillarycare debacle was prominent enough for anyone to have spotted her basic ineptness.

georgesdelatour said...

Hi Steve

It feels odd to me that the USA, which produces some of the greatest scientists and most innovative and successful entrepreneurs, nowadays fields such poor quality candidates in presidential elections. You mention Lee Kuan Yew, a man with double starred first class honors from Cambridge University, who was also a brilliant political operator. It feels unthinkable that such a man could rise to the top of the American system today. And I think that's a pity.

Would his super intelligence actually count against him? Would less intelligent voters feel intimidated by a candidate of such palpable intellectual brilliance, preferring someone seemingly more like themselves?

As A Brit, I know my country has had its fair share of stupid Prime Ministers. But the British system has one strength. The person with the top job has to face Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. To some this may seem like a vacuous political joust. But it tests the leader's ability to think quickly on his/her feet under pretty hostile cross examination. Plus, British TV interviewers like Jeremy Paxman are really, really tough. I've seen US Presidential debates, and they seem much more anodyne, much less challenging. This is all the more bizarre to me, because there are far more extreme policy differences in the US than in the UK right now.

Anonymous said...

Although I personally dislike Hillary, it probably is harder for a woman to successful in politics as the top dog.

Very few women can pull off top dog leadership in the Anglo world like the oft cited Maggie Thatcher. I can think of no one else right now. Rep Jane Harmon is probably the most competent woman leader in this mould.

Women usually do leadership by attractively blending in like Nancy Pelosi or Gov Jennifer Granholm, coming across as a non threatening grandparent like Gov Ann Richards or marginalizing themselves with some radical district like Barbara Boxer or Eleanor Holmes Norton.

I could never image a female Bush II or Clinton doing well in politics. I can't even image a female Obama not being called out for being a creampuff ideological windbag. As a man without her liberal ideological bent, Hillary would be just another low charisma, high-testosterone machine-building technocrat like a Daily.

Maybe the nature of politics, like finance and high-tech, is more suited to men in the way some professions are more suited to women.

Anonymous said...

In the library Saturday, the display shelves were set up for Presidents' Day. For drive-time listening, I picked up Reagan's radio broadcasts from the 1970s, and Mrs. Clinton's Living History, narrated by the author. I started listening to Mrs. Clinton's first, because a few weeks more, and I may never have reason to think about her again. Has she ever said anything interesting? Well, for the most part she sounds bored narrating her own book.

Here's an observation I made on Dec. 5, 2006:

I’m less impressed then most with Hillary Clinton’s political skill. Winning a seat in the Senate is a small thing compared with winning the presidency, and she got lucky to accomplish that: Moynihan retired in the one of the few states where she would have a chance. Giuliani withdrew due to prostate cancer leaving her to face lightweight Rick Lazio. All those breaks, and she still pulled in only 55% of the 2000 NY vote.

John Mansfield

Anonymous said...

"extreme left wing" views?

Um, she's pro choice and supports some form of national health insurance - much like the majority of Americans.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything m has written save the last paragraph. Demographic changes are going to bring race to the fore eventually, why wait? Delay and denial work against a future that counts the US as a member of the first world. Getting salami sliced by HRC is far less painful than an old fashioned 1969 style Mau-Mauing by BHO's minions. Which do you think is more likely to be rejected?

Anonymous said...

That crack about Hillary being Imelda Marcos in sensible shoes was most fitting, I wish I'd thought of it.
I posted my comment below on Half Sigma's sometimes excellent blog yesterday but it's even more OT here.

Hillary took the nomination for granted. She probably didn't stop to consider that Mr. Obama would give Democratic voters everything she could and more, without renewing the sticky aftertaste that the Clinton years left in their mouths. There are no good candidates left in the race. I'm just pulling for the least effectual at this point.

Anonymous said...

I took and passed the California bar ('92) and the Arkansas bar ('93). The California bar, which at the time I took it had the lowest pass rate of any bar exam in the country, was VERY tough, while the Arkansas bar seemed much easier. I was able to transfer my "Multi-State" multiple choice results from CA to AR, so the AR bar exam, was much shorter for me than the CA exam (which took three days.)

The QUESTIONS on the New York bar were supposed to be tougher than the questions on the California bar, but New York actually passes a somewhat greater percentage than California, or at least they did in the early 90s.

If I recall correctly, some of my classmates took the D.C. bar the SAME MONTH that they took the California bar. Prepping for two different tests simultaneously almost certainly hurts your chances of passing either exam, so most people would put "maximum effort" into passing the exam in their first choice jurisdiction, and then try to coast through the exam in the other jurisdiction on built up steam. (Different jurisdictions test different subjects and "skills" and a big part of any bar exam is organizing your time effectively)

I had to wait six months after graduating to take the Arkansas exam because the summer AR & CA bars were held at the same time. IMO, Hillary could have exhausted herself trying to study for two bars simultaneously and then seriously underperformed on the DC bar. While I was taking the CA bar, I took it in a convention center and was seated at a table near the rest rooms. The whole time I was taking the exam people were walking into the rest rooms and vomiting their guts out. The stress is simply unbelievable, and people who are exhausted, or ill, or who have big personal problems at the time of the exam frequently fail despite being smart and studious. I can't remember whether the DC bar was reputed to be one of the more difficult ones or not, but the fact that Hillary failed it does not make her stupid. However, I would say that the real legal geniuses that I have come across could pass any bar exam, anywhere, anytime after a couple of weeks of cramming the local rules into their heads.

What bar exams did Barack and Michelle Obama take, and did they pass on the first try?

Ron Guhname said...

The Democratic race is making me lose my faith in democracy. Steve's point about Hillary is well taken, but what is Obama but a black blank slate who talks purty? I've witnessed a long list of people on TV, talk radio, and in print who have no answer when asked why they are voting for him. It's scary.

Anonymous said...

I thought in DC you only needed to pass the Multistate,which is the more g-loaded, multiple choice part of the exam. If that's not the case (back then), then her failure may be explained by the inherent difficulty and confusion of studying two similar, but slightly different, bodies of law. Bar exams like to test exceptions and exceptions to exceptions. They're rather tricky by nature, but her failure I don't think says much about her intellect considering she went to Yale Law and all. She may have just been a bad studier.

That said, she strikes me as a person of average high intellect. Maybe a 135 IQ. It's not that impressive to see in action. She's as smart as any run-of-the-mill corporate lawyer, which is to say she's not well suited to be President.

Ron Guhname said...

Not only ordinary citizens, but even officials supporting Obama don't know why they are voting for him:

"On MSNBC on Tuesday night, much replayed on cable news, a Texas official supporting Mr. Obama, State Senator Kirk Watson, could not cite a major legislative accomplishment of the candidate." (NYT)

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, Ms Greedie Boot, consort to Mr Toni Blair, passed her bar exams at the top of the class, and she's bloody awful too. Probably being a harridan matters more than IQ.

Anonymous said...

Ron Guhname: [W]hat is Obama but a black blank slate who talks purty?

The MSM will never publicize any of this stuff, but if the GOP can get together a handful of well-funded 527's to run some ads, then the paper trail on Obama is starting to make him look less and less like a "blank slate", and more and more like a Stalinist/Maoist/Khomeini-ite stealth candidate:

Barack Obama
Lots of info on Obama's family tree, and his childhood as a Muslim

Obama's Nation of Islam Staffers

Obama's spiritual advisor gives Farrakhan his "lifetime achievement" award

Obama’s Communist Mentor
During his teenaged years in Hawaii, Obama's mentor was the Marxist poet, Frank Marshall Davis.

Obama once visited '60s radicals
Obama went to the Weather Underground to plan his entry into Illinois politics.

Obama's Alinsky Jujitsu
Obama's history in the far-left fringes of Chicago politics

Obama: Most Liberal Senator In 2007

PS: Hillary's problem is that she can't highlight any of this stuff in the DEM primaries, because the kooks will just love him all that much more [cf the Che posters in Obama's Texas office].

Demographically speaking, at this point, a hypothetical Richard J. Daley can't bust any skulls and get the troops into line because the troops have long since put down their weapons and defected to the other side of the aisle.

Although I can't for the life of me understand why Hillary doesn't at least attempt the role of Richard J. Daley, and declare that she is trying to save the DEMs from communism.

Seems like the leather & chains crowd would love to see her crack the whip.

Anonymous said...

What's weird about that story is that, at least today, you'd never take both the DC bar exam and a bar exam in another state. If you've passed the bar exam in any other state, DC will let you just waive in for a fee, so there's no earthly reason to double your workload by actually taking two different bar exams. (Note: I don't know whether that was the rule in the 1970s, however.)

Anonymous said...

"Has anyone ever heard [Hillary] say anything interesting?"

In _It Takes a Village_, she discuses IQ--where she mishandles the "Abecedarian Project" evidence.

In _Living History_, she notes that she was bad at chemistry. Margaret Thatcher she ain't.

Anonymous said...

Steve -- Politics is not the province of the "smart" making abstruse legal arguments in front of the Supremes. It's the ability to muster winning coalitions based on charm, horse-trading, vote counting, patronage, fear, intimidation, loyalty, and keeping one's word.

By that account Hillary fails on every measure. She's Bill's hatchet man on his bimbo erruptions and nothing more. She's not smart merely ruthless. And too much a Queen Bee. Having Queen Bee surrogates as her campaign staffers who relish power and status. No wonder she's losing.

And Obama is only marginally better. As a pol. Unless he moves NOW to the right, and tries to get to the right of McCain he's doomed. All those cool-hip actors/actresses are going to turn off Middle America. As will his Sanjaya like hype. Obama's wins mostly have come due to Hillary's bad campaign. At some point his luck will run out.

What both Hillary (because she's a woman and subject to Queen Bee-ism) and Obama (unable to connect to Middle America) lack is savvyness. The ability to instinctively understand Joe and Jane Average and present themselves as working for their interest. Clinton had it, Gore did not. Bush in spurts had it (or maybe Rove), Kerry did not.

Does Obama even know, have friends, understand Joe Average who has zilch white guilt over racism/slavery and would gladly trade bank accounts/houses with Obama? Can he even understand them?


If he did we'd see the mother of all Middle Class panders -- tax cuts, picking fights with Iran or some other Muslim enemy, an expanded military and spending (helps White Engineer types, ala Reagan). A promised crackdown on criminals (particularly Black ones). And so on. Sistah Souljah times ten.

Anonymous said...

m sed:

"Of course, I think both Hillary and Obama would be terrible for the country, but I agree with Auster that Obama will be worse, because he will turn race and racism into a much greater deal than it is now."

Fully agreed m. That is the only reason I oppsoe him. His blackness per se is not important, but that he rides on the race issue and will make life difficult for whitey wihtout really dealing with the race relations.

Anonymous said...

alex sed:

"Margaret Thatcher she ain't."

I agree. Maggie was a damn lot smarter, and Angela Merkel from Germany is also a lot smarter. She got a PhD in physics without any gender pushing, since I know for a fact that Physics departments in Germany have high standards (even in East Germany it was the case) and would not sully their reputation by gender pushing.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I think your exposé into candidates and spouses of candidates educational background is ridiculous and seriously hypocritical.

Why does it matter how high someone's GPA was in college, or what their senior thesis said, or how many times it took them to pass the bar exam?????

Once your out of school it all that stuff doesn't matter. It doesn't serve as a measure of who you are as a person. It's what you do in life as an ADULT that is more important.

Calling someone stupid or uneducated based on how well they scored on a test more than 20 years ago is just petty and plain stupid.

I am Obama supporter but I'm offended on you attacks on Hillary because she failed the bar in DC. How well written Michelle Obama's senior thesis doesn't matter. (By the way, did you get the memo that she's not the one running for office?)

A better measuring stick to judge these public figures is what they've done in public life? Like, which bills did Hillary or Barack get passed?

Anonymous said...

um, Steve, a lot of presidents are not too smart--how could you not take special note of that fact after the past 8 years? However, Hillary has more to offer than brains--she has a long, long, history of connections and experience, much of it with a former U.S. president. Infinitely more experience and deeds than Mr. O. Do I want her for president? No. But then I don't want any of these clowns as president, except maybe Ron Paul.
But there's something petulant and sulky about pressing the issue of a presidential candidate's lack of brains. A few such candidates have been brainy, or seemed like they were--Kennedy (quick wit, but probably more "seemed like"), Nixon (for real), Bill Clintn (for real). But Reagan? Ford? Bush 1? Nah. Dummies run as puppet presidents.
Hillary's a puppet; a Rockefeller one, i think. mr. O is a Bryzinski puppet.
It doesn't matter what they think. They're not supposed to think. They are Manchurian candidates. Hillary at least knows she's one.