This morning, while walking on the treadmill, I listened to a rerun podcast of the radio show “Car Talk.” Tom and Ray used to do a segment where they would answer questions from listeners who called with a car problem. Typically, callers would have some oddball mechanical issue that had confounded their local mechanics. The previous caller had a car with a warning chime that started dinging every time she stepped on the accelerator. Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, solved that problem with their usual ease. The problem that caught my ear was more difficult.
The caller, Joe, introduced his problem by warning that it was more of a philosophical problem, but still important to anyone who owned a car. “Would you rather have a mechanic who was smart, but dishonest; or would you rather have an honest mechanic who was stupid?” Joe didn’t explain why this was a problem for him at the time, but he did present the most challenging question of the day. Tom and Ray talked it over and, eventually, decided they’d pick the honest dummy. Of course, they would have liked to have an intelligent and honest mechanic, but that wasn’t one of the options.
With our current political climate, I got to thinking. Which would you rather have? An intelligent but untrustworthy politician, or an honest dummy? I know that an intelligent, honest politician would be preferable; but that often doesn’t seem within the realm of possibility.
Sometimes the rare combination of honest and intelligent seems to be right in front of us. Then we discover that maybe he wasn’t as smart as we thought if accusations and compromising photos can force him to resign his position. Al Franken, the United States Senator from Minnesota, resigned effective January 1.
Sometimes we think we’re dealing with an obvious case of the evil dummy. Then he shows a talent for manipulating his constituents by making racist and inflammatory statements. That’s when we discover that he is not so dumb after all. Just not to be taken seriously. Steve King does this at every opportunity, and apparently, his voters do not mind.
And sometimes we have nothing but a well-born icon for the entitled one percent. If you have a president who lies constantly, even when the truth is easily fact checked, that counts as both dishonest and stupid. When that happens, there’s not much to say. Try to accept it as an object lesson in what can happen when absolutely everything goes wrong. And do everything possible to prevent a recurrence. In the meantime, bring the popcorn, get comfortable, and try not to miss any of the drama.
So, lets see what we’ve got here:
- Honest and Foolish, check.
- Dishonest and Canny, check.
- Dishonest and Stupid, check.
Honesty and Intelligence? Are they really that rare? Okay, I know they’re out there in great numbers. But why do we find it so hard to elect them?
How hard can it be?