This space has long and often talked about Presidential tone-setting as the most important single function of the job.
The most obvious example is Ronald Reagan. Reagan re-set the swing of the left-right pendulum. Soon after 1980 or '81, what once was considered extreme right wing became closer to the center and what had been considered moderate-liberal got labeled hard left. These labels were and are wrong. But the President has the power to set the tone.
So does Barrack Obama. And he's already started.
Obama is making smart fashionable. Beautiful. Acceptable. Once again, smart is good.
Bill Clinton might have done that, but his intense intelligence was diffused to the point that he either didn't try or no one noticed. Clinton ... aYalie. An international scholar. Oh, and also he came off -- probably intentionally -- as a rube and a hayseed.
Obama is different. He's neither a rube nor a hayseed. Nor does he go around flaunting his brain. It speaks for itself.
We've had smart Presidents before. Clinton wasn't the only one. Carter was very bright, and a disaster in office. Nixon was pretty bright, but nefarious.
Obama is just smart. And this is just what we need after 44 years of rampant anti-intellectualism. Maybe anti intellectualism is too kind. We've had 44 years of mindless ranting that passes for thought, for philosophy, for ideology, for political action.
Some of it was anti intellectualism masquerading as populism. Most of it was just plain mental thuggery.
So now, it's not only "okay" to be black, it's okay to be black and brilliant. Or even white and brilliant.
Obama has the same kind of "above the fray" intelligence that JFK had, but without the County Limerick bravado, which, entertaining as it was, never got much done. (It should be noted that Kennedy wasn't a legacyadmitee to Harvard, though there probably was some "pull" exerted.)
So, with all else that's going on, at least we don't have to fear our own brains. We don't have to fear our own intellect. We don't have to fear that we'll be branded elitist by the populist, delusional right wing that considers original thought second only to original sin.
Look for a resurgence not of the blather-filled college professor, but the real intellectual -- the public intellectual who has been hiding under a rock for the last four decades in fear of discovery.
--Obama's not perfect. He's barring some lobbyists from his transition team. He should be barring ALL of them.
--The auto industry cannot be allowed to fail. Too much depends on it. But in addition to bailing out Detroit, Washington would be wise to remove the upper management of the so-called big three and put in charge people who know and love cars.
--The Bush Library is going to have some unique pictures. The President will color some of them himself. Say inside the lines, George.
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(sm)