America's favorite hockey mom, Sarah Palin, re-emerged onto the national political scene this week. She'll be out and about flogging her book "Going Rogue" in which she straightens the world out on what really happened during her run for vice president. Her plans include visiting as many Fox News interviewers as possible while otherwise staying out of big cities that may have actual high school and college graduates lurking about. You can bet she'll also steer clear of Katie Couric this time around.
There's speculation that all this PR may be a prelude to a run for president. This leads me to question just what attributes are important for a successful presidency. It isn't obvious that sheer intelligence ranks very high on the list.
In Palin's case, good looks and a snappy demeanor seem to be her chief positives. She also appeals to the far right wing with her social stances. No one is pushing her to run based upon her demonstrated intelligence. But is high intelligence really needed for the job?
Reflecting on some recent presidents, George W. Bush seemed to flaunt his lack of intellectual curiosity; yet he got re-elected. Ronald Reagan was a nice enough old guy who didn't exhibit much depth intellectually, but he's regarded as one of the most effective presidents.
Bill Clinton was a very smart guy who couldn't control his personal life. His presidency will forever be remembered more for his peccadilloes than his administration's accomplishments. Jimmy Carter was also thought of as a deep thinker, but his is generally regarded as a failed presidency.
It's obvious that Barack Obama has the intelligence and depth to impress, but it's way too early to say how his term in office will be evaluated.
While it's not clear that smarts are the most important facet of being a good president, you must have other talents to get elected. Most important are political skills. This includes: (1) being able to raise lots of money, (2) answer questions with well-rehearsed sound bites which appear to be spontaneous and (3), most importantly, make people on opposite sides of tough issues think you agree with each of them when, in fact, this is an absolute impossibility.