Fisking Peter Guttman

October 5, 2008

Peter Guttman, in Sunday’s L.A. Dogtrainer Times, opines that Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin doesn’t deserve the job. Why? Apparently because, until this year, she had never been out of the country. This, in Guttman’s eyes, is more than enough to disqualify her.

Let’s take a look at Guttman’s arguments and see if they are at all persuasive. He starts by setting the scene: Katie Couric’s interview with Gov. Palin, at which the Governer was clearly not at her best, to put it kindly.

There she is, a woman with a “great personal story to tell,” explaining proudly and somewhat derisively to CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric that she’s “not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world.”

Well, having seen the interview, I saw no sign of derision in Palin’s responses. In fact, what I saw was an experienced state-level politician on her first foray into that Socratic wonder which is the national mainstream media.

Leave aside for a moment the fact that two decades have passed since college in the life of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and that she only managed to get a passport and leave the country for the first time last year. The real point is this: To most American citizens, geographical knowledge and a curiosity about the world has (sic) become the poor orphaned stepchild of our increasingly anemic educational system.

Evidently knowledge of basic grammar was the poor orphaned stepchild of Guttman’s own schooling. Let’s consider the fact that for the vast majority, college graduation means the pressing need to get a job, find a career path, and/or start a family. Intellectual curiosity has little to do with it. Paying rent and eating are higher priorities.

As for getting a passport, any citizen can “manage” to get a passport simply by applying for one, and most apply for a passport only when finances and opportunity allow them to travel outside the United States. Those who graduate and plunge right into the workforce seldom have time for a world tour.

…I suggest the Constitution be amended to require that candidates for the presidency (and vice presidential selections as well) have visited a minimum of 20 countries. The amendment would require that each visit would have been made more than four years before the candidate’s possible inauguration and that it would have lasted at least 48 hours. This serves as proof that a candidate is genuinely interested in, and possibly even knowledgeable about, the world around him or her.

A minimum of 20 countries? Why 20? Is that the threshold for proof of intellectual curiosity? Wouldn’t 25 countries show more intellect? How would it work? Would there be time between college graduation and a run for President to explore all 20 countries with the requisite curiosity? Are you proposing a committee to vet all candidates to ensure they have the proper intellectual credentials via this “If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium” amendment? In truth, any candidate could simply spend a two-week vacation island-hopping in the Caribbean each year for a few years, and easily meet the threshold. Get a great tan? Sure! Fulfill that pesky intellectual requirement? Not so much.

Mr. Guttman, lack of world travel – and its implied concomitant lack of the proper sophistication –  is a holdover from more heady days of graduation and Grand Tour, so popular with previous eras’ upper-crust offspring and their bear leaders. Tomorrow’s world leaders may or may not have had the opportunity to become well-traveled, but it doesn’t mean they are lacking in intellectual curiosity or geopolitical knowledge, or even the veneer of the cosmopolitan, which is what I suspect you truly mean as you propose this absurd amendment.

Clearly you are clinging (bitterly?) to an out-dated and elitist view of our leaders, rather than holding the more popular and populist view, in which any boy and any girl may aspire to be President or Vice President, and actually have the chance to realize that dream – even a homespun moose-hunting former beauty queen ex-mayor current governor with a flyover accent; a great sense of humor; an affable and handsome husband; and five beautiful children …who had never had the time to travel outside the U.S. until last year.

h/t Lucianne