Political intelligence

You don’t have to be that smart to be a good or even great politician.  For some reason I haven’t quite figured out, really smart people  can be astonishly bad at politics.  On the  IQ scale, the disastrous Herbert Hoover, one of the great engineers of the 20th century, is probably right up there with Jefferson.  Lyndon Johnson was a great politician (in the same sense that Hitler was a great orator) with a mediocre mind, at best.

So when I heard about how smart Ted Cruz is, and what a great lawyer, I was not impressed.  Politics requires a separate, though related, skill set.  When he precipitated the government shutdown in October of 2013 I thought he’d screwed up badly.  It may have cost us an outstanding Governor in Ken Cuccinelli, and elected the odious Terry McCauliffe.  It distracted attention from the unfolding Obamacare website fiasco.  It temporarily hurt the Republican brand.  And it ended in ignominious failure.

And it worked out just fine for Ted Cruz.  In just his first year in the Senate he established himself as the leading insurgent in the United States Congress, willing to take on the entire, thoroughly corrupt, Washington ruling elite.  In that venture, disaster that it was, Ted Cruz made his bones.

And now, on the campaign trail, I continue to be impressed.  I like Cruz, and I don’t mean this disparagingly  —  he reminds me of Nixon.  Now we all know about Nixon’s flaws, but he was a brilliant politician.

How good is Cruz?  He solved the Iowa Republican Riddle, by straddling effortlessly the three rings of Evangelical, Tea Party and Libertarian voters.  That takes some skill.   He’s rewarded tonight by the deservedly prestigious Des Moines Register poll  — Cruz 31, Trump 21.  I’ll bet that’s a very accurate snapshot of Iowa right now.  A lot can change in the next six weeks, but the timing of this is absolutely perfect for Cruz.  Not too early, just right.  Things wind down soon for Christmas, and over the holidays this is where he stands.  The favorite to win Iowa.  Nice.

The debate on Tuesday could change things, but I’m pretty confident it will only reinforce them.  Syrian refugees has got to be a big topic, and Cruz has placed himself in the best possible position, politically.  It’s like, if I’m Ted Cruz things could not possibly be set up more perfectly.

I’m a big fan of Rubio, but he’s in the process of blowing it on this Syrian refugee thing.  He’s taking way too soft a line.  This can hurt him, especially.  His Gang of Eight Bill may have been forgiven, but it’s not forgotten.  He needs to be strong on all things immigration.   He’s playing to the establishment on this one, and it’s being noticed.

It’s pretty apparent where this is heading.  Everybody’s lining up behind Rubio  — Fox News, the neocons, and the establishment.  Cruz is on his own, with talk radio as his media outlet.

I’m with Cruz on this, but then I’m pretty hard core.  I really don’t dislike Rubio  –I’d take him in a heartbeat.

And I think Cruz wins it.  He’s really thought this through.  And he’s executing.  He’s out on the trail, busting his ass, doing something that doesn’t come naturally to him.

I admire him for  this.  Most people don’t have any political skill, and seem awkward when they try.  He’s one of them, but he doesn’t care.  He’s good enough.

I think that’s a sign of character.

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