What Is a “Dumb” Politician?

Erica Grieder reads this Politico piece on Rick Perry and finds no consensus:

…this list draws from those which are suggested in the article in question:

• Educational attainment

• Evidence of intellectual labour (Mr Martin: Mr Perry “hasn’t spent his political career marking up the latest Cato or Heritage white papers or reading policy-heavy books late into the night.”)
• A record of having substantive thoughts on the issues of the day, even if those issues haven’t been part of a person’s day job
• A record of understanding the ins and outs of policy issues that are part of the day job
• What a candidate is reading

• What a candidate has written
• “Sheer brains and understanding policy at a deep level” —Dave McNeely, Texas-based journalist
• Predilection for surrounding oneself with clever people
• Seeking out and being receptive to good advice
• Aesthetic giveaways (Cliff Johnson, a lobbyist and Perry supporter, on another colleague: “He smoked a pipe and stayed up late reading everything”)

I was reminded of my old post on Matt Bai’s discussion of how Obama is “cool.”  As with the Politico article, it talked about a lot of things, but never really said what exactly “cool” is supposed to mean.  My modest proposal: if we must read discussions of candidates in terms of gross categorical adjectives like “cool” and “dumb,” can we at least define the terms?

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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John Sides

John Sides is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University.