2004-01-29 / Arts & Entertainment



©2003 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Einstein For President

One of the difficult things to determine in life is how much authority to give to someone, who is smart about one thing, in an area about which he or she has no experience. Or is my question unclear?

In the recent Iowa vote - which they call a "caucus" - several Democratic candidates accused others of not having enough experience in government to run for the presidency. It’s a common accusation for one politician to make about another.

John Edwards, for example, is a senator, but he’s relatively new to politics, having been a successful trial lawyer for most of his professional career. When some of the other candidates got worried about his growing popularity, they said Edwards was in-experienced in government. He, on the other hand, said he had a fresh view of government and wasn’t a tired politician who had been in Washington for too long.

I’m not trying to make an example of Edwards here, because I don’t know enough about him, but Edwards aside, if I had my choice, I’d take the smart-est person over the most experienced anytime. Once you’ve learned something, "experience" isn’t anything but repetition.

It has amused me over my years, because so many of my friends are in the news business, to note how quickly someone smart can get to know almost everything about someone else’s business. A good reporter can do some research and then interview his subject and in a few days get to know 90 percent of everything he needs to know about his subject and his life’s work. If a good reporter can do that, there’s no reason why a good lawyer, businessman or doctor can’t get to know a lot about government in a few weeks. As far as having enough experience to be president, it’s a foolish idea. There is no experience a person could have that would familiarize him with being president of the United States.

When Howard Dean ran for governor of Vermont, opponents asked what a doctor knew about running a state government. Dean was elected and then re-elected four times. It obviously didn’t take him long to get the hang of switching from medicine and healing to politics and government. (It seems like a step down to me, but that’s another matter.)

You often read about some huge cor-poration appointing a new president. If the corporation makes widgets, the new executive is hardly ever an expert on widgets. He’s an expert on running a corporation no matter what it makes.

Albert Einstein had one of the great brains ever born to man, and he used it to the tangible advantage of civilization. It was Einstein who told Presi-dent Roosevelt in 1939 of the possibility of our making an atomic bomb with the research he had done cracking atoms in a laboratory. He spent his life working on the relativity and quantum theories, which are too complex for any but a handful of us to understand. He also produced a delightful little book of essays about life that are direct and simple enough for anyone who can read to understand. We hu-mans have amazing breadth. We can be stupid and brilliant. We can be good. We can be bad - angels one minute, devils the next.

What often occurs to me about our elections is that we get too many experienced politicians and not enough people, like Einstein, who are brilliant in some other form of endeavor. We ought to find some way of embarrassing more of our capable, even brilliant, non-political citizens to get into politics and run for office. We should not exclude our scientists, and they should not exclude themselves.

Einstein, although ineligible because of being born in Germany, would have made a great American president. If he had run, someone surely would have said, "He doesn’t have enough political experience."

What I want for my president is the smartest person in America. Forget whether or not that person is experienced in politics.

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