Since Adlai Stevenson, America has recoiled from intellectuals in power—but maybe Barack Obama, “an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual,” can change that, writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. “Smart and educated leadership is no panacea,” Kristof notes, “but we’ve seen recently that the converse—a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance—doesn’t get very far either.”
Bush “adopted anti-intellectualism as administration policy, repeatedly rejecting expertise,” Kristof says. Obama, on the other hand, “exults in complexity.” That’s not to say intellectuals always have the right answers—compare George Washington, no egghead, to James Garfield, a fluent writer of Latin and Greek. But “as Mr. Obama goes to Washington, I’m hopeful that his fertile mind will set a new tone for our country,” Kristof writes.