Anti-intellectual punditry

David Broder seems surprised–and informed–by the claim of a recent book (Elvin T. Lim's, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency) that there is a notable absence of "logical argument" in presidential politics.  He writes:

In a slim book titled "The Anti-Intellectual Presidency," [Lim] argues that the real problem is not the increased quantity of words coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. but the sharp decline in content — especially of logical argument.

While I'm not surprised that Broder is surprised (Bush is staged for a comeback!), it's a disappointing reminder of rather low quality of critical thought in the political press (compared in one recent and blistering article to the courtiers of Versailles).  In an ideal world, Lim's thesis would be the job description of the pundit class and the everyday content of the op-ed page.  But no.

2 thoughts on “Anti-intellectual punditry”

  1. I don’t think it’s supposed to be a surprise that logical content in presidential discourse has declined. The “surprise” you speak of is that a scholar took the time to do rhetorical analysis of hundreds/thousands of speeches across the history of the American presidency, and proved–with rather “surprising” and rigorously-derived statistics–this decline in content. When someone takes the time to put science behind a commonly-held, cynical belief, it gives it new weight, and it is news, taking the argument out of the court of cynics and curmudgeons and placing it in the public, scientific domain.

  2. Why some may hold the belief cynically–in the sense that they sneeringly suppose the worst of politicans, others, like Broder and maybe me, might hold it on the basis of accumulated evidence of the narrative variety.  But indeed, you’re right to suggest that empirical research is awesome.

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