Obama’s Not an Idiot, and Neither is George Bush

There’s a lot of political talk going around San Francisco these days, thanks to the recent election. There’s also a fair deal of rioting due to the Giants’ win, but that’s a different post entirely.

I’ll preface this post by saying that I’m nearly completely uninterested in politics. It’s not something I think about, it’s not something I participate in, and it’s not something I talk about. And the main reason I don’t like to talk about it is because people are not logical when talking about politics.

My favorite example is when people think a politician is an idiot. No politician is an idiot. It’s their job, and their job is under a lot more scrutiny than yours is. Given the amount of politicians out there, the odds of an idiot being elected are just about nil.

Let’s take George Bush, because no one likes him. I don’t like him. More than any other politician, his policies have adversely affected me. I care about privacy and I care about traveling, and both became significantly worse under his watch.

But guess what? He had a LOT more information than I had, so I give him at least enough credit to assume that he did what he did for good reason. From my perspective, terrorism is a joke, airport security is nothing but theatrics, and spying on people is a gross offense. But I don’t know anything about any of these things. George Bush did. So it’s probably a lot more likely that he knew stuff I didn’t know, and made some hard decisions as a result.

Back when I was gambling, we had two forums. One was called “General” and one was called “Private”. Anyone who was a member could read General, but only a select few dozen could read Private. When I was finally admitted into Private, I was shocked at how much they knew that General didn’t. In fact, things that Private did would look foolish to someone in General, because they didn’t fully understand what was going on.

Here’s an example: in Private we all played under multiple names. We’d pay people to use their identity and gamble on behalf, generally giving them a small portion of the profits. In the General forum we would actively discourage people from doing this, because casinos would catch on if hundreds of people were doing it. But we all did it.

As a result of all these accounts, we might have had 10 times more casino accounts than a General member. The hardest part of gambling was dealing with cashouts. Casinos would drag their feet, come up with reasons not to pay you, and ask you to fax stuff in. One solution we had was to simply bet you entire casino balance on roulette before cashing out. Half of the accounts would bust, the other half would double, and then you had only half as many cashouts to deal with. Sometimes we’d even try to quadruple or octuple up before cashing out.

If a General member saw this, he would think that we’d become crazy gamblers. But the truth is that it was a very smart strategy.

Maybe the same is true of George Bush.

Now we come to Obama. His platform was hope and change, and we’ve gotten no change, and there’s not much hope for it either. Is Obama a liar who tricked us all to get into office? Probably not. He said he’d get us out of war because, with his privileged yet limited information as a senator, that seemed like the best course of action. Then he became president and got more information, and reversed his course. I don’t think he’s dishonest or malevolent, I just think we have no idea what’s going on.

I’m reminded of this idea whenever I watch people watch sports. They all think that they’re smarter than the coach and the refs, yelling at the screen, telling the people on the glowing box how dumb they are.

Maybe, just maybe, the people who rise to the top of these hyper-competitive fields aren’t complete idiots. Maybe they’re actually very skilled at maneuvering through minefields that we don’t even know exist. At the very least, it’s a serious possibility that should perhaps temper our criticism.


I wrote this a few weeks ago… since then I read George Bush’s autobiography, which made me respect him a lot more. And realize that he’s near crazy-level religious.

Really sorry about only posting once last week… too many flights and trying to do too much before leaving Japan.

Heading to LA tonight, Austin the next day, then Boston. RV road trip from SF to Austin. Yes!

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