The New York Times Magazine recently ran an article about how the comedy culture, aided and abetted by leftist punditry, has stereotyped presidential candidates Al Gore as "stiff and boring" and George W. Bush as "dumb as a dunce."
Comedians Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Dennis Miller and others play on these themes all the time, but as the magazine points out, this redounds to the detriment of Bush. Given a choice of entrusting the presidency to a dunce or a bore, most voters pick the bore, particularly if the bore is also characterized as smart and knowledgeable.
Bush partisans, of course, hope their man will erase the dunce label in the first nationally televised presidential debate tonight.
But it will be tough. Comedians have too much of an investment in the stereotypes (as springboards to jokes) to let them go. Any little stumble the Texas governor makes will be magnified and exaggerated.
The stereotype of Bush as dumb is great comedy fodder, but it simply isn't true. The transcript of his Yale University grades, published by New Yorker magazine, were mostly "Cs" and "Bs" - not great, but hardly dumb, even when compared to the so-called brilliant Gore.
The vice president's Harvard University undergraduate grades were riddled with "Cs," including a "C-minus" in introductory economics. In his sophomore year, reports The Washington Post, Gore's grades were lower than any semester on Bush's transcript.
Moreover, the veep's graduate school record couldn't be worse. After running up a series of "Fs," Gore pulled out of Vanderbilt Divinity School. He later enrolled in Vanderbilt's law school, then dropped out of there, too.
None of this really matters, except that increasing numbers of Americans, especially young adults, get their news from TV comedy. Many accept the "Bush dumb, Gore smart" stereotypes as true and vote accordingly.
Gore's Left-populist campaign also reinforces the smartness notion because most media pundits equate liberalism with intelligence. It's enough to make informed Americans worry about the long-term stability of our nation's democracy.
Ignorance is a bad basis on which to vote. It opens the door to demagoguery and, perhaps eventually, to tyranny.
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