Opinion: Can we stop pretending that Pete Buttigieg is an intellectual?

by Peter Heck · Jan 2nd, 2020 3:49 pm

Last Updated Jan 3rd, 2020 at 7:32 am

Back in June, Peter Beinart wrote a fawning profile of the intellectualism inherent in the 2020 Democratic presidential field for the Atlantic. The piece, entitled "Braininess Is Now the Brand," focused primarily on the then-rising Pete Buttigieg and then-resurgent Elizabeth Warren. Beinart gushed:

What unites them, and separates them from Sanders and Joe Biden, is their unabashed intellectualism. Both have made braininess central to their political brand. And it's working – a fact that offers a window into the changing culture of the Democratic Party.

After talking up Warren's professorial brilliance, the liberal columnist turned his attention to Mayor Pete:

If Warren plays the brilliant professor, Buttigieg plays the brilliant student. Among the people who introduced him when he announced for president was a former teacher who began her remarks by describing how he had wowed the judges at a high-school economics competition sponsored by the Federal Reserve. Type Pete Buttigieg into Google, and one of the prompts you get is "languages." News reports often mention that he speaks seven, and this spring a video of him speaking Norwegian went viral. In April, he filmed a video in French offering his condolences for the fire at Notre-Dame.

Language fluency aside, there's something bizarre that keeps happening with these towering left-wing intellects like Buttigieg – they keep saying really dumb stuff. For instance, consider the recently circulated video of the South Bend Mayor talking to school children about the Founders and slavery:

"It's an embarrassing thing to admit, but the people who wrote the Constitution did not understand that slavery was a bad thing. They did not respect civil rights, and yet they created a framework so that as the generations came to understand that that was important, they could write that into the Constitution too and ensure true equal protection for all."

Good grief. The only thing "embarrassing" here is that a Rhodes Scholar would say something like this. Maybe it's too much to ask a guy working on his Norwegian fluency to exhibit at least a peripheral awareness of American constitutional history, but it's almost as though Buttigieg has never read any of the debates over slavery that occurred at the Constitutional Convention: no Gouverneur Morris, no Alexander Hamilton, no Adams, not even Washington who opined against the evil institution, while continuing to accrue slaves in order to care for them and prevent their families being separated until he could eventually will them their freedom.

If that kind of research is too daunting for the Mayor, he could simply study Abraham Lincoln's famous 1854 Peoria speech where the Great Emancipator lays out in explicit detail the severe opposition so many of America's founders had towards slavery. Lincoln points out that the only argument the Founders ever admitted in favor of slavery was "necessity" – meaning they were required to abide the evil in order to form a country.

"They found the institution existing among us, which they could not help; and they cast blame upon the British King for having permitted its introduction."

As far as the Founders' recognition of how wrong slavery was, Lincoln noted their persistent efforts against the institution:

  • They prohibited its introduction into the new Northwest Territory
  • They disallowed the word slave or slavery from even appearing in the Constitutional text
  • They banned the trade exactly one day after they were Constitutionally allowed to do so
  • They banned the outgoing slave trade in 1794
  • They banned importation of African slaves into Mississippi Territory
  • They prohibited American citizens from trading in slaves between foreign countries
  • They eventually declared the trade piracy meaning participation would be given the death penalty

To suggest that such men "did not know" slavery was wrong is either a result of stunning ignorance of America's founding, or stunning arrogance to believe yourself entitled to rewriting that founding to suit your political talking points.

Listen, I'd love to just take Peter Beinart and other left-wing journalists at their word when they work so hard to convince me that the Democrat presidential candidates are a bright and scholarly bunch. But to effectively pull off the scam, I'd advise them to concentrate on getting those candidates to stop talking.

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