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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Presidential Credentialism

Eugene Robinson, usually a supporter of the president, criticized him for trumpeting Energy Secretary Chu's Nobel Prize during his Oval Office address this week:

We can all applaud Chu’s accomplishment. But here’s the thing: Chu is a physicist, not an engineer or a biologist. His Nobel was awarded for the work he did in trapping individual atoms with lasers. He’s absurdly smart. But there’s nothing in his background to suggest he knows any more about capping an out-of-control deep-sea well, or containing a gargantuan oil spill, than, say, columnist Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel in economics. Or novelist Toni Morrison, who won the Nobel in literature.

In fact, Chu surely knows less about blowout preventers than the average oil-rig worker and less about delicate coastal marshes than the average shrimp-boat captain. His credentials, in this context, are meaningless. So do the president and his aides cite Chu’s beside-the-point Nobel to reassure Americans that the team handling the oil spill knows what it’s doing? Or are Obama, Browner, Axelrod, Gibbs and the others constantly trying to reassure themselves?