10/24/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Time To Pick The Smart One

Among the many things I blamed my parents for was their insistence that I be 'smart.' For most of my life, I sensed 'smart' was not nearly what they cracked it up to be. I was wrong.

I had my reasons: in elementary school, it was the strongest, not the smartest kids, who were the more popular. You are afraid not to like the strong kids. So instead of hitting the books, I should have been hitting the weights.

In high school the most popular kids are not the best read but the best looking. So instead of going to the library, I should have gone to the plastic surgeon.

Often the most popular kids in college are not the ones with the most impressive grades but the ones with the most impressive stash.

Even as adults, it is more likely our richest, not smartest, who are most admired. Only our elders, our senior citizens, are valued for their intellect. By then, however, it's too late to use your intellect to attract more sex, the only reason anyone seeks popularity in the first place.

Something happened, however, as I got older. Not only did I get smarter, I realized my prejudice against 'smart' when I was young only lessened me.

Right now our country needs to put a priority on smart. We have huge dilemmas facing our next administration, arguably by people who did not make the smartest or most informed choices. We have an economic crisis, military crises; a crisis of trust regarding our government from citizens both domestically and around the world.

It may be time not to just accept words, but challenge their contentions with a look at their worth. Sen. McCain proudly states, "I know how to win wars," yet finished fifth to last in his Naval Academy graduating class and as far as I'm aware, has actually never won a war. More important, it is time to recognize Vince Lombardi's axiom, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing," may work in sports but not foreign affairs.

Sen. Obama graduated first in his law school class, served as president of the Harvard Law Review and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. While he did not go to a military college, Obama does comprehend what General Petraeus meant by saying Iraq cannot be defined by winning or losing, a distinction that may save our soldiers' lives and give other countries more confidence in our military policies.

While many of us can relate to someone who took six years and five schools to get a college diploma, is being willing to learn about diplomacy and the relevance of 200 years of Supreme Court decisions what you are looking for in a vice-president? Seriously, if Governor Palin is prepared to deal with national security, global and national economics, health care, global warming, foreign affairs, diplomacy, and the litany of other issues she, if elected, would have to deal with, can there be an unqualified politician?

It is time to understand that regulation in certain industries is necessary because while democracy works fine with capitalism, and capitalism works fine with greed, that democracies can fail when they become too permissive of capitalistic greed.

It is time to understand that 'executive experience' may not be a qualifier for President. Executives have a fiduciary responsibility to protect a particular interest; a legislator is asked to ascertain and facilitate what helps 'the people', not a specific group of people.

When sick, people choose the smartest surgeons; every year our corporations scour our best business and law schools to find tomorrow's leaders. With great respect to the heroism of Senator McCain and the charisma of Governor Palin, it is time to accept that while smart may not be valued in grammar school, especially today, we need to value education and intellect in our presidential contenders.