Er, which one is Al Qaeda again?

12.11.06

Under Republican control, the House Intelligence committee may have been stubbornly ignorant. But under Democratic control, it appears that they will be just plain ignorant:

Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped to head the Intelligence Committee when the Democrats take over in January, failed a quiz of basic questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of the key terrorist organizations the intelligence community has focused on since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

[ . . . ]

While Stein said Reyes is “not a stupid guy,” his lack of knowledge said it could hamper Reyes’ ability to provide effective oversight of the intelligence community, Stein believes.

“If you don’t have the basics, how do you effectively question the administration?” he asked. “You don’t know who is on first.”

Aside from not knowing the difference between Sunni and Shi’ite, there’s no evidence that Reyes is a bad guy or anything . . . but I’m tempted to apply my basic Bush-rule here: if you can’t pronounce nuclear, you shouldn’t be allowed to have your finger on the button.

The intelligence level of elected members of government – from both parties – is frighteningly low. Is anyone else more than a little scared that these are the people making the big decisions?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Sigivald 12.12.06 at 5:48 PM

Bush can pronounce nuclear. The way he pronounces it is common, and oddly nobody much thought it was a problem or a disqualification when Eisenhower or Carter (who – whatever his political faults – worked with nuclear power in the Navy and isn’t by any means a stupid man in terms of intellect, if not of application) did it.

The “he talks funny” heuristic, strangely, doesn’t produce accurate judgements of qualification.

(Which is really why I’m commenting; it’s a dangerous logical fallacy to fall in to, that because someone doesn’t use perfect received pronunciation, they’re incompetent – and I say this as a minor-league grammar-fascist who pronounces “nuclear” exactly how the pronunciation-fascists say I should.

But conflating received pronciation with either education or capability causes one to underestimate both enemies and allies.)

(Me, I’m not quite sure how important knowing the differences between the Sunni and the Shi’a is, unless you’re actually making policy directly dealing with those differences.

Simply knowing they’re the two significant factions in Islam, and aren’t real friendly, is probably sufficient.

Knowing the details of what exactly they disagree about isn’t important, since it’s not like US policies or actions hinge on those differences.

I don’t know if Reyes is one or not, but I’d rather have a very sharp, competent leader and organizer who had to be brought up to speed on the details of that as needed, than a mediocre performer who was a wonk on the area.

The Intel Committee, after all, does deal with more than just Islam-related issues.)

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