Friday, January 11, 2008

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Your dumb-ass quote of the day

From John Kerry's endorsement of Barack Obama:

"Experience is not defined by years spent in Washington but by instinct and judgment and wisdom, Mr Kerry told a crowd of about 2,000 at a college in Charleston, South Carolina.
I can sort of see judgment and wisdom emanating from experience... but instinct? Isn't that pretty much the opposite of experience?

Doesn't that almost sound like Stephen Colbert said it? I was wondering what his writers were doing during the strike.

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder has more.

posted by Dan on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM


I think you need to distinguish between "instinct" in the biological meaning (although there too the definition is not as simple and not as literal as you seem to think) from the use of "instinct" as it is used more generally, especially in reference to decision-making. It's not uncommon -- or wrong-- for someone to say something like "when the market looks like this, my instinct is to sell short."

The use of the word in that case clearly means "a response made without much thought" but one obviously honed by experience and learning. My guess is you use it all the time. Just for fun, let's turn to the dictionary:

noun |ˈinˌsti ng kt|

an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli : birds have an instinct to build nests | maternal instincts.
a natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking : they retain their old authoritarian instincts.
a natural propensity or skill of a specified kind : his instinct for making the most of his chances.
the fact or quality of possessing innate behavior patterns : instinct told her not to ask the question.

The second, third, and fourth definitions are clearly consistent with Kerry's use of the word. English is a rich and wonderful language, don't let your obvious dislike of John Kerry prevent you from appreciating it.

posted by: dee on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

I'll put it in a much less unfriendly way than Dee did (btw, Drezner endorsed Kerry in the 2004 election if I recall correctly).

Haven't your instincts gotten better over time with experience? Mine sure have.

posted by: anon on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

Some talking head made a funny comment last night:

Obama has the same amount of experience as Dan Quayle had when he became VP.

Can't wait for that to hit a DEM debate.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

It could be that Sen. Kerry was using the word "instinct" as did the French philosopher Jacques Clouseau. According this theory, Kerry believes Sen. Obama and he are much the same, so that the same instincts that led Kerry to announce his endorsement only after the New Hampshire primary was over would guide Obama as well.

Hey, it's a theory.

posted by: Zathras on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

Kerry also criticized Hillary for her vote on Iraq, where she voted the same way as Kerry did.

posted by: yoda on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

Ah, but what is instinct but the embodiment of generations of experience?

posted by: Lord on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

Isn't this what came to mind hearing Bush's quote on the necessity of change -

posted by: Lord on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

I'd bet money that when Kerry said "instinct" he meant "intuition." Simple malapropism, case closed. Move along, nothing to see here, now let's get back to the important issues.

posted by: VentrueCapital on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

You're holding Senator Kerry to an unreasonable standard. What else could he have said? Obama's only credentials are pigmentation and charisma. Senator Biden already learned what happens when complementing Obama for those strengths. Besides, Senator Kerry is a man of tremendous instinct, so I am sure that he chose those words instinctively, which I presume is a good thing.

posted by: Saint in Exile on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

Calling someone "clean" isn't really a complement where I come from.

posted by: judeca on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

"Obama's only credentials are pigmentation and charisma."

Well, that's two more points than Kerry had. He's got to be the only candidate in recent history with negative charisma. What a buffoon! If he didn't have nice hair and a rich wife, he'd be selling suits somewhere.

posted by: Rachel Cohen on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

My instinct is to throw darts at Kerry too, but in this case, it's unwarranted. Recall the first illustration in Gladwell's Blink when Walter Hoving took a quick look at a Greek kouros bought in the market by the Getty Museum and pronounced it a fake, correctly as it turned out. This despite extensive scientific testing the Getty had already performed. The whole point of Blink is that it is experience which produces dependable instincts.

posted by: john townsend on 01.11.08 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

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