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Commentary: Last thing we need now is a great leader

  • Story Highlights
  • Everyone thinks we need to get a smarter guy in the White House, says Penn Jillette
  • Jillette: Obama is a great leader who fires people up, gets them to do what he wants
  • McCain scares Jillette a little less because he's a little less likely to win
  • Ron Paul, Bob Barr say they want much smaller government
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By Penn Jillette
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Penn Jillette -- the larger, louder half of Penn & Teller -- is a magician, comedian, actor, author and producer.

Obama and McCain both promise a government that will watch over us ... "I don't like that," says Penn Jillette.

(CNN) -- Everyone I talk to seems to think the president of the United States right now is stupid.

The Bush presidency is stupid speeches, stupid high gas prices, stupid bad economy, stupid war on terrorism, stupid war on drugs, stupid hurricane fixing, stupid global warming, stupid war -- stupid, stupid, stupid.

They all seem to think we need to get a smarter guy in the White House fast, and Bush is so stupid, that task shouldn't be too hard.

Not me.

I'd like to say that I believe every president in United States history, including the stupid one we have now, is smarter than me. My alma mater is Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth Clown College, so I'm damning with faint praise, but I'm stupider than this here stupid president.

Maybe I'm less stupider than Bush than I'm stupider than Jefferson. But I'm stupider than all the stupid in both of them put together.

The idea, especially from the Democrats that I know, is, we just get a smarter guy in the White House, and all the problems will go away. We'll have smart speeches, smart high gas prices, smart bad economy, smart war on terrorism, smart war on drugs, smart hurricanes, smart global warming, smart war in Georgia -- smart, smart, smart.

Barack Obama is way smarter than Bush -- so way, way smarter than me. Obama is way more charismatic than me. He did his big speech for about 80,000 people; I'll do my show tonight in Vegas for about 1,000 people. He's more ambitious than I; he's going to be the next president of the United States, and I couldn't even get to week three of "Dancing with the Stars."

Obama is a great leader. He can fire people up and get them to do what he wants. He does smart speeches that promise everyone everything they need and make us feel good about our country and how much greater our government could be.

But I don't think our next president being a great leader is a good thing.

I'm worried about someone smarter than Bush taking over that tremendous power. Charisma and ambition increase my fear exponentially, and a great leader scares me to death.

We need someone stupid enough to understand that the president of the United States can't solve many problems without taking away freedom and therefore shouldn't try. The only reason John McCain scares me a little less is because I think he's a little less likely to win. They both promise a government that will watch over us, and I don't like that.

I don't want anyone as president who promises to take care of me. I may be stupid, but I want a chance to try to be a grown-up and take care of my family. Freedom means the freedom to be stupid, and that's what I want. I don't want anyone to feel my pain or tell me to ask what we can do for our country, or give us all money and take care of us.

Gene Healy at the Cato Institute explains that the Founding Fathers wanted the president "to faithfully execute the laws, defend the country from attack and check Congress with the veto power whenever it exceeded its constitutional bounds."

That sounds like plenty to me. You gotta be smarter than me to do all that, but you don't have to be as smart as Obama, and you sure don't have to be a great leader.

Our first seven presidents averaged a bit more than three public speeches a year, and they didn't promise jobs for everyone, day care, dental exams and free stuff.

It's really hard to find someone who trusts Americans to take care of themselves and each other without government force. It's hard to find someone running for president who would be content to be what George Washington humbly called the "chief magistrate."

I think Ron Paul and Bob Barr mean it when they say they want much smaller government. But the government is already big enough, powerful enough and bipartisan enough (and "bi" means exactly two and no more) that Ron and/or Bob won't even be in the debates. People won't even hear someone suggesting that our president should do less and individual citizens should do more for themselves.

The choice shouldn't be which lesser of two evils should have the enormous power of our modern presidents. The question should be, who would do less as president? Who would leave us alone?

If we could find a lazier, less charismatic, stupider person than me to be president, I'd be all for it. But, it's not going to be easy; stupider than me is rare breed.

So remember, the only way to waste your vote is to vote!

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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