Being in a position of political power, contrary to the occasional populist assertion otherwise, requires intelligence and not "common sense." Aside from the implications for decision-making, really dumb people in positions of great influence tend to spend most of their time abusing power for their own benefit and that of their cronies.
Now, I don't argue that it requires a PhD and two victories over Deep Blue in a chess tournament to be the Mayor of Detroit. But it would probably help if said Mayor was a little brighter than Kwame Kilpatrick, a stunningly incompetent oaf who's on the greased rail to federal prison. Kilpatrick, who recently resigned after pleading guilty to two felonies, spent most of his time in office funneling $250,000 in state grant money to an organization whose sole employee was his wife, hiring his incompetent friends and family at lavish salaries, using $8500 in city funds on a five-star resort vacation, having stripper parties at the public Mansion provided for his use, and firing whistleblowers. It was the latter, embroiled in an extramarital affair to boot, that earned him eight indictments. This is a classic example of crass, stupid people in power; they believe that rules don't apply to them and their sole purpose in office is to be an 1880s-style patronage dispenser. We are all aware that politics is about distributing the goods in exchange for favors, but there's a difference between being subtle (and legal) about it and doing the equivalent of stick-up in a dark alley.
Ex-Mayor Kilpatrick is hardly the sole example. My place of origin, Cook County, IL, is legendary for its corrupt and "distributive" view of politics. We've all heard the stories about Old Man Daley, but the current Democratic machine also provides us examples like Todd Stroger, son of late County Board bigshot John. Junior also favors jobs for moronic relatives and massive "consulting fees" from contract bidders for work that we can only assume involves strippers. In Chicago this barely raises an eyebrow, but it provides a good example nonetheless of what we get when we choose candidates based on criteria that have nothing to do with brainpower: corruption, corruption, and more corruption. And it isn't subtle or clever. It's brazen, arrogant, and opportunistic.
There's a certain governor who also illustrates the point nicely. The AP has learned (hey look! occasional investigative journalism!) that she had the RNC buy her $150,000 in new clothes to perfect that dashing style that gets talk radio's puds furiously pounded. This gets at least as much attention as John Edwards' expensive haircut, right? How about the $21,000 she hung on the taxpayers of Alaska for 64 round-trip flights for her daughters? Oops, forgot the extended stays in $700 per night hotels for the kids too. Certainly the kids were on "official state business." At least Bristol was supervised. Last but easily the most ballsy, she took over $17,000 in per diem money to work at home – a rate of $60 per day – in addition to more than $40,000 in travel costs for repeated Wasilla to Juneau trips.
I really respect good thieves. I respect good criminals in general, an attitude that has gotten me many a disapproving stare over the years. I don't care; if you concoct a brilliant, well-executed plan to steal something or blow up a building, I will tip my hat to your ingenuity while disapproving of your moral judgment and hoping you get the punishment you deserve. These kinds of politicians don't even try, though. They're not simply lazy, they're dumb. Their thievery is crass because they're incapable of devising anything more clever. If Jack Abramoff's corruption or the S&L scandal were the Great Train Robbery, Kilpatrick's or Palin's corruption is a $20 smash-and-grab robbery at a ghetto liquor store.