The Walker-Stupid, Obama-Genius Myth
On Joe Scarborough’s MSNBC show this past week Yale-educated Howard Dean added a new word to the lexicon of Democratic condescension, “unknowledgeable.”
“Scott Walker, were he to become president, would be the first president in many generations that did not have a college degree,” said Dean of the Wisconsin governor. “And that's a problem.” Scarborough countered later in the conversation, “Well, nobody is accusing Scott Walker of being dumb because he didn't graduate from college except you.”
“I didn't say dumb,” Dean clarified. “I said unknowledgeable.”
Despite their self-designation as the party of the people, the Democrats will reinforce this “unknowledgeable” theme at every opportunity. Through their control of the media, they have been rigging political IQ tests for the last half-century, if not longer.
Those Republicans who were not evil geniuses -- Nixon, Gingrich, Cheney, Rove -- the media have painted as blithering idiots. Dwight Eisenhower was doddering and incoherent. Gerald Ford, perhaps the best athlete to occupy the White House, was a bumbling fool.
“I wanted [Jimmy] Carter in and I wanted [Ford] out,” comedian Chevy Chase would later admit of his mocking Ford impersonation on "Saturday Night Live", “and I figured look, we're reaching millions of people every weekend, why not do it."
Ronald Reagan, in the memorable words of Clark Clifford, was an “amiable dunce.” The senior George Bush was so out of touch he was ambushed by a grocery scanner. Dan Quayle could not spell “potato.” George W. Bush inspired the popular bumper sticker, “A village in Texas is missing its idiot.” And Sarah Palin was the yokel who could allegedly “see Russia from my house.”
In a 2010 tour of the White House, Liverpool High grad Paul McCartney would capture the pop zeitgeist perfectly both in terms of content and dopy condescension. Said McCartney, in a graceless dig at George Bush, an avid reader and Harvard MBA, “After the last eight years, it’s great to have a President who knows what a library is.”
Democratic politicians, as McCartney implied, are smart, even “scary smart,” often too bright for an undeserving American citizenry. Adlai Stevenson was an “egghead.” JFK was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Eugene McCarthy was professorial. George McGovern was cerebral. Bill Bradley was a Rhodes scholar. So was Bill Clinton.
Hillary Clinton was the smartest woman on the planet. Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, and Al Gore were all big-brained wonks. John Kerry was so finely educated that when smearing American troops, he remembered to pronounce “Genghis” “Jenghis.” And Barack Obama, the latest and greatest incarnation of Democratic genius, is “probably the smartest guy ever to become president” -- at least according to historian Michael Beschloss.
Most Americans never got to hear that Ted Sorensen wrote Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, or that Bill Bradley scored an embarrassing 485 on his verbal SAT, or that John Kerry’s grades at Yale were “virtually identical” to George W. Bush’s, or that the teacher in Quayle’s classroom held a flashcard with potato misspelled, or that the scanner that ambushed Bush 41 was so new it surprised the camera crew as well.
And while the Washington Post has already spent more than 2,000 words digging into Scott Walker’s academic background, they and their media colleagues have had no more interest in exploring Obama’s academic background than they have in reopening Al Capone’s vault.
Since nothing Obama has done as president reflects anything like brilliance, the myth of his genius continues to rest on two pre-election assumptions, both unchallenged by the major media. One is that Obama alone wrote his 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father, “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician” according to Time’s Joe Klein. The second is that Obama deserved to be president of the Harvard Law Review.
For those interested in the first question I would recommend my book, Deconstructing Obama. As the record will show, Obama was incapable of writing that book on his own. It is telling that when bestselling celebrity biographer Christopher Andersen confirmed the same in his book Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, the Obama White House leaned hard on CNN to keep him off the air.
As to the second question, no, Obama did not deserve to become president of the Harvard Law Review, let alone to be admitted to Harvard, Columbia University, or even Occidental College. Friendly biographer David Remnick tells us that Obama was an “unspectacular” student in his two years at Columbia and at every stop before that going back to grade school. A Northwestern University professor who wrote a letter of reference for Obama reinforces the point, telling Remnick, “I don’t think [Obama] did too well in college.”
How such an indifferent student got into a law school whose applicants’ LSAT scores typically track between 98 to 99 percentile and whose GPAs range between 3.80 and 4.00 is a subject all his biographers have ignored despite some tantalizing clues, like the one offered by African-American entrepreneur and politico, Percy Sutton, in March 2008.
A Manhattan borough president for twelve years, Sutton had appeared on a local New York City show called "Inside City Hall." When asked about Obama by the show’s host, the octogenarian Sutton calmly and lucidly explained that he had been “introduced to [Obama] by a friend.”
The friend's name was Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, and the introduction had taken place about twenty years prior. Sutton described al-Mansour as "the principal adviser to one of the world's richest men." The billionaire in question was Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.
According to Sutton, al-Mansour had asked him to "please write a letter in support of [Obama]... a young man that has applied to Harvard." Sutton had friends at Harvard and gladly did so.
Three months before the election it should have mattered that a respected black political figure had publicly announced that an outspoken anti-Semite like al-Mansour, backed by a Saudi billionaire, had been guiding Obama’s career perhaps for the last twenty years, but the story died a quick and unnatural death.
In truth, Obama may not have needed Sutton’s help. Michelle Obama’s experience testifies to the same. “Told by counselors that her SAT scores and her grades weren’t good enough for an Ivy League school,” writes Christopher Andersen, “Michelle applied to Princeton and Harvard anyway.”
Admitted to Princeton, Michelle struggled. Biographer Liza Mundy charitably describes her senior thesis as “dense and turgid.” The less charitable Christopher Hitchens observed, “To describe [the thesis] as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be ‘read’ at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn't written in any known language.”
Still, Michelle was admitted to and graduated from Harvard Law. Although a better student than Michelle, Obama did not make the Law Review the old-fashioned way, the way HLR’s first black editor, Charles Houston, had 70 years prior. To Obama’s good fortune, the HLR had replaced a meritocracy in which editors were elected based on grades -- the president being the student with the highest academic rank -- with one in which half the editors were chosen through a writing competition.
This competition, the New York Times reported in 1990, was “meant to help insure that minority students became editors of the Law Review.” If Obama’s entry in the writing competition had begun, “As an angry young black man,” I suspect his odds of being selected editor would have improved considerably.
In a rare honest moment while at Harvard, Obama described himself in a letter to the Harvard Law Record “as someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review’s affirmative action policy.” The media have chosen not to know this.
At Harvard, Obama’s timing was better than his writing. In the same spring 1990 term that he would stand for the presidency of the HLR, the Law School found itself embroiled in a nasty racial brouhaha. Black firebrand law professor Derrick Bell was demanding that Harvard appoint a black woman to the law faculty.
Under pressure, HLR editors felt obliged to elect their first African-American president. Obama had an advantage. Spared the legacy of slavery and segregation, and having grown up in a white household, he lacked the hard edge of many of his black colleagues. Joe Biden would clumsily sum up the Obama advantage years later, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American presidential candidate who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
Once elected, Obama contributed not one signed word to the HLR or any other law journal. As Matthew Franck has pointed out in National Review Online, “A search of the HeinOnline database of law journals turns up exactly nothing credited to Obama in any law review anywhere at any time.”
No matter. The Obama genius myth carried Obama into the White House -- but no further. As president, Obama has done his best to diminish the myth, and Mitt Romney all but killed it off during their first debate.
Walker, alas, will never get the chance to test himself against Obama. If he finds his way through the primaries, however, he will get to make his bones against whichever Ivy-coated big brain the Democrats throw his way.
College degree or not, the smart money is on Walker.