Malia, Michelle, Barack and the College Admissions Scandal
What shocked even the old timers in my hometown was that Mayor Hugh Addonizio, the man who gave me my Eagle Scout Award, would accept kickbacks in cash right across his desk. They were troubled less by his criminality -- that was expected in Newark -- than by his lack of subtlety. Addonizio paid for his indiscretion with a lengthy prison sentence.
So it is with the current college admissions scandal. People have been scamming their ways into prestige universities for decades, maybe centuries, but in the past they have had the good sense not to put the cash on the table. It seems that in this scandal a few of the bribers and their brokers may well pay for their indiscretion with prison sentences as well.
The media pretend to be shocked. In an editorial on the scandal, the New York Times singled out Harvard University for its “special admissions preferences and back doors for certain applicants.” This is the same New York Times, however, that published an entirely uncritical article three years prior headlined, “Malia Obama Rebels, Sort of, by Choosing Harvard.”
Malia is the fourth member of the Obama family to attend that august university, none of whom, save perhaps for Grandpa Obama, deserved to be there.
Let’s start with Obama Sr., the only member of the extended family to attend college before the affirmative action/diversity era. Obama arrived at Harvard in the early 1960s with the goal of getting a Ph.D. in economics. According to biographer Sally Jacobs, Obama “struggled” with his studies but managed to get a Masters degree.
Alas, the university booted him out on moral grounds before he could get his doctorate. An inveterate playboy despite his two ongoing marriages, Obama had an affair with a high-school girl. Denied his Ph.D., says Jacobs, “He goes on to claim the title, nonetheless. He's Dr. Obama. The older he gets, the more he claims it.” As will be seen, intellectual fraud runs in the family.
Michelle was the next to attend Harvard, in her case Harvard Law School. “Told by counselors that her SAT scores and her grades weren’t good enough for an Ivy League school,” writes Christopher Andersen in Barack and Michelle, “Michelle applied to Princeton and Harvard anyway.”
Sympathetic biographer Liza Mundy writes, “Michelle frequently deplores the modern reliance on test scores, describing herself as a person who did not test well.” She did not write well either. Mundy charitably describes her senior thesis, "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community," 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.” Hitchens exaggerated only a little. The following summary statement by Michelle captures her unfamiliarity with many of the rules of grammar and most of logic:
The study inquires about the respondents' motivations to benefit him/herself, and the following social groups: the family, the Black community, the White community, God and church, The U.S. society, the non-White races of the world, and the human species as a whole.
Michelle even typed badly. Still, she was admitted to and graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law. I have been told by those on the inside that there are ways of recognizing affirmative-action admissions. Still, one almost feels sorry for Michelle. She was in so far over her head it is no wonder she projected her angst onto the white people around her. “Regardless of the circumstances underwhich [sic] I interact with whites at Princeton,” she wrote in the opening of her thesis, “it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second."
Barack was the smarter and better educated half of the couple. That said, had Obama’s father come from Kentucky not Kenya and been named O’Hara not Obama, there would been no Harvard Law Review, no Harvard, no Columbia.
In his overly friendly biography, The Bridge, David Remnick writes 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 prof who wrote a letter of reference for Obama reinforces the point, telling Remnick, “I don’t think [Obama] did too well in college.” As to Obama’s LSAT scores, Jimmy Hoffa’s body will be unearthed before those are.
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 Remnick avoids.
Obama does too. Although he has admitted that he “undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs” during his academic career, he has remained mum about some reported “back door” influence peddling that may have been as useful to him as affirmative action.
In late March 2008 the venerable African-American entrepreneur and politico Percy Sutton appeared on a local New York City show called "Inside City Hall." When asked about Obama by the show’s host, Dominic Carter, the former Manhattan borough president 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, the same billionaire whose anti-Semitism caused Mayor Rudy Giuliani to reject his $10 million gift to New York City post 9/11.
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 unapologetic anti-Semite like al-Mansour, backed by an equally anti-Semitic Saudi billionaire, had been guiding Obama’s career perhaps for the last twenty years, but the story died a quick and unnatural death.
As for Malia, whose grades and scores are as much a state secret as her father’s, the old man damns with the faint praise of “capable” and “conscientious.” But hell, Bill’s daughter Chelsea got into Stanford and George’s daughter Barbara got into Yale, so this particular path to the back door was well worn.
Barack Obama’s back door, however, was unique to him. Before prosecutors send some of the dimmer Hollywood stars to the slammer for their dimness, they might want to ask just how much influence a Saudi billionaire peddled to get Obama into Harvard.