Understanding Sarah


I dwell a lot on Sarah Palin here. Obviously, it’s not because I’d ever vote for her. In fact, I don’t consider her—in and of herself—to be all that riveting.

No, what keeps me talking about Palin Mania is what her popularity says about Americans. Or, more to the point, what it says about American hopes and desires. As Michael Douglas aptly put it in The American President, we crave leadership—and we’ll follow almost anyone in a search to find it. Or, to state such in less eloquent terms, we are sheep. Bah! Sheep. Bah! We really are. Instead of thinking for ourselves, we are often perfectly happy to let others do the thinking for us. In fact, I’d say we prefer things that way. And, in Sarah Palin, a certain corner of our population (a large corner) sees a well-spoken, accomplished, attractive, well-funded individual willing to carry the heavy load. They don’t worry about her vapidness, or her limited accomplishments, or even the fact that she lacks knowledge and—one can argue—conviction. What they like about Palin is that she has a platform to express their concerns. And she does. She’ll happily go off on gays and on guns; on government excesses and liberal freaks. She makes very good angry faces, and can fire off a snide, fuck-all-y’all one-liner as competently as anyone I’ve ever seen.

Surely, some reading this would say, “Ha! Obama’s basically the same thing!” And maybe he is. But—if I’m going to be honest on this blog—I am the northern liberal elitist who thinks Obama’s supporters are (on a whole) more intelligent than Palin’s. And not just by a inch or two. The other day I heard some conservative railing against Ivy-educated snobs who think they know this and that and that. Well, of course they do—they’re Ivy-educated. That means, 90% of the time, they’re pretty fucking smart. At least smarter than the “real, honest-to-goodness American” (Palin’s wording) who never attended college and works at the local Dairy Den (and, for the record, there’s nothing wrong with working at the local Dairy Den. But, odds are, the guy working at the Dairy Den isn’t going to be as educated or worldly as the guy working as, say, a CPA or lawyer following four years at Brown. Could he be more intelligent? Certainly. But intelligence without access is like a .390 hitter without a bat to swing).

The problem is, the “real, honest-to-goodness American” working at the Dairy Den is, often, angry. His pay is shit, he sees jobs being shipped elsewhere, he’s tired of paying high taxes for other people and he doesn’t see why some Mexican field hand needs protection. So when someone like Palin throws out a bundle o’ red meat (Where’s our president’s birth certificate?), Mr. Dairy Den nods his head and says, “Amen! A-fucking-men!”

And yet … how exactly is Sarah Palin getting Mr. Dairy Den a job? She has little understanding of import-export ratios; certainly doesn’t know how to create jobs (her record on this in Alaska: Zero) and improve trade balance or transition the American economy. But—and this is important—what she does know is how to get Mr. Dairy Den angry. Really angry! Really, really angry.

And anger equals protests. And protests equals votes. And votes equals …

President Sarah Palin.

48 thoughts on “Understanding Sarah”

  1. Jeff,
    I really enjoy your work. I’m an Independant who leans to the right.
    Your Dairy Queen analogy is right on.
    Palin doesn’t have a plan. Obama and this administration is a disaster. Because of this, the door has been opened for her. If the president had accomplished anything, (please don’t give me this stimulus package) She would be a nonplayer in the next election.
    Keep up the great work Jeff.
    Have a great day.

  2. While it is hard to cite any real accomplishments, it has just been over a year since Obama was inaugerated. Perhaps he wasted a lot of capital trying to get health care reform. Something a majority of the people want but the Repulicans say no to. The real problem is that democrats are such pussies. Say what you want to about Bush, he did manage to get things he wanted. And that was with not having a large majority in Congress. The other thing is not all democrats are really liberal.

  3. A recent poll said that 7 out of 10 Americans don’t think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president. At the CPAC straw poll this week she garnered only 7% of the presidential preference vote. Her supporters are vocal but they’re not all that numerous.

  4. Agree Jeff, but it’s been ever thus in American politics going back to the Know Nothings (and even before that) of the mid 19th Century.

  5. I agree, and then some.

    I’ve posted before on here that I think Palin is just about the worst person in the world. I think she is little more than a pretty face and a perky, conservative messenger. What bothers me most though is that her whole persona is built on two things – fear and stupidity. She preys on the fear of conservatives, saying Obama is palling around with terrorists and that he will create death panels, and she has on more than one occasion incited a violent reaction to Obama. And she is very, very stupid. She’s a very skilled politician and is shrewd as hell. But the fact is that she does not have a grasp of even a fraction of the information necessary to run a country and what’s more shocking is that by all accounts she has little interest in learning. If she is not stupid by nature, her failure to learn what is necessary makes her stupid.

    Obama, by contrast, is a brilliant, brilliant man who preaches hope, not fear. Say what you want about Obama – and there has been plenty to say over the last year – I think any comparison to Palin is severely misguided.

  6. Jeff, one day you need to devote a post (maybe several) to the thought process behind the pictures you chose to top all of your posts. I feel like I’m Tom Hanks in the Da Vinci trying to decode what the hell is happening and how the picture relates to the story. This post would be example #1

  7. slightly off-topic: id like to know what palin has actually done for special needs children, besides toting around trig. does she have any association with the special olympics? has she done any awareness for the events, since you know… its kind of olympics time. does she consider pointing fingers at people who use the word retard as raising awareness? how come no one has asked her about what shes actually done in a positive light for special needs children. oh right, she only does interviews with fox, and no way in H E double hockey sticks will they ask her anything but teeball questions.

    and the whole family guy thing… isnt a cartoon more of an obvious example of satire than a radio show host high on oxycontin?

  8. I can’t believe the “Obama is a disaster” posts here and pretty much anywhere else you find political talk.

    I liken Obama’s presidency to Dalton’s work at the Double Deuce in the movie “Roadhouse.”

    Remember what Dalton said, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

    A disaster was Bush’s eight years. And if Bush had the chance for four more years you’d have seen a catastrophe.

    I know I wouldn’t have wanted to follow that clown and his minions.

    But at least the Republicans have their fall guy.

  9. Dontcha know, Steve? The last eight years never happened. All that is bad in this country started on Jan. 20, 2009.

    Republicans aren’t stupid. They think WE’RE stupid.

  10. Sarah Palin is simply the other swing of the pendulum that catapulted Obama to power. Obama was swept into the White House by an American population seeking catharsis from the Bush years, which, rightly or wrongly, are characterized as “eight years of disaster.” Like Palin, Obama hadn’t done anything substantial in his life, politically or otherwise. The two are empty suits, Rorshach tests for the electorate.

    Obama is seen by huge swathes of the country, however, as aloof, elitist, and unconcerned with their wishes. Palin, whatever she may actually be, presents herself as someone in touch with “Main Street,” whatever that is, which resonates with people. She won’t be elected president, but her advent shouldn’t be surprising, given how closely it mirrors Mr. Obama’s own meteoric rise.

  11. Classicist, you completely sacrifice any credibility you would otherwise have when you make ridiculous statements like Obama has never accomplished anything of substance in his life. That is just preposterous.

    He graduated from two Ivy League universities, including the most prestigious or second-most prestigious law school in America, where he was the editor-in-chief of the law review (a huge, huge accomplishment). He was a successful community organizer in Chicago. He worked for an elite boutique law firm in Chicago. He wrote two books, one a candid literary memoir. He lectured constitutional law at the University of Chicago, probably one of the top five universities in the world (and I have it on first-hand info that he was pursued as a full-time professor by other elite law schools, but elected to turn down the offers to pursue his political ambitions). He served in his state senate. He was a United States senator.

    How can you possibly, possibly say that he “hadn’t done anything substantial in his life”? Well before his announcement that he was running for president, there are few 44-year-old men or women in America with a more eye-popping resume.

  12. JR,

    Perhaps as a graduate of an Ivy League university, I’m not as impressed as you might be with Obama’s educational CV, but I would nevertheless refrain from declaring college attendance as “substantial.” Even HLS, while certainly prestigious, can hardly be called “substantial.” That he was editor-in-chief of the law review is certainly a big deal in the insular world of law education, but the position is an elected one and nobody doubts Barack Obama’s ability to get elected for things.

    Your mistake, JR, is a common one that Obama’s cheerleaders have made throught the past 2+ years: you mistake notability for substance. It is, of course, inarguable that Obama is notable. He was a State Senator, a Senator, and now, of course, President of the United States (and Nobel Prize winner).

    But despite his longstanding notability, he cannot point to a single real achievement beyond getting himself elected to certain positions. Despite his widely-lauded legal brilliance, he never produced a notable piece of legal writing, preferring, I suppose, to instead focus his literary talents on a more important subject: himself. He never produced major legislation. He never ran an organization, other than his own campaigns (which, really, he himself didn’t even run). I am by no means suggesting Obama is the equivalent of Palin – that would be absurd. But the analogy is nonetheless useful.

  13. And don’t say you weren’t suggesting that he’s the equivalent of Palin, because that’s exactly what you did:

    “Like Palin, Obama hadn’t done anything substantial in his life, politically or otherwise. The two are empty suits, Rorshach tests for the electorate.”

  14. anyone else confused how obama got pigeonholed into this east coast elite tag? i mean, hes not from the east coast, and hes not an elitist in any sense… he wasnt born with a silver spoon in his mouth. where was all this hatred towards gwb, who is the exact definition of an east coast elitest, no matter how much he tries to act like hes from texas.

    to think republicans would ever call a black man elitest. you cant make this shit up.

  15. So Obama “cannot point to a single real achievement…,” but George W. Bush could?

    I guess Baines for Sosa could be considered an accomplishment to some.

  16. Why not, Jason? They’ve already called him a racist, socialist, communist, and terrorist.

    I think “cannibal” is next.

    Republicans have nothing because they are ultimately, about nothing. They stand for nothing except the opposite of whoever is on the other side.

  17. It’s interesting that conversations about Palin turn invariably into discussions about Obama — it is also sad, because while criticisms of Palin’s qualifications to be President are valid, so are those criticisms of Obama – and he’s actually President.
    As to Obama’s qualifications, I disagree thoroughly with JR. Obama was simply not qualified to be Presdident. He had no success in the public or private sector – other than being Barack Obama. It’s really a joke to argue otherwise.
    I respect academic accomplishment – that’s a small part of the reason why Mitt Romney impresses me – but I not really impressed by Barack Obama’s. Was his college transcript ever released — I guess I am a “transcript-birther” because my guess is his grades sucked – or at least not Harvard-law worthy. Editor-in-Chief of the Law review — I guess it would depend on how Harvard appointed people to their law review. My understanding is that he published nothing though (same as when he was a lecturer).
    Lastly, I don’t understand the defense to Obama’s qualifications to be President to be “well, what were W’s accomplishments.” How does that make sense – Democrats spent arguing that W. wasn’t qualified to be President and that he was a failure as President — so now he’s your benchmark. How about finding someone MORE qualified.

  18. <<>>

    My point about Obama’s achievements weren’t to defend him, but to point out the double standard Republicans have.

    Bush was horribly unqualified by today’s standard (that standard being anything that can detract from Obama’s qualifications), but we didn’t hear boo about that from Republicans for eight years.

    Suddenly we’re hearing about how unqualified Obama was. And you wonder why people bring up Palin’s resume. That’s what our politics has come to in the country. Forget about building ourselves up…just knock the other guy down until he’s at our level.

    The ONLY requirements for president are, 1. being a native born US citizen, 2. being 35 years of age, and 3, living in the US for at least 14 years.

    So, is Obama qualified? Yes. Palin? Yes. Bush? Yes. Me? Yes.

    The rest is subject to which party you cheer for.

    I remember when Clinton was running for president. Military service was the big buzz…”how can you be commander in chief if you’ve never served in the military?” the Republicans shouted.

    Then along came W., and it wasn’t so much about active duty anymore.

  19. You’re right, Matt. Columbia University and Harvard Law School typically let in people whose grades “sucked.” And if Harvard’s law review is like every other law school, selection is based on some combination of grades and a write-on competition.

    Everyone should understand damned well why he doesn’t have a record of notable legal writing or publications. Because he knew very early that he wanted to get into politics, and I’m sure he didn’t want any prior published papers blowing up in his face.

    I don’t think the guy is infallible. But the idea that he should release his college and law school transcripts is ludicrous beyond belief. How could he win by doing that? If his grades are great, he’s “bragging” and an “elitist.” If there’s even an A-, his political enemies are going to cherry-pick that and run with it. “He got an A- in Property! How tough can that be? If you buy something, you own it! And Mr. Intellectual couldn’t get an A!”

    As a law school veteran myself, I know one thing to be true – the world outside of the law school bubble has no idea how law school grades are done. If the guy was on Harvard Law Review, he’s legit. Reasonable people can disagree about whether that’s any qualification worth mentioning, or just a means to an end, plain and simple. But to be a “transcript birther” and doubt his academic ability is just being plain obstinate.

  20. P.S. I also don’t question W.’s academic ability or credentials. He had a lack of foreign experience knowledge during his first campaign that people interpreted as a lack of intelligence, which wasn’t fair.

  21. Steve, I don’t think Republicans attack Obama’s qualifications so much anymore — he now has a record as President and that seems to be the basis of current critique.

    But even if I accept your premise of hyprocricy among Republicans (which I am not sure I do – Reagan is revered by the GOP and if he served in the military, it wasn’t in combat), but I think hypocricy is sometimes in the eyes of the beholder – for 8 years, liberal columnists were shouting “chicken hawk” at Bush/Cheney like crazy. Military service (combat anyway) was deemed as essential for making decisions about the military. But during Clinton, the 2008 campaign and now during Obama, silence. I actually don’t mind – because I thought it was a wrong accusation from 2000-2008 so I would rather it not rear its head again.

  22. JR, I don’t want to go back and forth about O’s academic accomplishments. I remain a transcript-birther, but I could easily be wrong. Perhaps he was a top student at Occidental, Columbia and Harvard. If he was, great. However, law review is not always based on grades/writing competitions.

  23. Again:

    “The best student I ever had.” – Laurence Tribe

    He also graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, meaning he was in the top 10 percent of his class there, at least. That translates to at least a 3.72 grade-point average, carried through his three years despite having presumably a heavy, heavy workload as the editor of the law review.

  24. “He was soon chosen through the strength of his writing and grades to serve as one of 80 student editors on the law review.” – NY Times, March 19, 1990

  25. JR, you are right about Harvard. Seriously, that is a very impressive accomplishment. But if we are to be honest about his academic history, I googled and apparently he did not graduate with any honors at Columbia – which means lower than a 3.3 – since no transcript, so who knows what it is. So what does this tell me — Obama probably benefitted from affirmative action in his admission to Harvard. This isn’t an accusation or a judgment — just a reasonable conclusion. So, my guess is that one reason his college transcript wasn’t released because his campaign probably didn’t want to start a debate or story-line that had anything to do with race or racial preferences. A perfectly reasonable decision by his campaign. They wanted Obama to be elected – and any discussion about race and affirmative action would have been an unwanted distraction. Or maybe
    there was some other reason, I wouldn’t know.
    I also read that Obama’s Occidental grades were abysmal – but that was from sources that you cannot verify (unlike his not graduating with honors, which is revealed on any graduation program).
    At the end, I don’t think it matters – I don’t think academic performance, either good or bad, is an exact indicator of Presidental timber — there are so many examples of this in just the 20th century alone. Look, I voted for McCain and he graduated in bottom 5 (not 5%) of his Naval class.

    I only mentioned it because Obama’s post-college resume was so thin, that it bothered me that his academic life was still mentioned as a selling point, and even that was shrouded in mystery.

  26. Columbia University, the top Ivy League school out of the Big Three, let him in with “abysmal” grades at his previous school, huh?

    And still clinging to “shrouded in mystery”?

    “The best student I ever had.” Magna cum laude. Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

    Also, please name me all the politicians who release their college transcript? McCain has, I believe, but for good reason – to show how his military service changed him from an underachieving legacy admit at the Naval Academy to the man he became.

    And I love the idea that Harvard is just swinging open the doors for any underqualified black student who applies. Guess there must not be many black students at any other law schools then, huh?

  27. JR, my point was that usually a Presidental candidate has significant accomplishments post-academia that their supporters don’t use academic degrees to demonstrate crediatials. With Obama, it bothered me that his qualifications seemed to stem he graduated from top schools.
    I don’t know where you draw those conclusions about Harvard from my post — yes, it seems likely that Obama’s admission to Harvard was based on race. My point is not to judge, but to simply state a reasonable conclusion. At the end though, it’s a so-what. If anything, his outstanding performance while at Harvard perhaps validates his admission – by whatever standard was used.
    And I have no idea what Big-3 is?

  28. He was an associate at an elite Chicago boutique law firm. He spent four years community organizing on the South Side before he went to law school. He lectured constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He served in his state senate. He served in the United States Senate. He wrote two best-selling books.

    I’m not sure what accomplishments you wanted from him before his 45th birthday? That is a string of one remarkable achievement after another.

  29. By “Big Three” I meant Harvard, Princeton and Yale. I would imagine that Columbia would be right after those three in terms of prestige, difficulty getting in, etc.

  30. Matt,

    In regards to your quote…

    “hypocricy is sometimes in the eyes of the beholder – for 8 years, liberal columnists were shouting “chicken hawk” at Bush/Cheney like crazy. Military service (combat anyway) was deemed as essential for making decisions about the military. But during Clinton, the 2008 campaign and now during Obama, silence.”

    Do you remember why that started?
    The bullshit Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements that successfully smeared Kerry.

    It seemed weird for backers of Bush/Cheney to criticize John Kerry in 2004. Is anybody going to slander John McCain for his war record?

  31. Two front debate going on. First Marty: the chicken-hawk arguments started prior to 2004, but even still, why would the swifty attacks on Kerry somehow make the chicken-hawk argument by liberal columnists valid. The chicken-hawk argument sadly continues to this day: wait until Mitt is the GOP nominee – I predict the chicken-hawk argument will extend to his sons. I am sad in anticipation. Second, doesn’t slander have to be untrue?

    Next JR, I simply disagree – those are not remarkable accomplishments. What did he accomplish?

  32. Let me clarify my accomplishments – again, it doesn’t matter, the guy is President and even though he has done poorly so far in my opinion, I wish him well for the next three years. But as for I want, look no further at the 2008 GOP side, which was characterized as weak by many pundits, but I saw otherwise. Rudy: succesful prosecuter, cleaned up NYC, showed great leadership when city was attacked. Mitt: very succesful businessman, credited with saving 2002 Olympics, got healthcare legislation passed as governor. McCain: 5 year POW, US Senator who showed leadership skills – often bucking party, showing bipartisanship and getting signature legislation passed. Now – you could argue with the merit of what they accomplished – but with the possible exception of McCain’s POW record, but for good or bad, they were actual accomplishments. Now look at Obama — if you told me he tried cases, or wrote a treatise, or took a leadership role in the State Senate or US Senate and had signature legislation – those are accomplishments. But what you told me are resume-builders. What did he do in those roles? Yes, US Senate in his 40’s very impressive (being governor at 40, also impressive) – but whether anything he did suggested to me he would be a successful leader or President. It didn’t.

    Coming from a Massachusetts citizen, Romney can get fucked. One of the absolute worst politicians, even his own Republicans hate him (GAME CHANGE showed this with Giuliani and McCain talking shit about him)
    He flip flops more than John Kerry did.
    He used everything he does to rise in politics. He did the 2002 Park City Olympics to get himself to be Governor. He was out of state his ENTIRE time as Governor so that he could be President.
    He’s THE definition of a disingenious politician and, smart though he may be, the people can see through the bullshit. And the Mormon thing DOES in fact trouble the nation.

    Easily one of my least favorite politicians along with Romney and Palin.
    Total hypocrite.
    His speech at the 2008 Republican Convention was so full of bullshit all over the place with stuff that wasn’t true. You could have been an 8-year old to pick apart the bullshit.
    His closet has a lot of skeletons and he’s well-aware of that.
    The book GAME CHANGE exposed his flaws and the GOP base is aware of that, even McCain said so.
    He’s been pimping what he did during 9/11 for the last decade. It’s old.
    He’s basically been out of politics too long to be taken seriously.
    Bloomberg’s done a better job cleaning up NYC than he did.

    He will not run for President again. He’s done. He’ll be 76 by the 2012 election and 80 by the time he would finish his term. He looks like death more than Ted Kennedy did during his final days.

    I generally like him, but he’s been out of touch on a lot of things lately (while his wife and daughter have been on pro-gay issues), is reckless, and ran an awful campaign. The GOP base absolutely hates him because he’s too much to the center or right for them.
    Charismatic. Shows bi-partisanship apparently yesterday on the Jobs bill (he’s going to tout that when it was a no-brainer). He’s full of shit though and you can see right through it.
    Less than a week into being Senator, he already signed a deal to release a memoir. What a fucking joke. But then again, that’s what you need to run for President.
    He might run in 2012, but that would be too soon. But then again, Palin was a VP candidate after 2 years.

    She could make it to the primaries with a rabid fanbase, but she’s too polarizing nationally to be taken remotely seriously. The CPAC polls showed that.

    The GOP base is trying to trump him up.

    Cannot take seriously.

    Ha ha.

  34. Also, my worst fear was that John McCain would make Mitt Romney his VP. I thought he was the logical pick, but all the GOP candidates absolutely HATED him.

    Joe Lieberman was McCain’s choice, but the GOP base told McCain that Lieberman was too hated, wouldn’t pass the vetting, and McCain was already looked at as too left for the Republicans, so he went out and got someone to the right (obviously, in Palin’s case, that was to the most extreme right)

    Romney’s handsome, charismatic, appears smart…but he is so full of shit.

    I have a hard time seeing anyone beating Barack Obama in 2012. There doesn’t appear to be anyone right now. I believe Obama will turn things around, he had a tough first year to deal with, and will make adjustments.

    In 2016, we’ll see a clearer picture of candidates and Scott Brown, if he doesn’t run in 2012, will definitely run then.

    I just think 2012 will be the equivalent of 2004 for the Democrats where John Kerry was the best candidate, whereas Hillary Clinton should have ran and shouldn’t have felt so obligated to finish running for Senator (once again, GAME CHANGE revealed this).

  35. Marty, those were my recount of the 2008 GOP candidates – to demonstrate what I meant by “accomplishments” in reply to another post. The post wasn’t listing the likely future GOP nominee. But boy oh boy – if I wasn’t in the midst of debating others, I certainly disagree with your accessments.

  36. Matt, there are lists all over the Internet of legislation Obama worked on. I’m not going to list them. You can look it up yourself.

    You’ve simply rigged the game so that his accomplishments don’t fit the definition of accomplishments. It’s like in 2008 when I kept hearing that he didn’t have any positions on any issues. And yet, three years earlier I had read a 300-page book, “The Audacity of Hope,” in which he went into detail about his policy positions.

    Nobody at the firm Obama worked at tries cases. It’s not that kind of firm. I’m sure he worked on plenty of important litigation for them, though, with millions of dollars at stake. You don’t have to be a trial lawyer to be a successful attorney. When the Dems ran a trial lawyer, John Edwards, who had won a lot of cases, that was considered a mark against him by the GOP. So which is it?

    Obama didn’t write an academic treatise, but he did write “The Audacity of Hope,” which very clearly enunciated many of his policy positions. In other words, a Treatise Lite for the masses, rather than something for academics to pass around their insular community. I would say that’s an accomplishment – a best-seller on policy.

    Reasonable people can disagree about whether he had amassed a long enough record in the Senate to earn your vote. Or whether he’s done a good job as president so far (I think he has, and that Congress has been the problem). But this idea that he had “no accomplishments of substance” is patently absurd. But it’s an easy argument to make when you just keep tweaking the definitions to fit your argument.

  37. JR:

    Don’t you know the truth? Obama would’ve flunked at all those schools, but he had all this Black Panther/Black Muslim money propping him up. You see, it was all a plot: they picked him to infiltrate white politics to get elected president and start a race war.

    I know this is true because my Dad told me. And I’m sure he got it either from NewsMax or Fox, those bastions of journalistic credibility.

    So, yeah, just cause *you* can’t recognize a Scary Black Man when you see it….

  38. You know what the funny part is? Let’s say for argument’s sake that Obama was a completely unqualified affirmative action admit. Let’s say he had a 2.8 GPA at Columbia and a 155 LSAT score. I’m quite sure this is far, far from the truth, but let’s just assume for argument’s sake.

    The conservative meme is that his Harvard accomplishments are tainted because of this.

    But isn’t his subsequent academic success at Harvard the PRECISE ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION??? In other words, an underprivileged student merely needs an opportunity, and he could become president some day??

  39. JR, did you read one of my posts above. I conceded that very point – that Obama’s Harvard accomplishments (not to mention the fact that he was elected President) can be used to help validate affirmative action – as an example of “see it works”. I still don’t support AA , but I recognize that Obama can be used be an effective example of its merits.

    However, I don’t see how you can be sure of what’s far from the truth. It is fact that his GPA was less than 3.3 – and even though there has been grade inflation since 1983, I am thinking that wouldn’t have gotten him into Harvard w/o racial preferences – I am not discrediting his acocmplishments there. He benefitted from a system that he didn’t put into place. He certainly succeeded at Harvard and in life. But to deny it – or assign wild racist claims from me that simply aren’t there – is wrong.

    Regarding, Obama’s pre-2008 accomplishments — we will have to agree to disagree about the value of what he had accomplished. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter – he’s been President for a year – and in 2008, the majority of voters disagreed with me, or didn’t care.

    But I’ll remember the best-selling book as evidence of Presidential qualification in 2 years 😉

  40. I will say this, and then drop the argument: I doubt that in 1990, law schools were as GPA- and LSAT-obsessed as they are today, when U.S. News & World Report rankings can mean people’s jobs in the administrative offices. Obama’s race might have played a role. I think his background, holistically, certainly did – his upbringing, his four years of community organizing in a city that was completely new to him, the compelling story of his single mother, etc., etc. I think we can be certain he wrote a really outstanding personal essay. Race is a part of this, because it can’t be untangled from the narrative of his life, but I’m not so sure it was as simple as “3.9 and a 175 for white people, but 3.0 and a 160 for black people” standard. In fact, that would be unconstitutional today (though not in 1990).

    I think we’ve reached a tremendous “agree to disagree” point in the debate. You concede his academic credentials at Harvard, and that, presuming he got AA help in being admitted, that is a point in favor of AA as policy. But you still aren’t willing to support the policy as a whole based on what you see as an outlier – a compelling outlier, but an outlier all the same. That’s fair and reasonable. I disagree, but I think we’ve reached agreement on everything we can possibly reach agreement on, and boiled the real debate down to the points where we actually diverge.

    Too bad Americans can’t engage in more such civil debates, especially online!

  41. Matt,

    My bad on mis-reading the candidates you had for what I thought was 2012.
    I would agree: Giuliani, Romney, and McCain were all more qualified than Obama with shit on their resume.

    You could say the same for Hillary Clinton’s experience.

    There were problems, however, with how you could see them being a President.

    McCain? Despite a lot of disagreements, in 2000, I would have been all right with him as President.
    Giuliani? Romney? At no point in time would I ever see them being Presidential material.

    Romney was Governor for 1 term, but when he was Governor, it was more transparent than Obama that he was using it to launch himself nationally. I see it too now with his Democratic replacement, Deval Patrick, who is basically Romney all over again. He doesn’t have Presidential ambitions (he probably would get replaced by a Republican candidate this Fall), but I can see him relying on Obama to make him a Supreme Court Justice when John Paul Stevens steps down or something.

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