As the Obama campaign continues its attacks on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and his tax returns, it has argued that the focus is justified because Romney made his business background his “calling card” for his presidential run. They argue, not unreasonably, that Romney’s use of his business experience as the centerpiece of his candidacy warrants close scrutiny of that experience. Okay, but what about what was, in 2008, Obama’s main “calling card”, his successful academic career? Doesn’t that warrant similar vetting?
During the 08 campaign, Obama and his supporters touted his editorship of the Harvard Law Review and his position as a “constitutional law professor” at University of Chicago as significant achievements. His academic rise through Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard Law School were prima facie evidence of his brilliance. No other modern candidate for President has used his academic achievements as his chief “calling card” for the Presidency. And yet, while many candidates have released or had leaked their academic transcripts, we have almost no information on Obama’s. It was damn near the sum-total of his “qualifications” to be President, and we know nothing about it.
Mind you, I really don’t care about his grades. Even if, as some suspect, Obama benefited from some institutional nudges to get into these elite schools, he graduated from them. I’m sure he was a decent enough student. No, I’m more interested in what courses he took. What disciplines did he study? Which ideas was he exposed to? This is especially important in Obama’s case, because we have almost no other information about who he is or what makes him tick. Sure, we have his memoirs, but those are unreliable, because we know he painted “composites” of people and events. Knowing the courses he took would fill in much needed information about his worldview.
This came into even starker relief last week. Speaking in Virginia, Obama asserted both that success was a question of luck and that a person’s success was usually due to someone else, generally the government. “If you’ve got a business. You didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Obama’s line betrays a belief unlike anything held by the overwhelming majority of Americans. It shows a profound disdain for individual achievement and a warm embrace of collective action in all things. Where in the world did that idea come from?
Its a far more important question than how much money Romney made or what his exact rate of tax was. Absolutely, Romney’s exact tenure at Bain should be scrutinized. He has, after all, made his business experience his “calling card.” But, Obama made his academic career one of his signature “calling cards.” We have a right to know what’s on that card.
The Obama campaign has made a compelling case for the release of his college transcripts. Someone should follow up on their advice.
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