Remember when the mainstream media mocked a politician who had to attend five colleges to graduate, whose academic record was less than outstanding, and whose subsequent success was proof of nothing? Remember how that was supposed to be a threat to national security, the economy, and so much else?
That was so 2008, so Sarah Palin.
It turns out that former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), who is now awaiting confirmation as Secretary of Defense, attended five colleges and was a “D” student. He volunteered to serve in Vietnam, and returned having been awarded two Purple Hearts. He pulled himself together, graduated, and went on to a successful career. Nevertheless, the media’s double standard is glaring when compared to the way Palin was treated.
“Well, I had a–speaking of discipline–a difficult time staying in colleges. I was never kicked out of one, I never flunked out of one. I went to five different colleges. But I was in and out, a bit bored,” Hagel said.
He had to take English composition three times, and struggled with other subjects as well. “Science, chemistry, some of the math courses I took were D’s,” Hagel admitted in a 2001 interview about his life and career with C-SPAN. He added, with a note of self-deprecating humor, that he decided the military would be a better alternative when he considered a draft board deferral.
“I said to them, well, I don’t think it’s in the best interest for any legitimate educational institution for me to go back and try that again right now,” Hagel recalled. “And it’s probably not in my best interest. So why don’t I just volunteer for the draft.”
CNN lists only two colleges on Hagel’s resumé–namely, the Brown Institute for Television and Radio in Minneapolis, and the University of Nebraska. It notes that he was originally supposed to play football at Wayne State College, but lost his scholarship after an injury. It does not list his other two colleges.
College performance is not necessarily an indicator of future success. After he overcame his academic difficulties, Hagel went on to a successful career in business and politics–though his qualifications for the position of Secretary of Defense are noticeably lacking, as Politico belatedly pointed out.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, when she joined Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on the Republican ticket, Gov. Sarah Palin was scorned by the mainstream media and the political elite for her academic pedigree, which also included five different colleges. She emerged with a degree in journalism and enjoyed a career in television before becoming mayor of Wasilla, head of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and Governor.
The media have shown some skepticism over Hagel’s qualifications after his poor showing in his Jan. 31 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. But they have shown little interest in his checkered academic background, and certainly none of the derision they once poured upon Sarah Palin.