It has become increasingly clear over the years, and not just in the left’s horrified reaction to President Obama’s sullen and dreary debate performance, that Obama is our first Affirmative Action president. This is not intended as a comment on his race, although invariably some will construe it as that (the price we pay for the hypersensitivity engendered by political correctness), but rather on the revelation that he has benefited handsomely from some of the ramifications of affirmative action – in particular, being graded on a curve.
Of course, it is quite possible that Obama benefited from affirmative action in the traditional way. All of his college and graduate applications and grades (from Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law) are held under tight seal, guarded as state secrets with a vigilance not shown to, say, the identities of Pakistanis who aided US intelligence in uncovering bin Laden’s whereabouts. No other president has been shown such deference. President George W. Bush’s college transcripts were released to a media ready to pounce on his supposed dimwittedness, only to be rebuffed when it turned out that Bush’s Grade Point Average was higher than that of either Al Gore or John Kerry.
Clearly, something is being hidden. Did his grades fall short of what his reputation for brilliance demand? Did he apply to college as a foreigner – Indonesian, Kenyan, Muslim et al? Were his SAT or LSAT scores so far below the standard admission requirement that he was obviously accepted under the separate track of affirmative action? Did he become Editor of the Harvard Law Review under similar circumstances – with the additional bizarre fact that he, in contrast to most editors or law review members, never published anything? We’ll probably never know, and nor does it really matter that much.
What matters more is the kid glove treatment Obama has received from the public and the media, consciously or unconsciously evoking the “soft bigotry of low expectations” lamented by President Bush. Obama never had his qualifications for the presidency judged by the public as is normally done; he “transcended” such evaluations. For all the criticism lodged by the media (and Obama) against Mitt Romney’s alleged “lack of specificity” – an untruth, in any event – such a charge is ironic coming from the man who ran four years ago on “hope and change” and little else.
Affirmative action beneficiaries essentially live in the past; they are rewarded because of historical acts of injustice that occurred before their time to the race or class or sex. They get to blame the past for any present shortcomings. Does that sound familiar? Every Obama failure is tied to “the mess I inherited,” an open-ended excuse that is simply accepted by his acolytes despite its shallowness. Every president inherits someone’s mess (FDR – Hoover’s Depression, which he promptly worsened; Truman – the wars in Europe and Asia; Eisenhower – Truman’s war in Korea; JFK – Eisenhower’s Bay of Pigs invasion plan – for which he had the decency and maturity never to blame Eisenhower; Nixon – Johnson’s Vietnam; Reagan – Carter’s frightful economy; Bush II – Clinton’s recession that began in March 2000 with the tech collapse, as well as an ascendant bin Laden who was never taken seriously by Clinton.). In today’s climate, it is considered rude to point that out – as if to say, we should not have the same expectations of this president as we have of all the others.
Nor is he expected to live up to the promises he made and broke; nor is he challenged on his failures. He has been the most inaccessible president in recent memory, despite his ubiquity on television. He speaks to controlled audiences, rarely gives press conferences, and even then hand-picks journalists from obscure publications who toss him softball questions. No follow-ups are allowed. Somewhere, Sam Donaldson must be cringing.
Pronouncements are accepted wholesale, as too-probing questions might put the candidate in a bad light. “The war in Iraq has ended” – but tell that to the Iraqi people, about 100 of whom are killed weekly in a country that is rapidly falling under Iranian hegemony. “The shovel ready projects weren’t really shovel ready,” ha ha ha – a waste of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. “The attack on the Benghazi consulate was not a terrorist attack…was a terrorist attack…” – obvious dissembling that has been ignored or parried. (Note that Obama immediately said he must wait until the FBI concludes their investigation, and that they were on the scene right after the attack – a clear falsehood, as the FBI did not go to Benghazi until this week.) “The wealthy must pay their fair share” – mindless of the fact that if the millionaires and billionaires were taxed at a rate of 100% (meaning all their annual income was confiscated), Obama’s budget is still a half-trillion dollars in the red. “I plan on hiring 100,000 math and science teachers”- a blatant payoff to the teachers’ union, big Obama supporters. But why 100,000 and not 90,000 or 110,000? Are there that many people capable of teaching math and science looking for jobs? And does the federal government hire any teachers? Of course not – that is a state responsibility. All this means is that more federal money will be printed to provide to the states where Democrats are in the majority.
These contentions are simply accepted by a defanged media. But refuted in debate by the Stormin’ Mormon (Neil Cavuto’s delightful phrase), Obama sulked rather than responded.
“Being graded on a curve” means that expectations are lowered, that the individual in question cannot truly compete on an even playing field, and therefore allowances must be made. Obama’s associations with an assortment of rogues, scoundrels, and terrorists – fatal for ordinary politicians – were glossed over. Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded without any substantive achievement – essentially just for showing up. Habits that would be mocked in mainstream politicians, judged according to the traditional rules – like Obama affecting a variety of accents to pander to different audiences – are simply ignored. It is as if it would be unfair to treat him the same as others are treated, as if it would be insulting to measure him by the same yardstick used for others. Less is expected, and his excuses are given a plausibility that would be unacceptable in any other context.
Watching Romney in debate was seeing what hasn’t been seen in years – an intelligent politician, fully in command of facts and material, and able to convey both in crisp, articulate and understandable English. Obama off his teleprompter is, sadly, embarrassing. He received a tutorial – like from a master teacher to a struggling student – not only in debate tactics, but in government, management, leadership and the issues. Forced to confront questions he had been able to dodge for years, and to speak directly to an equal – if not a superior – who did not accept his fluff, platitudes and lies, Obama cowered, with a surliness that belied his likable image.
With the qualifications of both men on display simultaneously – a reference not to debating techniques but simple familiarity with the concerns of the day and viable ways of dealing with them – it is hard to escape the conclusion that Obama was elected based on the affirmative action preferential treatment that is anathema to most Americans and whose legitimacy in higher education will again be litigated before the US Supreme Court this coming term.
One is reminded that the drop-out rate after one year among affirmative-action college and graduate students far exceeds that of students admitted under traditional standards. One can only hope that a similar result befalls Obama after his one term, with the growing realization that he is simply not in Mitt Romney’s league. (That Paul Ryan will make Joe Biden look like a befuddled old man only strengthens the argument.) For the first time, Obama is confronting a figure who is not extending favorable treatment, not grading him on a curve, and not treating him like a victim of class and circumstances.
To be clear, Obama’s incompetence is not at all based on his race, and there are any number of blacks, Hispanics, women and even Jews who are qualified for the presidency based on customary standards. But Obama has benefited from preferential treatment in politics and elsewhere, and it shows.
By no means is the election over, and the potential for dirty politics, vindictive personal attacks and distractions from the real issues remains – as well as Obama’s main ploy: the lure of free stuff to be dispensed to his favored interest groups at the expense of the rest of the country. But the contrast between what we have and what we could have (and what we could have had in 2008) is jarring.
It is high time we judge all people by their qualifications, the content of their character, and their competence – and not by their superficial characteristics that are ultimately meaningless.