Attending Harvard Law doesn’t make Obama a genius
Regular readers know that I have fussed for years about Obama’s much vaunted intelligence. I’ve agreed that he has a feral, manipulative intelligence, but I’ve challenged the whole brilliant scholar thing.
It’s not just the missing grades (which one assumes are missing because they’re embarrassing). It’s also the horrible way he expresses himself when he’s off of the teleprompter, the wooden writing when he doesn’t have Bill Ayers at his back, and the repeated gaffes when he reveals that he does not have a well-furnished mind. Who can forget his repeated references to “corpse” men, his throwaway remark about the Austrian language in Austria (“uh, that would be German, Sir”) and his recent comment that LBJ’s home state, Texas has been historically Republican. The man is an ignoramus.
I was never impressed by the whole Harvard shtick. First of all, with all due respect to the many brilliant, competent, delightful Harvard Law grads out there, my experience here on the West Coast with Harvard Law grads hasn’t been so good.
The “more than few but less than many” Harvard grads with whom I’ve worked or against whom I’ve litigated have been — sorry! — unimpressive specimens. They’ve certainly had the arrogance one would expect from someone graduating from a premier law school, but they lacked the concrete skills: poor work ethics, small fund of legal knowledge and bad writing were only the beginning. The ones I got to know were also just peculiar human beings, with more than their share of foibles (personality disorders, alcoholism and drug use topped the lists).
Incidentally, all of the Harvard grads I knew were white. They weren’t at Harvard because of affirmative action. How they got in, I don’t know, because, with their emergence into the legal world, Harvard was sending to the Left Coast some poor representatives of Harvard’s vaunted wonderfulness. After more than twenty-years in the field, I’d always prefer to have at my back someone from a solid second tier school (Baylor, Hastings, Santa Clara, etc.) than an Ivy League grad.
My practical experiences with Harvard grads didn’t surprise me. When I attended a premier public, not private, law school at roughly the same time Obama was gracing Harvard’s halls, many lawyers who worked at huge, well-paying, reputable firms told me that they hired Ivy League grads for the cachet, not because they were any good.
The lawyers’ complaints were always the same: the Ivy Leagues had done away with reliable grading, either because of massive grade inflation or because they’d switched to a pass/fail system. This meant that all the Ivy League (plus the Boalt) graduates they interviewed presented themselves as top-of-the-class brilliant people. From the lawyers’ perspective, though, hiring one of them was like buying a pig in a poke. One assumed they were smart because they got into the cachet school in the first place, but it was fatal to assume that they had the knowledge, skills or attitude necessary to become a good lawyer. If you were lucky, you hired someone wonderful; if you weren’t, you could still boast that your firm was a draw to Ivy League lawyers.
Now that Obama’s past is no longer untouchable, people are revisiting his law school experience. As Ace shows, even absent actual grades, one can figure out a lot of things about Obama’s law school performance.
Using a variety of sources, Ace explains that, when Obama attended Harvard, neither grades nor Law Review were done anonymously. At my law school, our tests didn’t have our names, just random numbers, so the professors graded based solely on the test. Law Review admission was based upon those same blind grades or upon an essay that was submitted anonymously. Again, no favoritism based upon anything but the work’s quality.
At Harvard, the professors’ implicit social goals aimed at advancing people of color or the Law Review’s explicit set-aside of spaces for blacks meant, sadly, that the blacks just didn’t have to be as good as the whites. And unless one is driven, why be better than the bare minimum? As for the magna designation beside his degree, it turns out that about half the Harvard class was magna. Garrison Keillor must have been thinking of Harvard when he spoke of a place in which “all of the children are above average.”
Based on available evidence, Ace puts Obama’s IQ at 116. It’s above average, but not by much. Unlike me (a little boast here), Mensa he’s not. Genius, he’s not. Brilliant, he’s not.
Being a Mensa qualifier, being a genius or even being brilliant doesn’t necessarily mean being a good president. I know a lot of people who are too smart for their own good, and who get lost in trees without ever realizing, as a less intellectually convoluted person might, that those trees are part of a forest. With Obama, however, we, the American people, were sold a bill of goods. Our watch dog Fourth estate promised us that Obama was the most brilliant American since Einstein (and yes, I know that Einstein wasn’t American, but I wonder if our boy genius in the White House knows that). This is untrue. As Obama daily reveals, he’s just your ordinary above-average guy who knows how to run a con.
Cross-posted at Bookworm Room