LA Times (March, 1990): Barack Obama stares silently at a wall of fading black-and-white photographs in the muggy second-floor offices of the Harvard Law Review. He lingers over one row of solemn faces, his predecessors of 40 years ago. All are men. All are dressed in dark-colored suits and ties. All are white.
It is a sobering moment for Obama, 28, who in February became the first black to be elected president in the 102-year history of the prestigious student-run law journal.
The post, considered the highest honor a student can attain at Harvard Law School, almost always leads to a coveted clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court after graduation and a lucrative offer from the law firm of one’s choice.
Yet Obama, who has gone deep into debt to meet the $25,000-a-year cost of a Harvard Law School education, has left many in disbelief by asserting that he wants neither.
“One of the luxuries of going to Harvard Law School is it means you can take risks in your life,” Obama said recently. “You can try to do things to improve society and still land on your feet. That’s what a Harvard education should buy – enough confidence and security to pursue your dreams and give something back.”
After graduation next year, Obama says he probably will spend two years at a corporate law firm, then look for community work. Down the road, he plans to run for public office…..
Vanity Fair (June 1990): The new president of the Harvard Law Review was somewhat taken aback by the deluge of media coverage that followed hard on the heels of his election. The New York Times ran a “First Black” headline, which probably won’t be the last time that label is affixed to Barack Obama.
The twenty-eight-year-old law student says he wasn’t going to run for the office until a black friend talked him into it. “There’s a door to kick down,” the friend argued, “and you’re in a position to kick it down.”
The job does give him a great forum, but there’s a trade-off. “I like to read novels, listen to Miles Davis,” he says. “I don’t get to do that anymore. I don’t get dates anymore.” Still, he’s philosophical, even briskly cheerful, about his lost leisure….
…..he responds warily to the assumption that he himself will run for office. “If I go into politics it should grow out of work I’ve done on the local level, not because I’m some media creation.” Though, as media creations go, he’d be a pretty good one.
Talk show host David Letterman suggests that Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump is racist, for implying that Barack Obama got into Harvard only because of affirmative action. He also wants to ban Trump from his show.
“It’s all fun, it’s all a circus, it’s all a rodeo, until it starts to smack of racism. And then it’s no longer fun,” Letterman said on Friday night on his Late Show, referencing Trump’s comments about Obama’s education.
Letterman made it clear that if Trump appeared on his show, he’d have to apologise. “If he comes back on this show, and I am not sure we want him back on this show under these circumstances, he ought to be prepared to apologise just for that kind of behaviour.”
There’s a great post at The Atlantic here about the issue – thank you Hank.
The day America took leave of its senses
Rupert Cornwell (UK Independent): Has there ever been a more absurdly surreal moment, even in US politics, that unchallengeable theatre of the absurd and the surreal? One moment, we were watching a property magnate, with one eye on the presidency, the other on his reality TV show ratings, and puffed up like a bullfrog, rejoicing on an airport tarmac in New Hampshire that America’s President of two years had finally made public his birth certificate.
The next, America’s TV networks interrupted their schedules to cut to the White House, where that self-same President appeared to confirm the momentous fact: not that Barack Obama had indeed been born, but that the happy event indeed took place, as no sane person has ever doubted, on the unimpeachably American soil of Hawaii, one August evening in 1961…..
…..Of late, however, America has seemed to be taking leave of its senses … At moments like yesterday, you could believe that everyone’s gone nutty.
Salon: Donald Trump added a blatantly race-baiting component to his already racially charged campaign against Barack Obama’s Americanness this week when he claimed – based on things he’s “heard” – that Obama was a “terrible student” who got into Columbia and then Harvard based solely on affirmative action:
“How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records,” he said, without providing backup for his claim. Trump added, “I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can’t get into Harvard.”
Leaving aside the fact that Obama, who went on to graduate Harvard Law magna cum laude, seems like he was probably a very good student, Mr. Trump might need a refresher course in how unqualified people actually do manage to get into the prestigious Ivy League Universities.
Let us take, as an example, the story of a student so obviously unqualified, so transparently unworthy, that a book was written about what his admittance into Harvard said about the sorry behavior of supposedly elite colleges.
That student was Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Kushner’s father, real estate developer Charles Kushner, bought Jared his Harvard acceptance. It cost him $2.5 million. (Kushner later went to jail for tax evasion and witness tampering, so it was also, technically, dirty money that bought Trump’s daughter’s husband’s entry into the Ivy League.)
When Dmitry Medvedev was a law student he used to read articles in the Harvard Law Review by a guy with a funny name. He was, he said, hugely impressed. Now? Medvedev is Russian President, Barack Obama….well, you know. Funny old world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you make of Barack Obama the man?
MEDVEDEV: He’s a very comfortable partner, it’s very interesting to be with him. The most important thing that distinguishes him from many other people – I won’t name anyone by name – he’s a thinker, he thinks when he speaks. Which is already pretty good.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You had somebody in your mind, I think. (LAUGHS)
MEDVEDEV: Obviously I do have someone on my mind. I don’t want to offend anyone. He’s eager to listen to his partner, which is a pretty good quality for a politician. Because any politician is to a certain degree a mentor. They preach something. And the ability to listen to their partner is very important for the politician. And he is pretty deeply emerged in the subject, so he has a good knowledge of what he’s talking about. There was no instance in our meetings with Mr. Obama where he wasn’t well prepared for the questions. This is very good. And after all, he’s simply a very pleasant man with whom it’s a pleasure to deal with.