Commenter “Daniel in Brookline” calls Trump a gadfly. It’s a word I’ve thought of often in connection with him and the Obama presidency, one that was originally used by Socrates to describe himself.
Here’s an explanation of what Socrates meant when he used the term [punctuation and spelling corrected]:
Socrates liken[ed] himself to a GADFLY (a horsefly). Just as a gadfly constantly agitates a horse, preventing it from becoming sluggish and going to sleep, so too Socrates, by moving through the city stirring up conversations in the marketplace, prevents the city from becoming sluggish and careless and intolerant.
It fits pretty well, although Trump’s most assuredly no Socrates. More and more, he also reminds me of a jester, although not one directly in the employ of the Obama court.
Why a jester? Well, he combs his hair funny. But mostly it’s because he fulfills this function of the traditional jester:
In Renaissance times, aristocratic households in Britain employed licensed fools or jesters, who sometimes dressed as other servants were dressed, but generally wore a motley (i.e. parti-coloured) coat, hood with ass’s (i.e. donkey) ears or a red-flannel coxcomb and bells. Regarded as pets or mascots, they served not simply to amuse but to criticise their master or mistress and their guests.
Jester/fools could say things no one else could say, ask questions no one else could ask, because they had little to lose and were given license to tweak. Trump has already voiced the unspeakable birther concerns, and now he gets into the very un-PC question of how Obama gained admittance to the two Ivies, Columbia and Harvard.
The insinuation is that Obama was either promoted by nefarious and unspecified helpers or was a beneficiary of affirmative action. Either suggestion could be scotched by Obama releasing college transcripts that show evidence of his stellar academic performance at Occidental (indicating he had the grades to get into Columbia) or Columbia (indicating he had the grades to get into Harvard Law School).
It’s really quite simple, but Obama has not done it, mainly because he’s never had to. People have always taken his brilliance for granted, as evidenced by his deep and sonorous voice uttering words mostly written by others.
I have no idea what Obama’s grades actually were, but I’d certainly be interested in knowing. It’s not that I think grades are the measure of all things, either; plenty of intelligent people don’t have very good ones. But Obama has always ridden on the idea that he’s an academic star, and it would be nice to know if he really was one.
It does seem to be clear, however, that once Obama got to Harvard Law he did pretty well, graduating magna cum laude, which according to Harvard means in the top 10% of the class (his Law Review presidency was an elective office, and therefore does not count). But that’s after the fact. When he graduated from Columbia it was a different story:
Obama graduated from Columbia University (to which he transferred after his first two years at Occidental College in California), with a degree in Political Science without honors, so had a GPA less than a 3.3.
Trump appears to have hired a team of investigators to look into this sort of thing (he certainly has the money to do so). He has said, “”I heard he was a terrible student, terrible…How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” He doesn’t offer evidence that Obama was a bad student, but the question of what sort of student Obama was is a valid one, and it’s something the MSM should have asked back in 2007, when Obama officially became a presidential candidate.
If you look at much of the commentary on Trump’s question, you will find the query treated as either a joke or a racist outrage or some combination of the two (see this, this, and this, for example). It shows just how untouchable Obama still is to many people.
Are they frightened of what such an inquiry might reveal? I don’t know, but my guess is that many of them truly do believe that Obama is a genius and of course his transcripts would reflect that. And that Donald Trump is a fool.
Or a Fool.
[ADDENDUM: More from Ace on the subject of Obama’s academic record. Read the whole thing. But one of the most interesting parts is the following:
Where I went to school, magna was reserved for the top 5%. When Obama was at Harvard, it was much, much easier to grab that accolade — only after he graduated did they institute a policy limiting magna to 10% and cum laude to 30%, which means, of course, before he graduated the honors were given out much more freely.
How freely? This freely:
“Under the old system, 76% of Harvard Law grads earned honors, the school said.”
“So when Obama graduated in 1991, all he had to do was graduate in the top 76% of the class to get a cum laude honor. The article doesn’t specify, but I expect that the cutoff for Magna Cum Laude was 50%. Which means a C student could graduate with a Magna Cum Laude.”
I had always read that a magna degree from Harvard Law meant Obama was in the top 10% of his class, which would be an impressive achievement. This new information casts a great deal of doubt on that. Here’s the full article from 1999:
When members of Harvard Law School’s class of 1999 receive their prestigious degrees Thursday, 36% fewer graduates than last year will be awarded with honors, the school said Wednesday.
The relative scarcity of honors grads is the result of a new policy intended to boost the value of a cum laude degree and remove the stigma associated with not graduating with honors, Harvard Law spokesman Mike Chmura said.
Under a system implemented three years ago that first took effect with this year’s class, Harvard Law said it will limit magna cum laude degrees to the top 10% of the class. The next 30% will receive cum laude degrees.
The policy for summa cum laude, the highest honor, is unchanged. One summa degree was awarded this year, Harvard Law School said.
Under the old system, 76% of Harvard Law grads earned honors, the school said.