November 23, 2009

Can Obama write?

The opponents of politicians naturally assume that everything they speak or publish was written for them by professional writers. Until I visited the Reagan Library for the first time in the late 1990s, for instance, I had simply gone along with the conventional wisdom that President Reagan was an actor reading other people's lines. The Reagan Library takes pains to display numerous documents in Reagan's handwriting, such as long letters to Gorbachev. The publication a number of years ago of a book of Reagan's 1970s newspaper columns, along with photographs of his handwritten original drafts, conclusively demonstrated that Reagan, in one of his minor careers, was at least as good a newspaper columnist as the newspaper columnists who called him dumb.

What about Obama? The evidence is curiously mixed. He displayed a sizable degree of enthusiasm for writing, but his published output is limited. His high school friends recall him as a facile writer of term papers. He submitted poems to his first college's literary magazine and at least one article to his second college's newspaper. None of them are terribly good, but he was young.

He steadily wrote in his diary. During his first sojourn in Chicago he wrote short stories (never published) that impressed his boss. Presumably, they were incorporated into Dreams from My Father. His friends at the time thought he might become a professional writer.

He contributed one chapter to a nonfiction book, After Alinksy, but the prose style is as ho-hum as the topic.

Although Wall Street was booming after he graduated from Columbia, the only private sector job he got was as a copy editor. Similarly, as a discrimination lawyer in Chicago, he rarely spoke in court, explaining later that his most of his jobs were more on the writing side.

On the other hand, as editor of the Harvard Law Review he passed up the traditional right to publish an essay, and only contributed one unsigned note. He appears to have been an acceptable editor of other people's writing, perhaps a little below average, although that might have been more from a desire to avoid political struggles that could impede his future career. There was a feeling in the next class that they wanted to elect an editor with a heavier blue pencil.

When he was elected the first black head of HLR, he was given a 6 figure advance to write a nonfiction analytical book on race and the law, but didn't deliver.

He then received a smaller advance for an autobiography, which he also struggled with, even going off to Bali to write. Eventually an elegantly written but soporific book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, was published.

Jack Cashill has pointed out certain similarities with the works of Bill Ayres (a dull anecdote about which way the East River in New York flows, for example), and then makes the leap to asserting that the whole thing was written by Ayres. Celebrity biographer Christopher Andersen claims to have two sources who told him that Ayres provided much help to a stumped Obama, but the sources remain anonymous. Ayres has tried to make a joke out of the question by claiming to have written every word of Dreams from My Father.

Whether Obama's difficulties in finishing his first book stemmed from the composition of it being beyond Obama's literary competence is a possibility. But there are others: for example, the sheer absurdity of being paid to turn his boring life into an autobiography at age 33; the problems of writing a life story filled with other characters who are still alive; and his need to avoid providing ammunition to future political opponents (which Dreams certainly succeeded at through its trance-inducing prose style).

When elected State Senator, Obama took on the curious assignment of being a regular columnist for the local Hyde Park newspaper and the Chicago black newspaper. Stanley Kurtz has read these columns in the library stacks, but they don't exist online.

Finally, in 2006 he published an abovve-average campaign book, The Audacity of Hope, which was read over by 28 individuals before publication, so it's hard to know out how much Obama contributed to it.

Moreover, there were numerous speeches during these years, most notably his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic convention.

In conversation, Obama is brilliant at restating the other person's point of view at least as well as they can state it themselves. This is the source of his "I have understood you" powers. On the other hand, he often stumbles when expressing his own views. But the President has good reason to speak cautiously and review everything in his head as he's saying it. For example, when he blurted out how he truly felt about the Henry Louis Gates brouhaha it turned into a fiasco for him.

My best guess is that Obama is a competent writer whose innate urge to express himself is shackled by his fear that leaving a paper trail or spoken trail would undermine his enormous ambitions for power. (Surely, he noted the contrasting career paths of Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and David Souter.)

That's why any samples of Obama prose are a welcome addition to our understanding of the President of the United States. One source that I read over in 2008, but hasn't been much noticed are the elaborate essay questions that he gave his students at the U. of Chicago Law School from 1996 through 2003, which were linked to by the New York Times in 2008, along with the syllabus for his 2004 class "Current Issues in Racism and the Law," a title that is perhaps more revealing about how Obama feels (the class wasn't entitled, you'll note, "Current Issues in Race and the Law") than the more neutral contents.

Perhaps these essay questions were actually ghostwritten by, say, Professor Lawrence Tribe under retainer from George Soros as part of a complicated plot to make Obama President twelve years later, but I suspect Obama banged them out himself, perhaps with a little help.

Here, for example, is one of the three questions from his 1996 test, along with his "Answer Memo:"
2) Fire Department Hiring.

The second major area of concern for the Mayor [of fictional Wazoo City, which resembles Chicago; the "Mayor" resembles Richie Daley] involves the method by which new firefighters are hired by the Fire Department. At the moment, only 15 percent of the city’s fire-fighters are African-American, despite the fact that the pool of applicants largely mirrors the general population of Wazoo City (50 percent African-American). It is well-established that up until 1980, the Fire Department engaged in discriminatory hiring practices; indeed, getting a job as a firefighter was based largely on your political connections to party ward bosses. As the result of several lawsuits brought by African-American plaintiffs, and a federal consent decree subsequently entered into by the city in 1980, the Fire Department now hires new firefighters exclusively based on each applicant’s ranking on a written exam that is administered once a year. The examination is prepared and graded by a well-reputed testing firm that screens for any potential cultural bias in the examination, and all applicants are provided the necessary materials to prepare for the examination.

Despite claims by some of his supporters that the fire-fighter examination is rigged, the Mayor believes that the difference in test performance between African- Americans and whites is primarily the result of the inferior schooling that African- American applicants have received in the past. At the same time, the Mayor is skeptical that the existing written exam accurately measures aptitude for the job of being a firefighter. He therefore plans to announce that starting next year, Fire Department hiring will no longer be based on the applicants score on an extensive written examination. Instead, the Department will administer to each applicant a short basic aptitude test; all applicants who pass this simple test and meet other basic qualifications (physical examinations, etc.) will be deemed qualified for hire, and will then be selected to fill available job openings on the basis of a lottery. The Mayor’s staff predict that as a result of this change, the makeup of the Fire Department, over time, will come to more closely resemble the racial makeup of the city.

The Mayor has a major political problem brewing, however: the Firefighter’s Union has learned of the Mayor’s plan, and is adamantly opposed to any change in existing hiring practices. The Union argues that the Mayor’s plan represents nothing more than a disguised affirmative action program, and a return to old-fashioned patronage. The Union therefore plans to mount a major petition drive to place a binding referendum on the ballot in the next statewide election. The referendum would essentially require that all applicants for government employment in the State of Wazoo, including municipal employees, be hired on the basis of their ranked performance on state approved written examinations (the referendum would exempt the filling of certain “political appointees” from the requirement).

The Mayor points out that for the better part of this century, the city has had exclusive power to determine the manner in which it selects its employees. It is clear, however, that under the Wazoo State Constitution, a majority of voters may transfer this power to the state through the referendum process. The Mayor also believes that the referendum is likely to pass, particularly because it is phrased without reference to race or gender, but will be packaged solely as a “good government” measure.

The Mayor asks you to write up a brief analysis regarding the possibility of challenging the referendum, should it come to pass, as unconstitutional racial discrimination violative of the Equal Protection Clause. As before, you should make the strongest argument that you can for bringing such a challenge, and then indicate the weaknesses in your argument. In considering this question, however, feel free to present to the Mayor any broader policy issues or theories of racial justice that are raised by his plan and/or the referendum.

Answer Memo Question IIB -

Mayor Dwight’s Firefighter Plan

This question offers a slight variation on the issues raised by the Mayor’s contracting plan.

The surface parallels between our hypothetical and the fact pattern in Washington v. Seattle School Board should have been relatively easy to spot (Some of you also cited Romer, which isn’t quite right - it was the lower court, and not the Supreme Court, that emphasized the “government restructuring” aspects of the Colorado initiative. Still, I gave you credit if your analysis tracked the discussion below, albeit citing the wrong case). Like the voter initiative in Seattle, the referendum being proposed by the union appears to single out an issue of special interest to blacks - in our case, fire department hiring practices -- and attempts to shift decision decision-making power over that issue from the local to the state level. According to Seattle, the fact that a state has the authority to make such a shift isn’t be [sic] relevant; a restructuring of the political process to make passage of “race legislation” more difficult than other forms of legislation places “special burdens on racial minorities within the governmental process,” in violation of Equal Protection Clause.

But is the Mayor’s plan in fact legislation/decision-making of a “racial nature” as that term is used in Seattle? And, even if the Mayor’s plan can be considered “racial” in nature, does that automatically render a facially race-neutral referendum that disallows the plan a “racial classification” subject to strict scrutiny?

These are tricky questions, mainly because Justice Blackmun’s opinion in Seattle lends itself to at least two very different readings. On the one hand, it is possible to argue that for all its fancy talk about government restructuring and democratic processes, Seattle is really just a straight-forward disparate impact case that was settled using the principles set out in Washington v. Davis. Under this reading, the Seattle School Board’s busing program was an explicitly raced-based effort to vindicate the rights of black schoolchildren to .a non-segregated education. By forbidding busing to achieve this explicitly racial purpose (while still permitting busing for various non-racial reasons), Initiative 350 disproportionately impacted black schoolchildren; and although the initiative may have been framed in race-neutral terms, the Court determined -- based on the sequence of events, the initiative’s alteration of normal procedural. practices; and so on., (i.e., the Arlington Heights factors discussed above) -- that the initiative was enacted “because of’ and not “in spite of’ its adverse effect on black schoolchildren.

If this reading of Seattle is correct, and the facially race-neutral referendum being proposed by the union is simply subject to the Washington v. Davis test for intentional discrimination, then the Mayor will have real problems mounting a successful court challenge. After all, not only is the referendum written in non-racial terms, but the Mayor’s plan is also facially race-neutral.

The Mayor might argue, of course, that although written in race-neutral terms, his plan really benefits blacks, and that the union’s referendum is therefore an act of intentional discrimination designed to keep the City’s Fire Department predominately white. But given the fact that the referendum appears to uphold the very principles of “merit through testing” that the Court in Washington v. Davis found to be so persuasive, it is hard to imagine that a court in this case would be willing to find that the voters of Wazoo voted to uphold such principles “because of,” rather than “in spite of’ its effect on future black hiring (as a number of you pointed out, examining a referendum under Washington v. Davis also raises serious issues regarding whose intent we are suppose to examine). The fact that the current test being used appears to have been “validated” through the consent decree process further weakens the Mayor’s argument. Indeed, in light of the court’s acceptance of testing as a legitimate means to measure merit and upgrade the workforce (were dealing here only with Equal Protection doctrine, and not Title VII law), it is conceivable that a court would sooner find the Mayor’s effort to change the testing procedure to be an impermissible affirmative action program than it would strike down the referendum as an impermissible racial classification.

There is another, no doubt more controversial way to read Seattle. The argument would go something like this: Seattle recognizes that blacks are burdened not only by intentional racism, but also by facially neutral processes that nevertheless place blacks in a structurally subordinate position. Thus, anti-discrimination legislation of the type at issue in Hunter v. Erickson (in that case, a fair housing ordinance) is not the only type of legislation that is “racial” in nature; blacks may also seek to extract through the political process affirmative programs - like the voluntary busing program in Seattle - that may not be constitutionally required, but that nevertheless help alleviate structural inequality. Precisely because such affirmative programs are not constitutionally required (given the Court’s “negative charter of liberties” reading of the Constitution and theories of judicial restraint), a majority of voters may choose not to enact such programs, and may even choose to repeal those programs that the majority feels have outlived their usefulness. What the majority cannot do is to change the rules of the game so as to make it more difficult for blacks and other minorities to achieve such affirmative programs through the give and take of the democratic process - by resort, for example, to state-wide initiatives and referendums in which minority influence is lessened.

If a court were willing to accept such a reading of Seattle, then the Mayor might have a chance at defeating the referendum. The Mayor could argue that once you get beyond certain baseline constitutional requirements of fairness - i.e. no outright discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. -- there are no pre-political, non-racial, “legitimate” ways to select a tire department or determine “merit.” The Mayor’s plan is “racial” in the sense that it represents an affirmative effort to increase black representation on the police force without resorting to quotas or lowering standards of performance; at the same time, it is no more racial than is the union’s plan to maintain the status quo through a regime of written examinations. The union is free to debate the pros and cons of the Mayor’s plan in the public square; it can put pressure on the City Council to block the Mayor’s proposal, and can organize to vote the Mayor out of office. What it cannot do is shift decision-making over these racially-charged issues to the state level, where (we assume) blacks have less of political clout.

There are problems with this argument, of course, the most obvious being the one that was raised by the state in Seattle - namely, if the “rules” of democracy in a given state include the possibility of state-wide initiatives and referendums, and if the “rules” of democracy also envision the state imposing its sovereign will on local governments within its borders, then in what sense does the initiative in Seattle, or the referendum in our hypothetical, change the rules of the game? If states and their voters can’t decide, through democratic processes sanctioned by that state’s constitution, to take certain decisions that happen to touch on race out of the hands of localities, then is there any limit to the state legislation that might be potentially overturned? To cite just one example, how do we evaluate state legislation that places property tax caps on localities? Such caps prevent localities from raising taxes to fund public schools beyond a certain level without a majority vote, and presumably has a disproportionate impact on black populations that are both younger and more likely to rely on public, as opposed to private, education. Are they unconstitutional under Seattle?

The bottom line is that such an expansive view of Seattle would implicitly overturn the intent-based approach to evaluating racial issues embodied in Washington v. Davis. My personal guess is that the current Supreme Court would almost certainly shy away from such a reading of Seattle. Of course, we won’t have to guess on the Court’s position for long, since it is precisely these sorts of arguments that will come up in the current challenge to California’s Proposition 209, which bars state government from engaging in any form of affirmative action.

Obama's views seem to reflect his general boredom with the courts as an agent of social change, in contrast to, say, getting himself elected Mayor of Chicago or President of the United States. Obama passed up clerking for federal judges in order to become a discrimination plaintiff's attorney in Chicago, precisely to position himself for a run for the Mayor's office. Certainly, though, he is a well-informed professional discrimination attorney. (That fact, of course, raises obvious questions about his Axelrodian campaign image as being beyond all that race stuff. But you already knew that.)

As writing, the questions and answers seem competent. (I recall that some of the others may be more elegantly written, but I chose this one because I'm interested in firemen's discrimination lawsuits.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

81 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this - as a UK legal academic myself I find this insight into what gets studied as Law in the US fascinating!

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

Wow, a magna cum laude HLR editor is a competent writer...what a suprise. (sarcasm)

Incidentally, good legal writing and what is considered "good literary writing" are two different and generally exclusive things.

Holtz said...

ot, but Steve - here is an interesting example of Occam's butterknife?

http://www.american.com/archive/2009/november/jamaica-vs-singapore

OneSTDV said...

I'd say it's quite impressive. Though not quite on the level of Dreams, which I found fantastic (prose-wise, not content-wise).

Most people don't question Obama's intellectual competence (I estimated his IQ at around 125, but based on this I'm willing to go around 130), it's his radical politics that's scary.

C. Van Carter said...

Instead of fear of leaving a paper trail it could be he's only motivated to write on subjects he's truly passionate about.

sj071 said...

Steve, no offence but the number of Americans receiving food stamp assistance has soared above 36 million for the first time in August, 'the eighth month in a row that enrollment set a record, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Wednesday'.
Unemployment is officialy just above 10%, but according to more open-minded pundits, i.e. shadowstats.com, it's around 22%.

USA has more people on food stamps than Canada has (G8) citizens yet you still focus on O's writing capabilities?

Yes, he can.

Anonymous said...

Cue conspiracy theorists who will claim even the excerpt in your post was ghost written by a cabal of Jewish socialists legal scholars.

Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, as editor of the Harvard Law Review he passed up the traditional right to publish an essay, and only contributed one unsigned note."
he also wrote at least one letter to the editor of the Harvard Law Record (not the Review), a student run newspaper.
http://www.hlrecord.org/2.4475/record-retrospective-obama-on-affirmative-action-1.577511

Guts Strongman said...

One needn't posit a vast international conspiracy to think that he might have received help from senior faculty in writing his exams. It would be surprising if a lecturer or whatever he was did not. If his questions were truly awful, it's not inconceivable that somebody would edit them so as to spare the university the embarrassment.

I find it hard to get over the awfulness of his early poetry. How could a budding "great writer" be that bad? It doesn't take long for lyrical talent to develop, so youth is no excuse. It's quite likely that he had bad taste in poetry back then, as he apparently does now, but bad taste could be caused by the same lack of sense that makes his poetry bad.

Happily, whether someone can write is unimportant when considering whether they can "lead." Great writers tend to have a bevy of traits nobody sane would want in a president. Of course, Obama also is not great as a leader. But I don't think we can blame his writing, whether great, poor, or merely competent.

Anonymous said...

part 1


People need to drop the sillier claims about Obama's intellectual weakness.

"You don't become president of the Harvard Law Review, no matter how political, or how liberal the place is, by virtue of affirmative action, or by virtue of not being at the very top of your class in terms of legal ability. Barack was at the very top of his class in terms of legal ability. He had a first-class legal mind and, in my view, was selected to be president of the Review entirely on his merits.

... I never regarded him as kind of a racial special pleader, or a person looking for race-based benefits, either for himself or others. I think as a policy matter, he supported affirmative action and believed in the arguments for it. But unlike many people on the left, he was also willing to acknowledge that it had costs, and he could at least appreciate the arguments on the other side. ...

Just in a political sense, what kind of a person were you looking for [to serve as president]? ...

The block of conservatives on the Law Review my year I think was eager to avoid having any of the most political people on the left govern the Review. I mean, the first bedrock criterion, I think for almost all of the editors, was to have somebody with an absolutely first-rate legal mind who would be able to engage competently with the nation's top legal scholars on their scholarship and on these articles, and who would provide the intellectual leadership for the Review that it always needed. That was non-negotiable for almost everybody right or left.

But there were a number of people that would have met that criterion. There were at least a large handful who probably had the intellectual and personal characteristics to be good leaders of the Review. From among those, the conservatives were eager to have somebody who would treat them fairly, who would listen to what they had to say, who would not abuse the powers of the office to favor his ideological soul mates and punish those who had different views. Somebody who would basically play it straight, I think was really what we were looking for.

Was that hard to find?

It was very hard to find. And ultimately, the conservatives on the Review supported Barack as president in the final rounds of balloting because he fit that bill far better than the other people who were running. ...

We had all worked with him over the course of a year. And we had all spent countless hours in the presence of Barack, as well as others of our colleagues who were running, in Gannett House [the Law Review offices], and so you get a pretty good sense of people over the course of a year of late nights working on the Review. You know who the rabble-rousers are. You know who the people are who are blinded by their politics. And you know who the people are who, despite their politics, can reach across and be friendly to and make friends with folks who have different views. And Barack very much fell into the latter category. ...

Anonymous said...

part 3

"Apparently, while he was an editor of the Law Review, he was involved in the editing of a piece by Michael McConnell, who was a conservative constitutional law scholar who later was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Federal Court and was considered as a Supreme Court nominee, or was one of the people listed around the time of [Justice Samuel] Alito and [Chief Justice John] Roberts' appointments.

According to a professor at the University of Chicago, Douglas Baird, he got a call, or got a note, from Michael McConnell, who ... was definitely an alumnus of the University of Chicago Law School, saying, "I encountered this really remarkable, brilliant guy at Harvard Law Review when they were working on my piece, and you should have this guy on your radar." And so it was this very conservative legal scholar who brought Obama to the attention of the University of Chicago.

So Douglas Baird called Obama up at Harvard Law School -- I guess it must have been in his last year -- and said, "Do you have any interest in teaching?" Because, Baird said to me, "We rarely get that kind of unqualified endorsement, particularly from someone as well-known and respected as McConnell." ...

And Obama said, "Well, no, actually. What I want to do is write this book." This was at the moment where the newspaper articles and everything about his election had attracted the interest of publishers, and he'd gotten a book contract. So his first contact at the University of Chicago, which was where he later ended up teaching, was an attempt to just bring that guy there, since he was thought to be so sharp and worth following."



"As the decade progressed, the most impressive student I had ever taught was quietly pursuing his own political trajectory. In 1989, I had met Barack Obama and hired him as my research assistant while he was still just a first-year Harvard law student. His stunning combination of analytical brilliance and personal charisma, openness and maturity, vision and pragmatism, was unmistakable from my very first encounter with the future president."

--Tribe, who is unquestionably brilliant.

"On this occasion, he had an important topic to discuss: the controversy over President George W. Bush's warrantless surveillance of international telephone calls between Americans and suspected terrorists. I had written a short essay suggesting that the surveillance might be lawful. Before taking a public position, Obama wanted to talk the problem through.

In the space of about 20 minutes, he and I investigated the legal details. He asked me to explore all sorts of issues: the President's power as commander-in-chief, the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force and more.

Obama wanted to consider the best possible defence of what Bush had done. To every argument I made, he listened and offered a counter-argument. After the issue had been exhausted, Obama said that he thought the programme was illegal, but now had a better understanding of both sides. He thanked me for my time.

This was a pretty amazing conversation, not only because of Obama's mastery of the legal details, but also because many prominent Democratic leaders had already blasted the Bush initiative as blatantly illegal. He did not want to take a public position until he had listened to, and explored, what might be said on the other side."

--Sunstein

Anonymous said...

part 2


[After Obama is selected,] he does a very able job as president. Puts out what I think was a very good volume of the Review. Does a great job managing the difficult and complicated interpersonal dynamics on the Review. And manages somehow, in an extremely fractious group, to keep everybody almost happy.


I think Barack took 10 times as much grief from those on the left on the Review as from those of us on the right. And the reason was, I think there was an expectation among those editors on the left that he would affirmatively use the modest powers of his position to advance the cause, whatever that was. They thought, you know, finally there's an African American president of the Harvard Law Review; it's our turn, and he should aggressively use this position, and his authority and his bully pulpit to advance the political or philosophical causes that we all believe in.

And Barack was reluctant to do that. It's not that he was out of sympathy with their views, but his first and foremost goal, it always seemed to me, was to put out a first-rate publication. And he was not going to let politics or ideology get in the way of doing that. ...

He had some discretion as president to exercise an element of choice for certain of the positions on the masthead; it wasn't wide discretion, but he had some. And I think a lot of the minority editors on the Review expected him to use that discretion to the maximum extent possible to empower them. To put them in leadership positions, to burnish their resumes, and to give them a chance to help him and help guide the Review. He didn't do that. He declined to exercise that discretion to disrupt the results of votes or of tests that were taken by various people to assess their fitness for leadership positions.

He was unwilling to undermine, based on the way I viewed it, meritocratic outcomes or democratic outcomes in order to advance a racial agenda. That earned him a lot of recrimination and criticism from some on the left, particularly some of the minority editors of the Review. ...

It confirmed the hope that I and others had had at the time of the election that he would basically be an honest broker, that he would not let ideology or politics blind him to the enduring institutional interests of the Review. It told me that he valued the success of his own presidency of the Review above scoring political points of currying favor with his political supporters."

--Bradford Berenson, Republican who also graduated Magna.

http://www.sidley.com/ourpeople/Detail.aspx?attorney=971

Anonymous said...

part 4

Does this prove that Obama was absolutely the brightest student at Harvard? Well, no. He got attention for being black and his charisma won people over. The point is that he could certainly hold his own with the top tier of HLS. That's impressive enough.


Some of the comments on this blog are simply absurd. There's no reason to think Obama is any less intelligent than, say, Bill Clinton. Personally, I wouldn't

Obama's crime is that he didn't publish academic articles. Fine, he's not a scholar. But it's absurd to think he was somehow scared to expose his intellectual weakness; if that was his concern he could have avoided real work on law review--and he certainly could have avoided getting a job at University of Chicago.

The reason he didn't publish is the same reason he didn't take a Supreme Court clerkship: he had a different path in mind.


All of the evidence can't be dismissed because he got AA or because Sunstein is a liberal or because Ayers writes his Christmas cards. It's simply implausible to consider Obama a lightweight.

C. Van Carter said...

However...compare this passage by Ayers to Obama's description of the same drive in Dreams.

Anonymous said...

Huh?

Anonymous said...

Not to get all james Kabala on you,but could you check the spelling of Obama's pal Bill's name?:

Anonymous said...

Minor correction - the celebrity biographer you're talking about is Christopher Andersen with an e.

Keyser Söze said...

Competent, maybe. But God was that verbose and boring.

Big Bill said...

As I remember, HLS students came back to campus in the fall of 1988 having split their summers 2 or 3 ways, and were getting offers of full time employment after just one summer.

The next summer (Obama's first summer at law work) was pretty much the same. Recruiting in the fall of 1989 for the summer of 1990 was not quite as easy, but the money was still flowing.

But by the fall of 1990, the spigot was shut off.

Folks who went to work the summer of 1990 rapidly sussed the reality: their summer job law firm was not going to make many job offers at all.

So Wall Street was NOT booming in the summer of 1991 when Obama got out.

David said...

I haven't read law systematically, but it seems a bit wordy for the subject matter. An old hand could turn off that subject in one (crabbed) paragraph. He was writing for students, though, so who knows.

Brown Ram said...

I'm several years removed from law school, but both his model question and answer seems "textbook" in analysis, tone and even-handedness. Also noteworthy is that it's a very practical answer--he assesses an alternative reading and notes that it's a very difficult position to take based on precedent.

The interesting thing to me is how the answer is so neutral given how Obama typically is portrayed as a left-wing nut job.

Mitch said...

When he was elected the first black head of HLR, he was given a 6 figure advance to write a nonfiction analytical book on race and the law, but didn't deliver.

And he bought a condo with a low six figure down payment, an astonishing amount of money for an unemployed lawyer to come up with. I don't think he ever gave that first advance back. Shouldn't he have?

I'm on the "he probably never wrote much" bench--not that he can't string words together, but he's not an accomplished--or even competent for his background--writer.

MarAkin said...

Obama is an intelligent black man who has benefited from AFfirmative ACtion (maybe) in the official sense and also in the unofficial sense (= white ppl want to see a nice black man succeed)

so ---- why, Steve, are you playa hating on a black men who have only recently been fully emancipated??

a little petty of you, isn't it Steve?

Thrasymachus said...

No, Steve, it was conventional wisdom among *liberals* that Reagan was an actor who read other peoples' lines. You like to estimate peoples' IQs; I estimate Reagan's at 140 at least, not a Carter or Clinton 160 but very smart.

Steve Sailer said...

Dear Big Bill:

Sorry, I was referring to when Obama got his B.A. in 1983. By the time he tried to get a real job to make some money about the beginning of 1984, Wall Street was doing very well.

keypusher said...

Thanks for posting these. I thought the memo on answers was quite well-written. Constitutional law/race division is a very amorphous area, so some amount of wooliness and verbosity come with the territory. Given the subject matter, Obama was reasonably concise.

On the other hand, no matter how ideological the professor a memo describing answers to a question ought to be even-handed. I am glad that Obama achieves even-handedness, but not surprised.

Eric Rasmusen said...

"When he was elected the first black head of HLR, he was given a 6 figure advance to write a nonfiction analytical book on race and the law, but didn't deliver."

As one commenter noted, it does seem immoral to take the money and not deliver the book.

I wonder whether Chicago knew that he wasn't able to bring himself to write a publishable book even when the contract was handed to him on a golden platter?

RKU said...

Well, when the Ayres story first came out, I didn't pay much attention, partly because I don't watch moronic FoxNews and had never heard of Ayres.

But then I followed a link to Cashill's detailed analysis, and it seemed reasonably persuasive, though obviously circumstantial.

That intrigued me enough that I bothered reading a few random pages in Dreams followed by a few random pages in Ayres' autobiography (via Amazon), and found the stylistic similarities uncanny. Apparently, some text-analysis software programs came to exactly the same conclusion.

So we have young Obama, who've almost never written anything, suddenly writing a 300 book in the exact style of his good friend Ayres, who's written a dozen or more books. Let's just say I wasn't very surprised that Ayres has now admitted publicly the authorship to several people, as well as that being the word all around Chicago liberal circles.

I remember once reading that when JFK was getting ready to run in 1959, his father Old Joe hired such an army of ghosts to produce articles for every publication in America, that JFK suddenly became one of the nation's most prolific writers. But then what would you expect from the young genius who won a Pulitzer Prize for his brilliant Profiles in Courage...

Anonymous said...

The exam memo looks exactly like any other good law-school answer key or model answer. Law school exams are mostly "issue-spotters" where you get points for identifying as many legal issues as possible and more by reaching a second level of analysis. Therefore, an exam memo should mention all the credited points of law and provide the second-level reasoning for the more central points. Attacking the memo on style points, as some commenters here have done, is obtuse, since its form strictly follows its mandated function.

Jimmy Crackedcorn said...

Some of the comments on this blog are simply absurd. There's no reason to think Obama is any less intelligent than, say, Bill Clinton.

I'd wager Clinton's at least one SD beyond Obama, easy.

All of the evidence can't be dismissed because he got AA or because Sunstein is a liberal or because Ayers writes his Christmas cards. It's simply implausible to consider Obama a lightweight.

I think it's a little late to be debating this now. However you feel about all of these endorsements, however much you believe them or not, the fact is that Obama is now president. We don't have to listen to testimonials about how allegedly smart he is, or what he's allegedly done. We can see what he is doing, right now - ballooning the national debt; introducing an absurdly costly new entitlement; doing an even worse job of immigration enforcement than George W Bush; giving a 9/11 terrorist a civilian trial; giving the middle finger to our closest traditional ally, Britain, while bowing to foreign potentates; and dithering away in Afghanistan.

He could for all I care be the smartest man who ever graced the face of the earth, but his political actions certainly don't testify to that.

Someone asked on the Palin thread what Sarah has done to prove her intelligence besides get elected to office. What has Obama done besides get elected to office and graduate from and get hired by a few schools known to adore affirmative action?

Obama's speeches don't impress, his policies don't impress, his political leadership doesn't impress, and that's all we need to know.

Big Bill said...

Y'know, while it is doubtful he out-and-out copied an exam question, it might be interesting to take a peek in the Con Law exam files at HLS.

He might have had some supporters who wanted him to get off to a good start and shared their last semester questions.

Drafting good exam questions is one of the toughest things to get right as a beginner, particularly when you don't know the capabilities of your students or your own teaching ability.

Tsoldrin said...

Help

Anonymous said...

You like to estimate peoples' IQs; I estimate Reagan's at 140 at least, not a Carter or Clinton 160 but very smart.

Clinton in Einstein territory? Are you serious?

Am I the only one who thinks that these common IQ estimates of polititians are off by at least two standard deviations?

How valid are scores of three standard deviations above the mean anyway?

These high estimates are especially popular on HBD blogs. HBD realists seem to make the same intuitive mistake the deniers do, which is to overestimate statistical correlation and its applicapility to individuals.

Even the Sarah of Wasilla critics in the HBD crowd put her confidently in above average territory, which is mostly based on the notion that nobody could possibly hold public office without a three digit IQ. I don't see at all why that has to be the case.

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

Based on my observations, Bill and Barack are both equally intelligent and as Ivy League law grads I would but their IQs well above 130, although not higher than 145 and definitely not as high as say Carter (who was a nuclear submarine officer and engineer). However, Bill and Barack appear to have much higher IQs because 1) they're both very good politicians and 2) because of their ability to communicate and present their ideas.

With Barack the second skill is less developed (hence the teleprompter and overpreparation). He is a lot like some of my law school classmates who needed to write down and memorize their moot court oral arguments exactly in order to get the judges to properly follow their logic. Not doing so will cause them to overcomplicate their arguments and thoughts resulting in long inarticulate rambles with frequent pauses.

bgc said...

There is a difference between people who 'can write' and people who are 'a writer'.

The claim for Obama is that he is 'a writer'.

It is that claim which is false: Obama is clearly not 'a writer' - half the signed comments on this blog show more spontaneous writerly ability than this example from Obama!

Being 'a writer' hasn't much to do with general intelligence, nor has it much to do with how someone comes across verbally - face to face.

Any teacher will know of students who are brilliant face to face but are turgid and constipated writers.

It seems that also describes Obama - people thought he would be a good writer, he himself thought he would be a good writer, but clearly he isn't.

Writers write! If Obama had been 'a writer' he would have published a lot in the HLR, and he would have published _something_ rather than nothing as a Chicago law lecturer.

I really cannot emphasize too strongly how unusual it is for a lecturer at a top notch university to publish... nothing.

Publication is the currency of academic success, Chicago is one of the greatest universities in the world; it is almost literally incredible that a member of faculty for many years would publish... nothing.

It is literally incredible that someone who is 'a writer' would publish nothing for years when a member of faculty at a great university.

Writers write.

James Kabala said...

I can't remember ever correcting Steve's or anyone else's spelling (certainly not habitually), so I don't know what the heck is being referred to above.

James Kabala said...

Can anyone comment on what exactly the duties and privileges of a "lecturer" at Chicago Law are? TGC seems to assume that it is equivalent to being a full-time tenure-track faculty member who is expected to publish regularly, while Guts Strongman seems to assume that it is basically just a flunky whose exams can and will be proofread by the real faculty. I suspect the truth is in between.

Jimmy Crackedcorn: Well, yes, I don't think anyone who posts here regularly thinks Obama is a good president, but these are still interesting side issues.

Anonymous said...

David: have you ever read, for example, a SCOTUS ruling in its entirety? Verbosity seems to be prized in legal writing.

Anonymous said...

Richard Posner is also a "lecturer" at Chicago.

I think it's sort of outside the tenure/tenure-track/adjunct hierarchy of full time professors.

David said...

James Kabala said

> [B]GC seems to assume that [Obama's position was] equivalent to being a full-time tenure-track faculty member who is expected to publish regularly <

No, BGD said writers write. This strikes a cord with me. There are so many phonies who claim to be writers but never write anything. I am speaking of literary writers foremost. No novels, short stories, scripts came out of them (or maybe one or two, at best), yet they claim to be writers and socialize as such. Similarly, the number of people who have "Filmmaker" or "Psychiatrist" on their business cards, but who have never made a film (but are planning one!) or who have no patients (but I'm not that kind of psychiatrist!), is depressingly large. Obama seems to be on this line. For a considerable portion of his adult life he apparently agonized over "my writing" and favored this apparent passion at the cost of some opportunities, and yet his books are probably ghostwritten and the quantity of his academic writing is near nil. We have a phony for POTUS. That strikes me as rather relevant. (JFK was a phony in a different way. I don't believe he agonized over his literary endeavors. He was probably cheerfully ignorant of a number of them.)

bgc said...

"Can anyone comment on what exactly the duties and privileges of a "lecturer" at Chicago Law are? TGC seems to assume that it is equivalent to being a full-time tenure-track faculty member who is expected to publish regularly, while Guts Strongman seems to assume that it is basically just a flunky whose exams can and will be proofread by the real faculty. I suspect the truth is in between."

This misses the point. Yes a Chicago lecturer would be expected to publish (Heck! faculty at Community Colleges often publish early in their careers); but the point is not a matter of 'duty' but that for 'a writer' being a lecturer is an _opportunity_ to publish.

Obama did not publish at all. He is not a writer.

Anonymous said...

bgc,

In the UK a Lecturer is an actual professor. In the US a lecturer is not a professor -- different titles and different jobs. Often a lecturer someone brought in (e.g., from industry) to teach a particular course as a part-timer. That is quite common in law or business school, and that was Obama's role at Chicago. He was not a tenure track professor -- he turned down an offer of that type. Had he been a tenure track professor then he would have been forced to regularly publish research articles.

It's amazing how few people (even Americans) understand how higher education works in the US.

Anonymous said...

There may be a "flip side" to the
merit of BHO's being able to listen to what is said to him and then repeating it back as clearly or clearer than it entered his ear.
The flip side might be the tendency in both his biological father and his maternal grandfather to just somewhat "chameleon like" put together "their" perceptions and thoughts from the strands in the minds of those surrounding them. This hollow chameleon quality, if if such it be here, makes for masterful manipulation but is hardly the stuff of sustained leadership. Relevant? Let's hope to hell not!!!

Jim O said...

Anyone who finds this writing competent is being too kind.

"...Blacks have less of political clout....". This sounds like someone for whom English is a second language.

"Such caps ... presumable has..." Ugh.

"My personal guess..." There's another kind of guess?

...public, as opposed to private, education..." What do the middle four words add to this meaning of this sentence in this context? Nothing.

I could go on, but I don't have the time. A heavier blue pencil, indeed, would be helpful here.

Svigor said...

so ---- why, Steve, are you playa hating on a black men who have only recently been fully emancipated??

It'd be interesting to see some comparisons:

E.g., SES of only-recently-fully-emancipated blacks vs. the long-fully-emancipated blacks in Africa. Or somewhat-emancipated blacks vs. the long-fully-emancipated blacks in Africa. Or not-emancipated blacks vs. the long-fully-emancipated blacks in Africa.

Or only-recently-fully-emancipated blacks vs. only-recently-not-discriminated-against Jews.

Et cetera.

Half Sigma said...

Obama: stupid because he didn't use his position as an editor at Harvard Law Review to write his own article.

Palin: brilliant because she's a perky MILF.

Svigor said...

As one commenter noted, it does seem immoral to take the money and not deliver the book.

I'm more interested in the fact that he could and did than the moral ramifications; aren't book advances generally contingent upon eventual delivery? I thought authors had to give advances back if they didn't deliver a satisfactory product.

The guy who couldn't get this topic addressed on the other thread said...

Well at least Komment Kontrol is showing a little introspection - I suppose that's an improvement.

Shawn said...

Law school IS essentially about writing, in so many ways. With his grades, why is there question regarding his writing transcripts?

Anonymous said...

Pissed Off Chinaman: Wow, a magna cum laude HLR editor is a competent writer...what a suprise. (sarcasm)

Glance at the very first sentence of this piece that he published as HLR President, and then get back to me on that. [More here.]

Anonymous: Cue conspiracy theorists who will claim even the excerpt in your post was ghost written by a cabal of Jewish socialists legal scholars.

Given what we now know about the role that was played in his life by the likes of the Minow family, the Geithner family, Bernardine "Dohrn" Ohrnstein, Steven Koch, Cass Sunstein, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, and the entire hierarchy of Goldman Sachs, I would NOT be so quick to dismiss that possiblity.

PS: Are you familiar with the etymology of the word cabal?

Anonymous said...

Few presidents IQ scores have been revealed, at least those that are official. But of those that have been, I read that Reagan's IQ was 105 (I actually like him so this is not an attack.) Bill Clinton's was 176, and supposedly this was an actual score, but I wonder. I can sort of see it with him. He was a Rhodes scholar, his academic records were not hidden, his ability to speak extemporaneously in an informed way, was there for all to see, he was informed about world affairs to a level one would expect of a US president. I would not have guessed 175, but I read that was the score.
Somebody here thinks Obama's is 125! Why exactly? Because of the internet floating ad claiming Obama's IQ was 125 and what is yours? Right next to the floating ad featuring a white athlete whose IQ was 107 and how high is yours? They were trying to tell us something, those smart, smarmly media manipulators.
No way is Obama almost two standard deviations above the norm. We'd see signs of it. Then again, maybe his brain cells are just dead for similar reasons Bush II's brain cells died.

joshua Lawrence Chamberlain said...

What was Barack Obama's college GPA?

Where did Barck Obama rank in his HLS class?

Lawrence Tribe claims Barck Obama had a sharp analytical mind? Then why did this great analytical mind do so poorly in a debate-discussion with Marist College graduate Bill O'Reilly?

Lawrence Tribe like many other politically well- connected liberals are providing cover for man with at best a vapid intellect.

As much as I despise Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin-both community college dropouts-they could both mop up the floor with this "sharp and brilliant" legal mind in a debate.

I think Tribe is bold face-liar.

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

Anonymous,

A few minor grammatical errors contained in an HLR letter to the editor do not prove either 1)Obama cannot write or 2)his legal analysis is lacking. And Jim O, that goes for a law school exam taken under timed conditions too. All it demonstrates is that Obama is a lazy proofreader and/or did not have the time to sufficiently review his writing.

The ideas and analysis conveyed in the sample are generally sound. He spotted most of the issues from that hypothetical and gave an explanation of the conflicting possible intepretations of the law. As I mentioned in a previous thread, law exams are graded anonymously so I am certain he was not given extra points by his profs for being black. But for those on this thread convinced that there was some sort of conspiracy to push Obama foward, there is not enough evidence in the world to convince you differently.

David, the reason hypothetical presented was so wordy is because one skill that is tested by law school examination is the ability to pick between the lines and only read what is necessary. And yeah if you read a full U.S. Supreme Court case you'll notice how unnecessarily verbose some in the legal industry can be. This is why Scalia has always been one of my favorite justices to read (though not ideologically). He generally dispenses with unneccessary filler and gets right to the point in his analysis. He can also be pretty entertaining...for a Supreme Court Justice.

Anonymous said...

A few minor grammatical errors contained in an HLR letter to the editor do not prove either 1)Obama cannot write or 2)his legal analysis is lacking. And Jim O, that goes for a law school exam taken under timed conditions too. All it demonstrates is that Obama is a lazy proofreader and/or did not have the time to sufficiently review his writing.

And/or doesn't know how to make a verb agree with its subject.

The question is whether Obama himself [when he's not hiding behing Ayers or Favreau] can write.

And the answer is that ALL OF THE AVAILABLE EVIDENCE indicates that he cannot.

Anonymous said...

" Based on my observations, Bill and Barack are both equally intelligent and as Ivy League law grads I would but their IQs well above 130, although not higher than 145 and definitely not as high as say Carter (who was a nuclear submarine officer"--Pissed Off Chairman

First off, PO, Obama is not an Ivy League graduate--he is an affirmative action "graduate"

I guess you are stupid enough to conclude that Toni Morrison deserved the Nobel Prize or that black studies departments deserve funding?

Steve, the real issue here is not whether Obama is a writer--it's whether he's done an end run around the meritocracy his entire life. now his mediocrity is being revealed for all the world to witness

File this post under "Brilliant like Barack Obama"

Jim O said...

@ Pissed Off Chinaman:
You do understand that Obama was not taking the test, but giving it, right? There should be no time pressure in presenting your sample answer to your own question.
But OTOH, who am I to criticize our favorite professor while my face is red because of the typo in my last comment?
But, hey, I'm in a hurry! Here comes my boss! Gotta pretend to work!

David said...

Oops, "cord" s/b "chord." Hilarious this appeared in a comment about writing. Apologies!

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

The purpose of a sample model answer for a law exam is to communicate to the student what the prof (in this case) Obama expects in terms of issue spotting and legal analysis. They are meant to represent what a student should be able to produce under timed conditions. They are not meant to be perfect stylistically or grammatically. The sample given is typical of any such that one would find among law school faculties.

Anonymous said...

"Where did Barck Obama rank in his HLS class? "

Top 10%. Blind grading.

DAJ said...

Obama: stupid because he didn't use his position as an editor at Harvard Law Review to write his own article.

Palin: brilliant because she's a perky MILF.



Thanks, Sigma! I've been waiting for your response to the teeming hypocrisy on this board!

Truth said...

"He might have had some supporters who wanted him to get off to a good start and shared their last semester questions..."

Yeah, and he might be an alien from the planet Vulcan also, but I tend to prefer Occam's razor.

"What has Obama done besides get elected to office and graduate from and get hired by a few schools known to adore affirmative action?"

Uh, pass a bar exam? (unless he had some mysterious Jew giving him the answers through an earpiece from the parking lot; eh Bill?)

"Based on my observations, Bill and Barack are both equally intelligent and as Ivy League law grads I would but their IQs well above 130, although not higher than 145 and definitely not as high as say Carter (who was a nuclear submarine officer..."

Well; not exactly:

"Carter served on surface ships and on diesel-electric submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. As a junior officer, he completed qualification for command of a diesel-electric submarine. He applied for the US Navy's fledgling nuclear submarine program...
...Carter felt the best route for promotion was with submarine duty since he felt that nuclear power would be increasingly used in submarines...[10] Carter completed a NON-CREDIT INTRODUCTORY COURSE at Union College starting in March 1953.

Upon the death of his father, James Earl Carter, Sr., in July 1953, Lieutenant Carter immediately resigned his commission, and he was discharged from the Navy on October 9, 1953.[13][14] This cut short his nuclear powerplant operator training, and he was never able to serve on a nuclear submarine, since the first boat of that fleet, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), was launched on January 17, 1955, over a year after his discharge from the Navy.[15]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Carter

Truth said...

"I'd wager Clinton's at least one SD beyond Obama, easy."

Oh great, if Jimmy would wager, I guess that settles it.

"or that black studies departments deserve funding?"

They are not called "black studies departments", they are called African Studies Departments, and if you feel they do not deserve funding, do you feel that European, Asian, or Native American Studies Departments do?

"Oops, "cord" s/b "chord." Hilarious this appeared in a comment about writing. Apologies!"

Even more telling in a comment in which you imply someone else is stupid because he made writing errors. "Hilarious" indeed.

"But OTOH, who am I to criticize our favorite professor while my face is red because of the typo in my last comment?"

Don't worry Jim, I have a feeling you'll forget this opportunity to learn something and be goose-stepping again in unison with the rest in 10...15 minutes.

Anonymous said...

For all of the racists who think Obama doesn't have a high IQ and can't possibly write anything intelligible, I present to you: Chino XL.

From his wiki:

Derek Keith Barbosa, known as Chino XL, is an American Hip Hop lyricist, battle rapper, and actor. The nephew of Bernie Worrell of Parliament/Funkadelic, Chino is known for his technically accomplished style, consisting of self-consciously over-the-top punchlines, exaggerated egotism, and use of multiple similes, puns, metaphors, and wordplay. He is a member of the intellectual collective MENSA and has collaborated on various projects with some of the most well known artists in Hip Hop.


Now, you may object that he's not a full African American. True, he isn't. But before we get into that, his father was not an African elite and I doubt his mom has a PhD. Oh, his other half is Puerto Rican, fwiw. If an egotistical rapper can qualifiy for MENSA, then I'm sure Obama could as well. Now go back to complaining about AA, bitches.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Don't put too much effort into analyzing the exam questions and answers. It is both possible and quite academically acceptable for Mr. Obama to have used questions some other instructor wrote for an earlier semester or at a different university, perhaps adapting them slightly by adding local color. I would always do that myself in the courses I teach if I could find good questions somebody else had used, and it's not plagiarism (unless you submit your test questions to some promotion board as evidence of your teaching talent).

Eric Rasmusen said...

Does anybody know whether law students with good LSAT scores also tend to have good math-SAT scores? Good law students are an unusual subgroup of people, and it is possible that using LSAT as a proxy for IQ is misleading because they are good at language and bad at math. On the other hand, law requires sharp logical reasoning, so I could well believe that they are good at the math part of IQ too, even though law students are commonly fearful (irrationally-- they can handle them if they get over their phobias) of even simple equations.

Steve Sailer said...

Eric Rasmusen says:

"It is both possible and quite academically acceptable for Mr. Obama to have used questions some other instructor wrote for an earlier semester or at a different university, perhaps adapting them slightly by adding local color."

True, but this 1996 question, like many of the others, seems ripped from the headlines of the Chicago Tribune. This one, for example, combines 1996's Prop. 209 in California with Mayor Daley's Chicago police/fire department hiring woes that peaked in 1995. A lot of the other years' questions seem both timely and Chicago-centric, suggesting that they were written in the year advertised, not earlier, by a professional discrimination lawyer living in Chicago. Remind you of anybody?

Anonymous said...

Here's a simple way to put it. Obama is more like Scalia in intelligence than he is like Joe Q. Public. They both graduated harvard law magna cum laude.

Scalia looks like you and shares you cultural values. Push for Presidents with Scalia's intelligence who looks like you and has your values. Or even a protestant, anglosaxon or scot-irish version if you need to.

But don't push for Palin. That's naughty, giving into your impulse to try to make society worse so that elites are more equal to you in misery.

Instead, by pushing for Scalia type Presidents,you'll be more likely to continue to see the face of power speak English and look like you 30 years from now (rather than loom like an Indian, a Chinese person, or speaking German).

So it's all right to go for the white Christian. It's understandable you feel Obama doesn't represent you. But be an adult. At least support the really, really smart and competent white christians for President. Not Palin.

Hopefully Anonymous

http://www.hopeanon.tyepapd.com

Truth said...

Well, the man brought up Chino XL What's your estimation of his IQ, Gentlemen?

Anonymous said...

No, high LSAT scores do not imply high math ability.

One of the problems with the system that the US uses for selecting its elite is that mainly tests of verbal ability are used and the mathematical portion (e.g., SAT) has a miserably low ceiling.

As a consequence we end up with people who are good at making arguments, but poor at actual quantitative analysis.

The people who actually create value in society -- engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs -- have to solve real problems, and they tend to be less than impressed by the type of intelligence exhibited by lawyers, law professors and politicians.

David said...

> Palin: brilliant because she's a perky MILF. <

The number of people here who think Palin is "brilliant" can be counted on one hand. I use the figure advisedly.

But seriously, how smart does the POTUS have to be? "As smart as possible!" does not really wash. Consider. Does the POTUS - or any politician - require an IQ of 170+ (the Einstein-like number that one commenter preposterously attributed to Slick Willie)? Must the POTUS be a genius? Must he (or she) have an encyclopedic command of domestic and international conflicts, down to the last power shift among sheepherders in Central Asia, or Iowa? To believe so is to believe the POTUS to be a combination of World Ruler and God and The Ultimate Alpha Male, when it is simply not so. POTUS is largely a ceremonial, figurehead job. A proper POTUS is no more or less than a public servant, like sheriff. He (or she) is a bureaucrat doing a government job temporarily, not necessarily more sagacious or lofty than a night watchman.

Those who busted out of that frame and went activist are the ones who got us into the most trouble. Woodrow Wilson, anyone? How did Nixon work out? Or FDR? I don’t believe Adlai Stevenson or Al Gore would have done any better. It is a simple truth that the IQ proper for a given job is the IQ proper for that job; and those who put "rulers" (or child-minders or medicine-dispensers) on a level with scientists are barbarians.

Speaking of any POTUS as being the exemplar of "the best and the brightest," one who "runs the country," betrays that barbaric mindset. Isn't it in Samuels that the Israelites made the cardinal error of bawling for a king "to go before us, and fight our battles," etc. (much criticized in Paine's deeply un-American pre-Good War and probably anti-Semitic pamphlet _Common Sense_)?

Only in totalitarian dictators are omnicompetence and omniscience required.

Jim O said...

Eric:
There was math on the LSAT when I took in the late 70's. Dunno about today.

Jim O said...

Truth:
Mere words can't describe how much I dislike you.

David said...

"Truth" said

> Even more telling in a comment in which you imply someone else is stupid because he made writing errors. <

In my comment I implied neither that Obama is stupid nor that he is guilty of writing errors.

Anonymous said...

"One of the problems with the system that the US uses for selecting its elite is that mainly tests of verbal ability are used and the mathematical portion (e.g., SAT) has a miserably low ceiling.

As a consequence we end up with people who are good at making arguments, but poor at actual quantitative analysis."

Translation: I'm mad that a quant nerd such as myself isn't an elite so I'll just sh!t on the accomplishments of these useless verbalists because it'll make me feel better. Aspergy nerds such as myself would make perfect leaders. Afterall, who needs charismatic alpha males who are well versed in the law when you can choose from socially awkward mathletes?

Truth said...

"In my comment I implied neither that Obama is stupid nor that he is guilty of writing errors."

"and yet his books are probably ghostwritten and the quantity of his academic writing is near nil."

Anonymous said...

"Afterall, who needs charismatic alpha males who are well versed in the law when you can choose from socially awkward mathletes?"

Now that you're done analyzing motivation (and incorrectly, I might add), would you care to my address the substance?

Anonymous said...

I suspect that when you're administering for abstractly large populations of people quantitative ability should be a requirement.

I think it's spot-on to be critical of someone with Obama's resume on the grounds of "What is you ability to engage in quantitative anlysis?"

I'll note the first and current non-rotating president of the EU is a well-credentialed economist with a good administrative track record.

We'd do well to have more economists and MPA's competing with JD's for elected political positions.

Hopefully Anonymous

http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com

David Davenport said...

...One of the problems with the system that the US uses for selecting its elite is that mainly tests of verbal ability are used and the mathematical portion (e.g., SAT) has a miserably low ceiling.

But how does the US select its E-leets? Bigwigs aren't selected by means of test scores per se.

Aside from (a) nepotism and conspiratorial cabals, Americans become E-leet through some combination of (b) political skill + (c) wealth + (d) celebrity.

How come math studs don't get more (a),(b,(c), and (d)?

One handicap: as a group, engineers and scientists I've seen don't seem to be very tall.

David said...

"and yet his books are probably ghostwritten and the quantity of his academic writing is near nil."

I repeat, in my comment I implied neither that Obama is stupid nor that he is guilty of writing errors.

Let me break it down for ya, sport.

Claim #1 - His books are probably ghostwritten.

This implies neither stupidity (how many bestselling books have you had successfully ghostwritten for you?) nor, obviously, writing errors. It *does* imply - as I wrote in my comment, and this was the point of my comment - that Obama is one of those would-be writers, someone who gasses about "my writing" but produces not much writing, like filmmakers who make few or no films, or psychiatrists who have no patients but do have cool business cards.

Claim #2 - The quantity of his academic writing is near nil.

QUANTITY, not quality. I know you know the difference; perhaps you didn't have your contacts in that day.

Nothing was said about the QUALITY of his academic writing. (In fact, in an earlier post I commended it with some tentative and qualified reservations about its possible relative prolixity.)

Make sure you know what you're obsessing about, sport. And put your contacts in!

Truth said...

You have a point there; Davey-Boy. However, I did not say that you "wrote" that Obama was stupid, I said that you "implied" it.

Udolpho.com said...

I can't believe these commenters sometimes. Reagan had a 105 IQ? Clinton 176? You're either retarded or some angry liberal trolling for responses.

And let's face it: Obama is smart merely by black people standards. Everything about him screams local politics, maybe statewide office someday, but the fact that he is for liberals a magic Negro has propelled him far beyond his limitations (which are now being exposed in his floundering domestic agenda, his appointment of partisan cronies, and his foreign policy ineptitude). Yes, he sounds quite articulate--for a black man.

What's amazing is that this country is making purely emotional decisions about politics and hasn't become a banana republic yet (Palin--not a good sign). Oh, but you just wait!