August 28, 2012

Obama as an academic leader?

The question of leadership and Obama's biography, as laboriously compiled by David Maraniss of the Washington Post (see my review here), is a puzzling one. We have a President who had every opportunity to exert leadership as a young man -- everybody who knew him considered a cool dude, he was tall, decent-looking, fairly athletic, kind of funny, quite popular -- but he made few efforts to get things organized and accomplished at a group level.

Maraniss doesn't believe Obama's account of race working against him, and I have to believe that in Honolulu/L.A./NYC circles in the 1970s and 1980s, it had to work for him. 

To take one random data point, in the summer of 1975 when I went to Boys's State in Sacramento (this kind of mock election convention sponsored by the American Legion -- Bill Clinton was huge in it when he was in high school), we all worked hard and succeeded in getting this black guy in our dorm elected Governor out of about 800 delegates. He was a good guy and had a good story -- from a nice church-going family in a tough neighborhood -- but being black in 1975 in California was clearly an advantage in this kind of pseudo-election among ambitious teens. 

This is not to argue whether or not being black in California in 1975 would have been a net plus or minus for, say, Tom Bradley running for governor of California in the adult real world (being black likely was a moderate minus for Bradley). But in 1975 Boy's State in California, being black helped this one kid I knew be Gubernatorial Timber. And Obama was three years behind me in school. 

But, to get back to the young Obama, he didn't seem to want to be a leader of any group modest enough to accept him as their leader. Maraniss describes him as having the observant, disengaged personality of an anthropologist or writer. He didn't want to get caught in "life's traps" by getting too involved in anything (such as actually finishing his short stories and getting them published or writing scholarly law articles for the Harvard Law Review or when he was at the U. of Chicago law school).

Is this a typical career path for a future university president: a recessive personality when young, then blossoming into leadership in maturity? I mention this because Obama's family tree is full of academics. His white grandmother's sister was a statistics prof, his ne'er do well white grandfather's brother got a Berkeley Ph.D, then went into federal government work in Washington. 

On the other hand, most of the college presidents who have caught my attention for their ability to gladhand their way to big donations are obvious balls of fire who would have quickly risen to Executive VP of Sales at all the corporations I've worked for. I recall reading one dynamic college president's account of how he'd promised himself that for his 61st birthday he'd take on this physical challenge he'd always dreamt of? I'm thinking, yeah, if I were 61 and as rich as this guy, I'd ... play Pebble Beach without taking a cart, get a caddie and walk all 18 holes! 

Instead, this 61-year-old climbed the tallest mountain in Antartica, 16,000 feet. (Sounds cold. Personally, I'd think a less unpleasant way to celebrate your 61st birthday would be to go camp inside a frozen meat locker for two weeks.) Coming down, he met one of the college's biggest donors, some self-made tech zillionaire, going up. The president reported that two did some major high-altitude low-temperature bonding (ca-ching, ca-ching).

But these mile-a-minute college presidents tend to get appointed heads of less prestigious colleges that need cash fast. Are old-line colleges typically headed by more Obama-like personalities?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Obama will be reelected...

Anonymous said...

Obama may be smart, but he knew he was no match for the intellectual giants at Harvard and University of Chicago. He could win in style, not in substance. It's like a star athlete in highschool isn't necessarily gonna be a big shot in college.

Obama knew that he made it to elite academia through race preference and style. He was bright enough to learn, follow, and graduate, but he was really no match for white and Jewish intellectuals who really understood intellectual matters thoroughly. He might impress a lot of Americans, and Jews might pretend to be impressed by his 'staggering intellect', but Obama was really nothing special academically; he knew it, and Jews knew it.

Another thing... Obama knew that if he really threw himself into the academic/ideological fray, his REAL side might have to come out, and it would have looked something like Cornel West or Michael Dyson. He would have shot himself in the foot politically.

Of course, Obama could have played the role of an academic with moderate views, but it would have been too much strain on his psyche. It's one thing to feign what you're not with detachment but quite another to do it with emotional investment. If you're a conservative among liberals, it's easier to pretend not to be conservative than pretend to be a liberal. It's easier to say, "Gee, I don't know about 'gay marriage'" than to say "Oh yeah, I'm ALL FOR IT!!"

Why did the guy in KAGEMUSHA try to run away from the clan in the beginning? He couldn't take the strain of playing the great lord any more. It was too taxing on his emotions.

And it's emotionally stressful even on facebook, that is if you create a bogus account and make friends with liberals to see what they think. You have to pretend to be liberal, and WOW, THAT IS STRESSFUL AND DRIVES YOU UP THE WALL. I mean I wanna call those liberal morons all sorts of names, but then I'd be 'outed' in no time, and so I gotta pretend to like Obama, and it just makes me wanna puke.

Obama's true ideology is pretty leftist and black-nationalist(or mulatto supremacist), but he needed to hide much of that. He could hide it by being detached from intellectual and political matters, but it was too much for him to get involved 'passionately' while pretending to be what he is not. It would have taken too much toll on his emotions.


Anonymous said...

Well...at Harvard Law he was known as a bloviating gunner in class discussions. Maybe that counts for something, but he didn't translate that tendency into law journal writing.

He likes to be admired, but his personality isn't configured for sustained politicking and his abilities aren't up to snuff for executive responsibility. So I think his default mental position is that of the outside critic. I'm not so sure he expected to win in '08; he probably though of it as more of an exercise in profile-raising so he could establish a national platform for his outsider-critic schtick. Then he won and found himself as the establishment he was intending to critique.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWi0AMyniYc&feature=related

How come Jews can be so old and still be so sharp of mind?

And when all the Mailers, Blooms, Kauffmanns and others go, will be the new generation of Jews match them in quality and influence?
I don't think Remnick and his ilk will do.

Canadian Observer said...

I love that term - "life's traps". I've been spending my entire life avoiding life's traps.

As I get older, though, I am starting to realize that a disengaging life isn't necessarily a fulfilling one.

Gringo said...

But these mile-a-minute college presidents tend to get appointed heads of less prestigious colleges that need cash fast. Are old-line colleges typically headed by more Obama-like personalities?

Nowadays even wealthy old-line colleges want a big time fundraiser for a president. How often does Harvard have a fund drive? Pretty damned often.

Fundraising wasn't as important 50 years ago as it is today.

Maraniss describes him as having the observant, disengaged personality of an anthropologist or writer.

Back in 2008, Spengler @ Asia Times described Obama as having the M.O. of an anthropologist, like his mother.

What made this plausible to me was Obama's "bitter clingers" remarks to wealthy donors in San Francisco. It sounded to me as if Obama was thinking out loud, trying to figure out what made those natives tick- what made those hicks from the sticks tick. He certainly did not anticipate his words being publicized nationwide.

Anonymous said...

"mulatto supremacist" -- that's a new one.

i mean, what?

Anonymous said...

Dissembling is the troubling aspect of Obama. He doesn't escape from reality but tries to counterfeit it.

Anonymous said...

Well, Tom Bradley didn't prevent the rise of Hispanics in his city by 1980 the city was already 28 percent. So, the black lost his jobs.

corvinus said...

Obama may be smart, but he knew he was no match for the intellectual giants at Harvard and University of Chicago. He could win in style, not in substance. It's like a star athlete in highschool isn't necessarily gonna be a big shot in college.

The only reason he's prez is because of white guilt. The first White Guilt President.

Instead, this 61-year-old climbed the tallest mountain in Antartica, 16,000 feet. (Sounds cold. Personally, I'd think a less unpleasant way to celebrate your 61st birthday would be to go camp inside a frozen meat locker for two weeks.) Coming down, he met one of the college's biggest donors, some self-made tech zillionaire, going up. The president reported that two did some major high-altitude low-temperature bonding (ca-ching, ca-ching).

Never thought of the Vinson Massif as a place to make major business deals, but stranger things have happened I suppose.

Anonymous said...

School: Teacher Helps Students Cheat Because She Says They’re ‘Dumb As Hell’

http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2012/08/28/school-teacher-helps-students-cheat-because-she-says-theyre-dumb-as-hell/

"ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – A former fifth-grade teacher implicated in a cheating scandal reportedly gave students the illegal assistance because she thought they were “dumb as hell.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, math teacher Shayla Smith was accused of offering students the answers to a test they were taking at the time. She had reportedly been responsible for supervising them while the tests were being completed.

Schajuan Jones, who taught a fourth-grade class across the hall from Smith’s former room, overheard her talking to another teacher about the test.

“The words were, ‘I had to give your kids, or your students, the answers because they’re dumb as hell,’” Jones was quoted as saying about the interaction between Smith and the unidentified third teacher."

Anonymous said...

Obama is basically anti-white and anti-West. Anything that is anti-white is good, as far as he is concerned, even if it's all self-contradictory.

Therefore, mass-Hispanic immigration is good, plus immigration of anyone else non-white, especially blacks and South Asians. Even when it destroys American jobs for his Dumbocrat support base.

He is pro-Jewish when it suits him, but anti-Israel when it suits his Muslim handlers. He is pro-black Christianity as long as its associated with Reverend Wright-type grievance mongering, but anti-Christian when Christianity is a proxy for the West.

He's pro-globalist union-busting and out-sourcing when it suits his anti-WASP rich business supporters, but socialist when it's a way to weaken the white middle class.

The only common theme running through this ideological dog's breakfast is doctrinaire anti-white, anti-West.

This is what he is. Just look at the company he keeps, and has kept for decades. No-one should be surprised, although millions are.

Anon.

Anonymous said...

Are old-line colleges typically headed by more Obama-like personalities?

No. At least among my N=3.

Anonymous said...

We over-think things.

Obama took what he saw offered him. The educational establishment and later the political establishment saw a nice-looking, well-spoken, intelligent black kid and said, "Hey, he's the kind we want to promote."

There is no evidence that he has ever had the internal drive of an achiever, of a doer. I don't think he likes the job of President at all. I'd prefer to have a President who likes what he does.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWi0AMyniYc&feature=related

How come Jews can be so old and still be so sharp of mind?


Harold Bloom is an idiot.

The people that think Bloom is brilliant are the same people who think Ayn Rand is the greatest philosopher of all time.

Anonymous said...

"I’m concerned that, one on one, the formidable Putin would drink our president’s milk shake. Recall that after an ailing, drugged-up Kennedy met with an unimpressed Khrushchev in 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis followed a year later."


HAHAHAHAHA. Putin gonna put nukes in Mexico? HAHAHAHA.

Anonymous said...

Obama is a black Charles Van Doren.

Anonymous said...

"Harold Bloom is an idiot."

Shut up fool.

Anonymous said...

"Are old-line colleges typically headed by more Obama-like personalities?"

Sometimes, but not usually. Old line colleges often have strong faculties of serious academics who do not want Sales EVP types talking at them, or anyone with a strong dynamic personality who wants to shake things up.

Harvard's faculty revolted at Larry Summers, who combined a talent for upopular if accurate observations with a bull in a china shop management style. He has since been replaced with a nice white woman who is running things more quietly. The previous president was good at fundraising, but did so in a quiet an unobtrusive way and generally left the faculty alone.

The old line colleges also see themselves as having a moral weight in society, and so like their presidents to periodically weigh in with high sounding bien pensant statements on contemportary issues. This is of course one of Obama's strong suits ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey! I went to Michigan Wolverine Boys' State in Lansing in 1972, and we also elected a black governor, Bob Elliott!

I went to the same high school as Bob. He was a nice, popular basketball player who made little effort in class because he expected to become a basketball star some day (which he did, sorta). I didn't know him that well, but in retrospect what I remember does seem kind of Obama-like: tall, likeable, kind of passive, hardly an overwhelming personality. Being black certainly didn't hurt him at Boys' State.

BTW, I also got myself elected to some minor position in my dorm -- the only election I've ever won in my life! -- and the main thing I remember about it is the first governing meeting, where the election winners all got together and conspired to..., well I don't remember exactly what, but conspiracy was definitely the first order of business. I think part of it had something to do with getting certain idiots to stop playing Frisbee in the hallway, but it went beyond that. Basically we were a group of winners sitting around trying to come up with ways to abuse our newly granted authority over the losers, and the part I clearly remember is how much fun that was! I don't remember if there was a budget involved, and I don't think we would have actually stolen money. But hey, we were beginners...

Power Child said...

"Great things happened when people were like me."

-Hank Hill

Anonymous said...

Over at ace of spades:

All I want for Obama is a cushy fundraising position in an organization with noble-sounding but extremely vague goals where people can just love on him all day, where he doesn't have to do actually do anything. You know, like his blessed life before he won the election.

So I'm pushing for funding for the Barack H. Obama International Center for Humanity & Golf Course. His office could be just to the right of the pro shop. And there could be a half-shell ampitheater near the 18th hole (call it the 19th Hole, get it?) where fading rock stars can jet in to entertain him.

Leo Ladenson said...

The Ivy League has actually started practicing what its faculties have been preaching. Half of its presidents are now women: Christina Paxon (Brown) (preceded by Ruth Simmons), Carol L. Folt (Dartmouth), Drew Gilpin Faust (Harvard), Amy Gutman (Penn) (who was preceded by Judith Rodin, the first female Ivy League President, and current President of the Rockefeller Foundation), and Shirley Tilghman (Princeton).

I wonder when they'll allow men back into those offices? Perhaps when the schools' status has fallen sufficiently low.

Ron Woo said...


"And when all the Mailers, Blooms, Kauffmanns and others go, will be the new generation of Jews match them in quality and influence? "

Bloom's an officious and insipid fool with little better than a precocious sophomore's appreciation or understanding of literature.

Mailer was an insecure blowhard who stabbed his wife and secured the release from prison of a homicidal sociopath. Nothing he's written will be retained by posterity.