(From New America Media)
Commentary byÂ Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Would-be GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump wasted no time eagerly snatching at another silly, deliberately distracting issue after President Obama called his bluff and released his birth certificate, bringing that â€œscandalâ€ to a quick end. The hot topic now is Obamaâ€™s allegedly mediocre academic performance. Thereâ€™s method to Trumpâ€™s madness, as can be seen by how well this new tactic has already paid off. The media has quoted Trump extensivelyâ€”againâ€”and more than a few Obama critics are talking up the presidentâ€™s college performance as a legitimate political issue.
Trump was even able to spin Obamaâ€™s release of his long-form birth certificate as some sort of victory for truth and transparency, with Trump, of course, the self-proclaimed hero for accomplishing this dumb feat. From beginning to end, the birther incident is held up as â€œproofâ€ that Trump has media and political star power that none of the other mainstream GOP candidates can hope to match.
Even so, the grade issue, like the birth certificate controversy, would â€”in any other political season, with any other presidentâ€” have been greeted with laughter and scorn. Yet when it comes to Obama, the topic of academic accomplishment has resonance not just because Trump has raised the issue, but because millions of Americans have an incessant compulsion to believe the most insipid, salacious, and back-biting dribble about the first black president.
Trump is by no means the first presidential wannabe to pick at the issue of Obamaâ€™s grades and supposed college failings for his own self-serving personal and political ends. Almost from the moment he announced his candidacy in 2007, the grades issue has run second to the birth certificate issue as a sideshow to discredit Obama. The whispers and rumors flew freely on right-wing blogs and websites, fanned by some talk show hosts, that candidate Obama either was not all that he was cracked up to be academically, or worse, that he actually doctored or manufactured his academic credentials.
The slurs about Obamaâ€™s academic performance took full flight after he became the odds-on favorite to win the presidency in the fall of 2008. A spate of online articles, including in the notorious political-hatchet site World Net Daily, accused Obama of being a less-than-stellar student at Occidental College and Columbia University and hinted at a conspiracy to hide his academic records from public scrutiny.
The allegations were that Obama wheedled his way into Harvard Law School and became editor of the Harvard Law Review because of affirmative action, political manipulation, and deceit. The conspiracy theorists cited as proof the fact that Obama produced no signed articles or essays in the HarvardÂ review, or in any other law journal, on legal matters. The final proof of Obamaâ€™s alleged academic failings was the refusal to publicly release his transcripts.
During the 2008 campaign, and at various points during Obamaâ€™s first two years in the White House, these falsehoods continued to be whispered and gossiped about on the usual anti-Obama blogs and websites. The issue got almost no traction mostly because many Tea Party activists and much of the media continued to be obsessed with the question of where Obama was born.
But now that Obama has effectively put that issue to rest, his alleged academic failings are filling the void. The point is not just to take another cheap shot at Obama, but to use the issue to question Obamaâ€™s wisdom and competence on the fiscal, economic and foreign policy positions that Tea Party leaders and activists, and much of the GOP relentlessly oppose.
Trump and the more virulent Obama bashers want to paint the president as someone who was only able to make it into Harvard by con and manipulation, rather than because of his talent and academic excellence. If they can plant that seed, itâ€™s just a short step to proclaiming that his academic â€œweaknessesâ€ have translated into ill-conceived and failed policies.
Trump gets an extra bonus in spreading malicious gossip and innuendo about Obamaâ€™s academic performanceâ€” a pass (for the moment, at least) from being pounded on the legion of mediocre to outright disastrous business decisions heâ€™s made (and the companies heâ€™s driven into bankruptcy). Meanwhile, no one is asking him to show transcripts of his grades at Fordham and the Wharton School of Businessâ€”and heâ€™s certainly not offering to share them. Thereâ€™s more than good reason to wonder why not.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He hosts a national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C., streamed on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour onblogtalkradio.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson