The Perfectly Predictable Legacy of Racial Preferences

Dana Summers


One more thing about birth certificate-gate and that’s it, I promise.

The MSNBC-Bill Maher-New York Times-Democratic Party talking points complex will obviously continue to promote the idea that any questions about their guy’s past is racist. Last evening on the PBS News Hour, Mark Shields, a member in good standing of the above-mentioned complex, described it as a campaign to “de-legitimize” Obama and paint him as “The Other,” “an African,” in other words, it’s racist.

The complex is basing this campaign on the hope that the public has amnesia. As David Brooks, the PBS-New York Times idea of a responsible conservative, responded to Shields’ lengthy sociological disquisition, both parties always hope for the one “knockout scandal” that will destroy their opponents; in other words, so what else is new?

It was not always thus. Neither the press nor the Republicans had much stomach for looking into the lives of either Jack Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson. They weren’t much interested in Kennedy and Johnson’s serial adulterous hook-ups, which could dangerously expose the president to blackmail. Kennedy’s affair with the mistress of mafia boss Sam Giancana was amazingly irresponsible to say the least. In retrospect, the press was stupendously irresponsible to ignore that and the serious illnesses Kennedy suffered from and his habitual use of barbiturates and amphetamines. And no one, to my knowledge seriously investigated how LBJ got to be a multimillionaire while on a government salary for most of his adult life, at least not while he was in office.

But that was before the mother of all de-legitimizing scandals: Watergate. Richard Nixon moved into the White House after having accumulated decades of Democratic hatred because of his supposedly “red-baiting” election campaigns for the House and Senate and his “persecution” of Alger Hiss, the now-proven Soviet spy. With Watergate, a president’s opponents accomplished what had not been done in nearly 200 years: they removed a president from office. Watergate showed the way: you must come up with, in Brooks’ words, a “knockout scandal.”

Ever since then, both parties have reflexively searched for the “smoking gun,” the “cover-up,” the decision to “stonewall,” all gifts Watergate bequeathed to political language. The Republicans suspected Carter crony Bert Lance of illegal chicanery and forced Carter to shove him “under the bus.” The Democrats thought they finally had Reagan, the “teflon” president in Pat Schroeder’s words, with Iran-Contra. Then there was George H.W. Bush’s alleged complicity in allegedly delaying the Iran hostage release until after Reagan’s election. And then, of course , there was Bill Clinton. It never fails to amaze me that you can always find something.

But I don’t remember the Democrats complaining about the effort to de-legitimize the Bush presidency because of the wacky 2000 election, or the effort to characterize the mistaken intelligence on WMD in Iraq as deliberate lies. Was that not an effort to de-legitimize, to undermine? I think so.

The raking through Obama’s past is nothing new and can be traced back to Watergate, the mother of all knockout scandals.

But I will concede that there is a racial, if not racist, element in Obama’s case. And it’s the result of the perfectly predictable legacy of “affirmative action,” otherwise known as racial preference. Critics of racial preference have argued for years that such programs are destructive because they undermine “minority” accomplishments.

But what about the “legacies” who get into Harvard or those rich people who putatively bribe their way in? That may happen but they too are viewed with suspicion by those non-legacies, those non-rich, and yes, those non-black or non-Hispanic folks who wonder whether the child of an alumnus, the child of a millionaire, and the minority student were admitted on merit alone.

As with the birth certificate, Obama could have stopped the perfectly understandable, if almost never publicly mentioned, suspicion about his admission to elite universities if he had early on released his academic records. Al Gore, John Kerry, George W. Bush all had mediocre academic records (as did Jack Kennedy) and survived. Don’t most suspect that Gore, Kerry, and Bush would have been denied admission to elite universities if not for their family ties and/or money? As I remember, Obama’s wife admitted that she was admitted to Princeton with less-than-Princeton- caliber grades and test scores as did Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Why hasn’t Obama released his records and why hasn’t the media done its job? He’d rather have the race card up his sleeve with the strong confidence that the compliant media will continue to enable him.

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