The Brain And The Bully

The Young Brainiac

The Homophobic High School Bully

It is only May in this election year, and already the Democratic Party media has devolved into a self-parody of a self-parody.

Two examples, the first of which is presidential hagiographer (See his book on Bill Clinton) David Maraniss’s book Barack Obama: The Story which inspired an unintentionally funny column by one Meghan Daum in the LA Times. Daum concludes from an excerpt by Maraniss published in Vanity Fair that Barry may actually be “too brainy to be president,” thus outdoing “presidential historian” Michael Beschloss who opined that Obama is merely the smartest guy to have ever occupied the Oval Office. I mean, not even Barry worshippers like Chris Matthews, Maureen Dowd, and Evan Thomas ever wondered whether their idol may be too big for the job.

Here’s Daum on Obama’s “braininess”:

…Maraniss reveals an Obama brimming with the kind of existential angst and intellectual precocity usually reserved for characters in Woody Allen movies.

It’s fitting that the setting was New York City, where Obama moved at age 20 when he transferred to Columbia University from Occidental College in Los Angeles. To Alex McNear, a girlfriend at Occidental, Obama holds forth on T.S. Eliot. He calls “The Waste Land” “an ecstatic vision which runs from Munzer to Yeats” and encourages McNear to “read [Eliot’s] essay on Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as Four Quartets, when he’s less concerned with depicting moribund Europe…. Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism — Eliot is of this type.”…

Irony challenged and humorless, Daum doesn’t get it that most of the intellectually precocious and angst-ridden characters Woody Allen has created are, more often than not, the butt of his jokes. Maybe she should watch Midnight In Paris again where Allen affectionately but effectively satirizes the “Paris-in-the-20’s” writers and artists like Hemingway, Picasso, and Dali, not to mention the insufferable art professor played by Michael Sheen.

There is a word for Obama’s ruminations on T.S. Eliot -sophomoric, and the quotes reveal more about his ego-driven pomposity than his intelligence.

But she goes on:

He was so self-consciously cerebral, he appears headed for the Supreme Court or the State Department, not to a place where braininess and critical thinking can often seem less prized than gut instincts and schmoozing skills. Not a place, in other words, like the Oval Office.

And she doesn’t stop there. She seems unaware that the U.S. Constitution with its checks and balances and enumerated federal powers are what’s preventing Brainy Barry from doing what He knows is best for the rest of us:

…To many who were feverishly devoted to Obama’s candidacy four years ago, what was most exciting wasn’t just the idea that American voters could elect a black man. It was the idea that we could elect — and be represented by — someone who was unapologetically intellectual. But in the current political climate, intellectual can too often equal ineffectual. Thanks to a system that’s broken by partisanship and pandering to the lowest common denominator, being in politics — even being the president — may have less to do with holding your ground than holding your nose.

It’s hard not to come away from the Vanity Fair article without feeling, strangely enough, that the White House is holding Obama back. The gulf between the brilliant young man who wanted to change the world and the stymied president who can barely pass a piece of legislation, the cosmopolitan wearer of the sarong and the lock-step wearer of the flag pin, suggests he could have served the American people far more effectively if he weren’t bogged down being the leader of the free world.

Earth to Meghan: It’s not the “partisanship and pandering.” It’s the Constitution which makes it very difficult to “get things done” without a strong consensus of opinion. Under that constitution, the president must convince a significant majority of the people that his proposals are what’s best for them and the country. Obama’s problem is that he has not convinced a majority of people that, for example, his health care law is a good thing despite spending his first two years in office trying to do just that.

Face it Meghan, Brainy Barry just ain’t all that persuasive, despite his (and his idolators’) rock solid belief in his irresistible “charisma.”

The second bit of campaign shtick came from the Washington Post in a hard-hitting investigative piece exposing, I am not making this up, Mitt Romney’s alleged bullying of a boy in high school because, allegedly, the boy was gay.

High school????

I taught in high schools for more than 30 years, and I can attest that high schools (junior and senior) are horrible places because they are mainly populated by adolescents who are usually extremely unpleasant creatures to be around, most especially in groups; one-on-one they are merely bearable. Thus it is beyond hysterical for a so-called major newspaper to bring up anything (unless it involves criminality) that anyone, be he (or she) prominent or obscure, did in high school.

That being said, it appears that the Post still managed to play fast and loose with the known facts:

…Timed to drop the day after President Obama’s announced embrace of same-sex marriage, the story set the political world atwitter. But earlier today, Breitbart News reported that the Post had inflated witness testimony. The original Washington Post piece stated the following:

“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident.

Yet in an interview with ABC News today, White disowned that characterization:

While the Post reports White as having “long been bothered” by the haircutting incident,” he told ABC News he was not present for the prank, in which Romney is said to have forcefully cut a student’s long hair and was not aware of it until this year when he was contacted by the Washington Post.

White didn’t know about the incident until this year, but the Post reported that he had “long been bothered” by it. We demanded a correction.

So the Washington Post did what no reputable newspaper should ever do when caught falsifying testimony: it made a stealth correction to its own article. The article now reads:

“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and said he has been “disturbed” by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”

The Post did not note that it had made any correction to the article.

It was irresponsible of the Post to run the hit piece in the first place, especially given its obvious bias; to retract a critical phrase and replace it without noting the retraction is just as bad.

But it gets worse. Tonight, Christine Lauber, John Lauber’s sister, said that she didn’t know anything about the bullying incident. More importantly, she said that the story had factual inaccuracies. Betsy Lauber, another of John’s sisters, told ABC News, “The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family.” Said Christine, “If he were alive today, he would be furious [about the story].” Jason Horowitz, the reporter on the Post story, did speak to both sisters and quoted them in the story – but apparently still botched the facts.

The Post piece implies that the Romney incident was somehow the beginning of the end for Lauber:

Sometime in the mid-1990s, David Seed noticed a familiar face at the end of a bar at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

“Hey, you’re John Lauber,” Seed recalled saying at the start of a brief conversation. Seed, also among those who witnessed the Romney-led incident, had gone on to a career as a teacher and principal. Now he had something to get off his chest.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t do more to help in the situation,” he said.

Lauber paused, then responded, “It was horrible.” He went on to explain how frightened he was during the incident, and acknowledged to Seed, “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.”

Lauber died in 2004, according to his three sisters.

But Lauber, at least according to his obituary in the South Bend Tribune, led an incredibly full life. He graduated from Vanderbilt, became a member of the British Horse Society, had his seaman papers, was a licensed mortician in three states and head chef at the Russian River Resort in California, and even served as a civilian contractor to the troops in Iraq. This does not sound like someone crippled by a supposedly crucial incident back in high school.

And as I said, it is only May!

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