Did The Obamas Benefit From Affirmative Action?

Washington Post opinion columnist Ruth Marcus went online today to answer questions. Here’s one, and her answer:

Herndon, Va.: Is an Obama Presidency the end of Affirmative Action? After all, won’t it be incredibly unfair for a kid mailing in her college application from the White House to receive preferential treatment while a kid with better grades from the wrong side of the tracks doesn’t — just because of his race?

Ruth Marcus: Sen. Obama has actually made the point that his daughters may be in a much better position than someone, as you say, from the wrong side of the tracks. But I also think that both Sen. and Mrs. Obama would talk about the importance of affirmative action, practiced appropriately, and the positive role it played in their own successes.

Exactly one year ago yesterday I wrote (here) that we would begin to get some idea of where Barack Obama stands on racial preferences only “when someone asks him whether he believes his daughters deserve preferential treatment because of the color of their (or his) skin.”

No one did. Then, a little over eight months ago Obama stated that his daughters “probably” didn’t deserve preferences because they are “pretty advantaged.” Still, no one asked him if he opposed other “advantaged” minorities continuing to receive preferences because of their race. (See here, here, here, here, and here.)

So far as I know, no one has asked him yet. Nor have I seen either Sen. or Mrs. Obama discuss “the positive role [affirmative action] played in their own successes.” (If I’ve missed such a discussion, which is entirely possible, I trust someone will point me to it.) I would like to see their comments on this subject.

Do either or both of them believe they would not have been admitted to Princeton or Columbia or Harvard without preferential treatment based on their race? Whether she’s proud of it or not, does Mrs. Obama believe that she received preferential treatment based on her race when she was hired by the law firm and hospital that hired her?

Given Sen. Obama’s often professed desire to “transcend” race, I find it more and more surprising that the press has not pressed him on these matters.

Say What? (15)

  1. e February 21, 2008 at 12:04 am | | Reply

    Here are some of my posts on this topic.


    Cobra writes,

    “Come on now…Senator Obama?

    Senator Barack Obama?

    This guy…?”

    “Barack Obama received his bachelor of arts degree in political science from Columbia in 1983, and his J.D., MAGNA CUM LAUDE, from Harvard Law School in 1991. While at Harvard, he served as the president of the Harvard Law Review.


    Thank you again, E for providing another PERFECT example.”


    SO WHAT, Cobra?

    Obama is an Affirmative Action baby! I will prove it to you.

    Cobra, you missed my point completely, because at Harvard Law School, membership in Harvard Law Review is also determined, in part, by racial preferences with RACIAL DE FACTO QUOTAS, as well as grades. Harvard Law Review uses RACE as a huge admissions factor. There is RACE BASED AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR MEMBERSHIP IN HARVARD LAW REVIEW FOR HONOR STUDENTS AT HLS AS WELL, WHICH GIVES BLACK MAGNA CUM LAUDE HARVARD LAW STUDENTS A LEG UP AND A HUGE BOOST OVER THE OTHER MAGNA CUM LAUDE STUDENTS LAW STUDENTS WHO ARE NOT PREFERRED RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITIES. These black magna cum laude students are certainly *QUALIFIED*, but they are not as *EQUALLY QUALIFIED*, ON THE AVERAGE AS A GROUP, as the summa cum laude students or other higher ranked non race and ethnic group preferred magna cum laude students, who are whites/Asians. These whites/Asians were the ones who were denied membership in Harvard Law Review because of their race or ethnicity. BTW, Asians are OVERREPRESENTED at Harvard Law School at 10% its students. Asians are 4% of the American population

    Therefore, in the ZERO SUM GAME of admissions to Harvard Law Review, not all Harvard Law magna cum laude students are able to attain membership. Being magna cum laude may be a minimal qualification for Harvard Law Review. Not all HLS students, who are magna cum laude, are admitted to Harvard Law Review, because of the limited number of spots available. If one is black, and a magna cum laude, one IS GIVEN A RACIAL PREFERENCE OVER OTHER non-black and non-preferred higher ranked students (whites/Asians) who are even summa cum laude students or other higher ranked magna cum laude students. On the average, these higher ranked summa cum laude white/Asian students at Harvard Law, who were denied admission into Harvard Law Review, were displaced by the lower ranked black magna cum laude Harvard Law students, such as Obama, with the use of racial preferences for admissions into Harvard Law Review, thereby tainting the admissions process into Harvard Law Review for honor Harvard Law students.

    Admissions into Harvard Law Review and being “qualified” are all relative. For one of any race and ethnicity, being magna cum laude at Harvard Law School may be a minimal qualification for membership into Harvard Law Review. Being black and magna cum at Harvard Law School is WORTH MORE than being non-black and a member of a non-preferred racial group (white/Asian) in the ZERO SUM game of admissions into Harvard Law Review.

    Cobra, that’s a very simple concept to understand.

    Of course, being President of Harvard Law Review, a political position attained by election via campaigning is due more to Obama’s political skills than his academic skills among his colleagues at the Harvard Law Review.

    Again, with use of racial preferences and race based Affirmative Action in admissions to elite institutions and groups, as in admissions to the Harvard Law Review, being “qualified” or “minimally qualified” DOES NOT MEAN being “equally qualified”, on the average. This is a most important point that you, Cobra, seemed unable to grasp.

    Another point is that the Latin honors of cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude, at least at Harvard College, were given to over the vast majority of the graduating classes. I don’t know what percentage of the Harvard Law students receive Latin honors upon their graduation. I will ask some of the graduates of Harvard Law School to find the answer. As far as I know, Obama, did not receive Latin honors upon graduation from Columbia College, and academically, he certainly did not graduate at the top or even near the top of his class, and yet he received an admission to Harvard Law School, a feat usually given to top students from the undergraduate colleges, including the Ivy, Columbia College. Obama was also given racial preferences in his admission to Columbia College, a feat usually given to top high school students and a few top few college transfer students. Obama transferred into Columbia from Occidental College and he admitted he was not a top student from his previous schools. Obama was given racial preferences in ALL his admissions and he is an Affirmative Action bady, by receiving a leg up and a tremendous boost solely based on his “black race” The irony is that Obama is one half white.


    The following is another post I had made in answer to your question:


    Cobra said,

    “OK, perhaps in your zeal to discredit and attack Senator Obama (you would have the reader believe that graduating from Harvard Law School Magna Cum Laude was a mark of SHAME), perhaps you might read a little more about the process for selecting a President of the Review:”




    In my opinion, this process demeans every black, if there are any, who are able to meet the standards for admission to Law Review that the rest of the group has met in gaining admission. If anything, this policy presents serious doubts regarding every black who is admitted, even though he/she may have met the minimal requirements, including getting magna cum laude as a requirement. The Latin honor of magna cum laude is a meritorious one, but admissions into Harvard Law Review is not necessarily meritorious, because, race based AA is used for blacks, even for magna cum laude blacks.


    2007 Harvard Law Review Membership Selection Policies


    “In recent years, the number of students completing the competition has ranged from 200 to 255. Between 41 and 43 students are invited to join the Review each year.”

    “Fourteen editors (two from each 1L section) are selected based on a combination of their first-year grades and their competition scores. Twenty editors are selected based solely on their competition scores. The remaining editors are selected on a discretionary basis. Some of these discretionary slots may be used to implement the Review’s affirmative action policy.”


    This means the whole selection process is TAINTED, because selection is based on race with de facto racial quotas.

    Again, Obama was magna cum laude, but SO WHAT?

    There are many magna cum laude and summa cum laude whites and Asians, who were more qualified and were denied admissions to Law Review in this ZERO SUM GAME based on race preferences.

    The ONLY WAY to erase these doubts that the readers/posters have is to ELIMINATE the policy of race preferences in admissions to Harvard Law Review. The selection process is absolutely LUDICROUS!

    You cannot have your cake and eat it at the same time, Cobra.

    Thank God, the Nobel Prizes in Science and Medicine or the Lasker Awards in Medical Research are not given with a race based Affirmative Action policy favoring a winner with the preferred skin color. God help us all if this happens.

    BTW, Obama is an Affirmative Action baby, because he was not a stellar student and received race preferences in his admissions to Columbia College, as well as Harvard Law School. Please reread my previous postings.

    Obama’s election as the President of the Harvard Law Review is likely due more to his political skills than his academic skills over the other candidates.



    Hey Cobra,

    You said, “Well, if he’s only “half-black”, shouldn’t you only be criticizing him “half” as much for racial preferences? By your theory, Obama deserves only “half” of your contempt, because technically, he’s “half” white, and therefore, at least half of him “deserved” a spot, and was “entitled” to be at Harvard with the other white kids?”




    That’s what the readers of “Discriminations” have been trying to tell you in a most polite and civil manner, but you lack the ability to understand this or if you do understand, you have a complete denial of the facts. I will give the benefit of the doubt and attribute your refusal to accept the facts as a result of your ignorance, and not your lack of intelligence. Otherwise, I will call your postings RACIST!! Frankly speaking, I think you are intelligent enough to understand the readers/posters, and your refusal to accept their postings is simply RACIST!

    BTW, even Al Sharpton said Obama was “not black enough”. You should ask the Reverend Al what he had in mind when he made this statement.


    I am pointing out the flaws in your posts favoring race preferences which are inherently RACIST. Obama was an example of a major beneficiary of these race preferences, including his admission into Harvard Law Review. This is happening today because of political correctness in the academic community and American politics, not because race preferences are morally just and correct. The tide is turning in American politics to get rid of race preferences in admissions to elite schools.

    Hey Cobra, I also know some Asian American Harvard Law graduates who graduated magna cum laude, as well as summa cum laude, who were either denied admissions to Harvard Law Review or saw Law Review as racially biased in its admissions. Some of these students did not even to apply to Law Review, simply because the admissions process to Harvard Review is TAINTED with RACIAL PREFERENCES. The institution of Law Review at Harvard is tainted because of RACE and de facto racial quotas are used in its admissions process.




    Please make note of the following:

    Obama’s daughters also would definitely be given racial preferences in admissions to the elite colleges, whether they needed them or not. That’s the kicker, when the present system of preferences includes race as a MAJOR DETERMINANT in the zero sum game of admissions using “diversity” as the rationalization for the race preference. This system of preferences may also include the ones for legacies, children of rich and famous VIPs, and the athletic preferences which benefit whites in admissions to the Ivies/Elites, but not exclusively. Collectively these preferences are known as “affirmation action for affluent whites” according to WSJ writer, Daniel Golden. However, blacks can also be beneficiaries of the said preferences.

    Obama’s daughters may be beneficiaries of all these preferences, including the race preference, WHETHER OR NOT THEY WILL EVER NEED THEM FOR ADMISSIONS in our current admissions process to the Ivies/Elites.

    In any case, they will be a shoo-in for admissions, since they will have the best chances any of the applicants, if and when they apply with the current admissions process in place.

    The other KICKER in all this is that we may NEVER KNOW whether or not they will need race based AA for admissions by meeting a lower bar and being given a leg up, if the present system of admissions is used. They may have a “star” next to their accomplishments for many observers, as Barry Bonds will have a “star” on his 755 record breaking home run baseball, thereby tainting his accomplishment.

    Posted by: E | December 10, 2007 6:03 AM

  2. Cobra February 22, 2008 at 3:52 pm | | Reply

    The following are passages about Barack Obama and his stances on Affirmative Action:

    Barack Obama on Affirmative Action:


    Obama on NPR:

    >>>”July 12, 2007; Washington, D.C. – In an interview with Farai Chideya airing tomorrow on NPR News & Notes, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), who is a Democratic presidential hopeful, reinforced his position on affirmative action, saying

    “There is a strong and ongoing intersection between race and class in this country – that racism is still an issue that has to battled. Affirmative action is an important tool, although a limited tool, for us to deal with these issues. I say limited simply because a large portion of our young people right now never even benefit from affirmative action because they’re not graduating from high school. And unless we do a better job with early childhood education, fixing crumbling schools, investing to make sure that we’ve got an excellent teacher in front of every classroom, and then making college affordable, we’re not even going to reach the point where our children can benefit from affirmative action.”


    >>>Barack Obama – “I want to make sure that today’s decision upholding affirmative action remains in force, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all those who make up our nation.”

    Barack Obama – “This administration sought to slam the doors of higher education in the face of African Americans and other minorities. It’s a sad day for the cause of equal opportunity when the President of the United States, the land of opportunity, calls for the Supreme Court to rule against policies that seek to open institutions for historically excluded racial minorities,”

    During Illinois 2004 Senate Race


    >>>Q–”Do you support affirmative action? If you do, why do you think it is a benefit to our country? If not, what do you think would be gained by changing or eliminating it?

    A–I support affirmative action. When there is strong evidence of prolonged and systemic discrimination by organizations, affirmative action may be the only meaningful remedy available. Affirmative action programs, when properly structured, can open up opportunities otherwise closed to qualified minorities without having an adverse impact on the opportunities for whites. And while I support affirmative action for minorities, I also support efforts to increase opportunities for qualified students from low-income college to attend colleges and universities — regardless of their race.”


    Michelle Obama is an interesting case worthy of further discussion. From the Newsweek article:

    >>>”Unlike her husband, who did not know his father well and never had a stable home life, Michelle Robinson was raised in a loving, two-parent family on Chicago’s South Side. Her childhood home, a one-bedroom apartment inside a brick bungalow, isn’t far from the $1.65 million house where the Obamas now live. Her mother, Marian, was a doting presence, a stay-at-home mom who often made lunch for her daughter and friends and listened patiently to all the school gossip.

    But the family’s home life was dominated by her quiet but formidable father, Fraser. Once a gifted athlete, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his 20s. Despite his physical limitations, he woke early each morning and went to work at the municipal water department. A lifelong Democrat, he was a precinct captain.”


    Set the scene readers— Mrs. Obama did NOT grow up “privileged.” A family of four living in a one bedroom apartment in the South Side of Chicago? A father with an debilitating disease working a city job trying to make ends meet? Read on—

    >>>”Her father lived vicariously through the accomplishments of his children. He was especially proud of Michelle’s brother, Craig, a star basketball player whose talent and grades got him a scholarship to Princeton. (He is now head basketball coach at Brown University.)


    Now the question of benefitting from Affirmative Action:

    >>>For Michelle, Craig’s easy success was intimidating. “She was disappointed in herself,” her mother tells NEWSWEEK. “She used to have a little bit of trouble with tests, so she did whatever she had to, to make up for that. I’m sure it was psychological because she was hardworking and she had a brother who could pass a test just by carrying a book under his arm. When you are around someone like that, even if you are OK, you want to be as good or better.”

    …She did well in school (she skipped second grade), but she was not at the top of her class. She didn’t get the attention of the school’s college counselors, who helped the brightest students find spots at prestigious universities.

    “Princeton, the Ivy Leagues swoop up kids” like Craig, Michelle says. “A black kid from the South Side of Chicago that plays basketball and is smart. He was getting in everywhere. But I knew him, and I knew his study habits, and I was, like, ‘I can do that too’.”

    Some of her teachers told her she didn’t have the grades or test scores to make it to the Ivies. But she applied to Princeton and was accepted.”


    So was she a beneficiary of Affirmative Action? Occassional Discriminations poster, eugenics monger, and Aryan ascendancy advocate Steve Sailer opines:

    >>>”If she’d gone to, say, the University of Illinois or wherever she would have gotten in without affirmative action, she wouldn’t have spent four years knowing that she was below the student body average in intelligence; she wouldn’t have spent four years worrying that everybody else was noticing she wasn’t as smart as the average; and she wouldn’t have spend four years, plus the next 22, hating them for noticing it.”


    Michelle Obama herself?

    >>>”Overwhelmingly white and privileged, Princeton was not an easy place for a young black woman from the inner city. There weren’t formal racial barriers and black students weren’t officially excluded. But many of the white students couldn’t hide that they regarded their African- American classmates as affirmative-action recipients who didn’t really deserve to be there…

    …Acree, Michelle and another black student, Suzanne Alele, became inseparable companions. The three of them talked often about the racial divide on campus—especially how white students they knew from class would pass them on the green and pretend not to see them.

    “It was, like, here comes a black kid,” says Acree. The black students tended to hang out together at the Third World Center, a social club on campus, while the white party scene revolved around Princeton’s eating clubs.

    …Michelle felt the tension acutely enough that she made it the subject of her senior sociology thesis, titled “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community.” The paper is now under lock and key, but according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Michelle wrote that Princeton “made me far more aware of my ‘blackness’ than ever before.” She wrote that she felt like a visitor on the supposedly open-minded campus. “Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with Whites at Princeton,” she wrote, “it often seems as if, to them, I will always be Black first and a student second.”


    Wow. Hostility against minorities? Whites making non-whites feel they don’t DESERVE to be in the same place? Where have I have I heard this before? Well, of course, judging by this background information, knowing that there were many Whites who felt that she wasn’t “qualified” to be there, Michelle Obama must’ve certainly done poorly at Princeton, right? Miserable failure, huh?

    >>>”Instead, Michelle was determined to prove that no matter how she got there, she deserved her place in the class: she graduated with departmental honors and was accepted to Harvard Law School.”


    And what does she think herself?

    >>>”Michelle recalls things differently. A campaign spokeswoman says she had an edge getting into Princeton not because of affirmative action, but because her older brother was there as a scholar athlete. She was a “legacy,” just like any other applicant with family ties to Princeton. Her aides say Michelle earned her way into Harvard on merit by distinguishing herself at Princeton.


    Now, most anti-affirmative action types here at Discriminations don’t seem to have a problem with Legacies or “family preferences”. My sneaky suspicion is because most Legacies at colleges they actually CARE about are White students.

    But that’s another discussion, right?


  3. Cobra February 22, 2008 at 4:44 pm | | Reply

    Oh, and since we’re discussing Presidential Candidates and Affirmative Action….

    Just to remain “Fair and Balanced”, what is Sen. John McCain’s position on Affirmative Action?

    >>>”Affirmative action OK for specific programs, but no quotas.

    McCain supports the following principles regarding affirmative action and discrimination:

    · The federal government should continue affirmative action programs only if such programs do not include quotas

    · The Federal Government should consider affirmative action programs if ordered by a court to rectify specific programs.

    Source: Project Vote Smart, 1998, http://www.vote-smart.org Jul 2, 1998


    >>>” The third presidential hopeful of the day, Republican Sen. John McCain cautiously backed affirmative action as a means of leveling the playing field in the United States.

    “We do not have sufficient opportunities,” said McCain, who took pains not to praise or condemn Initiative 200.”


    >>>” Multiculturalism is more than language, of course. McCain has also supported racial preferences and racial-identity politics. As Ward Connerly wrote in NR:

    [In 1996], when a number of Republicans and others in Arizona sought to pass a bill in that state’s legislature outlawing race preferences, we were told by several Republican legislators that they had received calls from Sen. John McCain urging them not to support such a measure because — again, as always — it might “send the wrong message.”


    >>>” Words: McCain generally supports civil rights and supports affirmative action for specific programs, but without quotas. He is also a long-time advocate Native American rights.

    “Better to suffer for a good cause than live safely without one. Dr. King’s cause was the dignity of his race and the full realization of America’s founding values. He is, rightly, held up as an exemplar of moral courage.”

    Actions: McCain voted FOR banning affirmative action hiring with federal funds (1995), AGAINST ending special funding for minority- and women-owned business (1997), and FOR setting aside 10% of highway funds for minorities and women (1998). The NAACP has given McCain a rating of 5%.”


    And just to be academically even handed

    about College careers, grades and educational backgrounds….

    >>>” In a thousand and one ways, John McCain remains irresistible—to anyone who ever screwed up in school, fell short of expectations, blew his stack, or gave his all to a losing cause. He is a born rebel, who once confessed that he had spent the bulk of his time at the Naval Academy “being made an example of, marching many miles of extra duty for poor grades, tardiness, messy quarters, slovenly appearance, sarcasm, and multiple other violations of Academy standards.” In his third year at Annapolis, he was so fed up he considered joining the French Foreign Legion, until, he said, he realized it required an enlistment of eight years.”


  4. E February 23, 2008 at 8:24 am | | Reply


    Did The Obamas Benefit From Affirmative Action?

    Both Barack and Michelle are beneficiaries of race based Affirmative Action. Their children will also benefit from race preferences, despite being privileged, legacies and daughters of VIPs. Why should their children benefit from race preferences? If Obama wins the Democratic nomination for the Presidency and it appears that he will, it will be due more to liberal white guilt, which is one of the main reasons racial preferences and AA still exist today. This is another form of racism from flaming guilt-ridden whites and black pro race based AA advocates.

  5. Bill February 23, 2008 at 9:43 am | | Reply

    It is difficult to evaluate Obama’s graduating with magna cum laude from Harvard Law without knowing the criteria for the honor.

    An anecdote.

    JFK also graduated from Harvard MCL. At the JFK Library there is displayed a copy of his Harvard report card. It shows that JFK was solid low “B” and “C” student in the classroom.

    So, how then did JFK graduate MCL, the second highest academic honor there is at Harvard?

    The answer is his senior thesis. JFK wrote (allegedly) a highly regarded thesis about British appeasement that was later turned into a best selling book. The quality of the thesis as determined by the faculty was sufficient by itself to earn JFK MCL honors.

    So what was the standard at Harvard Law for MCL when Obama got it. Does any President of the Law Review NOT graduate MCL?

    In other words, without knowing the specifics of Obama’s Occidental GPA, his Columbia GPA, his LSAT score and his Law School GPA it is it impossible to judge the extent to which Obama (and his wife Michelle) personally benefitted from affirmative action.

    Significantly, Obama was the extremely rare Harvard Law President to never be published in the Review. How does that reflect on his academic accomplishments?

  6. Shouting Thomas February 23, 2008 at 10:08 am | | Reply

    “Occassional Discriminations poster, eugenics monger, and Aryan ascendancy advocate Steve Sailer opines…”

    Cobra, your writing would be so much better if you’d restrain yourself from these outrageous blowhard outbreaks.

    I start reading your pretend “scholarly” writing, then I come across these inevitable lunatic statements, and I immediately stop.

    Why waste my time on somebody who’s just indulging his own racist hatreds? I bet you’d be surprised how many people react precisely as I do. When you go off like this, I question your sanity… not the sanity of your hated target.

    Don’t you have something better to do with your time than this wallowing in racial hatred? The person who is suffering from your bizarre, bitter and demented hatred is… you.

    That’s why I don’t even both much anymore. I figure, if you want to destroy yourself with these obsessions… go ahead. One less competitor in the real world. You win the imaginary argument with a strawman. I win the job and the money.

  7. Cobra February 23, 2008 at 5:24 pm | | Reply

    Bill writes:

    >>>”In other words, without knowing the specifics of Obama’s Occidental GPA, his Columbia GPA, his LSAT score and his Law School GPA it is it impossible to judge the extent to which Obama (and his wife Michelle) personally benefitted from affirmative action.”

    Just on a whim, have you studied, (beyond JFK) the academic records of EVERY SINGLE candidate for President of the United States and their spouses with the same criteria? One can’t make a comparison of a “racial prefrence” recipient to another “prefence recipient” (Both President Bush’s received prefrences to attend Yale) without the contrast.

    Try the example of oh, say…

    Senator John McCain:

    >>>”Senator John McCain was born in Coco Solo in the U.S controlled Panama Canal Zone to Scottish-American parents. Both his father and grandfather were prominent U.S. Navy admirals (John S. McCain, Jr. and John S. McCain, Sr.). He attended Episcopal High School and graduated in 1954. That fall, McCain, like his father and grandfather, entered the United States Naval Academy. He has admitted that he disliked the life of a midshipman. Accordingly, McCain was a lackluster student and received many demerits. He graduated in 1958, and joked that he had followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom had graduated very low in their respective classes at Annapolis. McCain graduated 894th out of a class of 899.”


    E writes:

    >>>”If Obama wins the Democratic nomination for the Presidency and it appears that he will, it will be due more to liberal white guilt, which is one of the main reasons racial preferences and AA still exist today. This is another form of racism from flaming guilt-ridden whites and black pro race based AA advocates.”

    Perhaps you’re not up on current events, E. I know bashing blacks can be time consumming, but let me fill you in on a little something dated February 20, 2008…

    >>>”George W. Bush’s overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling as 78% of Americans say that the national economy is getting worse according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

    Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush’s handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.

    Among Americans registered to vote, 18% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 78% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 15% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 79% disapprove.

    A total of 78% of Americans say the national economy is getting worse and 47% say the national economy is in a recession. A total of 42% of Americans, however, say they believe the national economy will be better a year from now, which is the highest level for this question in the past year. This optimism does not spread to improvements in household financial situations as 17% of Americans say they expect their household financial situations to be better a year from now, which is the lowest for this question in the past year.”


    The American People want CHANGE, E. Listen to the words of the alternative,

    Senator John McCain:


    You’ve got to be kidding me, E.

    Stephen writes:

    >>>”I bet you’d be surprised how many people react precisely as I do.”

    Stephen, c’mon. After all these years you should know this better than anyone else–

    Nothing…and I do mean NOTHING you do surprises me.


  8. anon February 26, 2008 at 7:34 pm | | Reply

    I haven’t read the shouting match in the comments between E and Cobra, so I don’t know if this point has been brought up yet. But, shouldn’t the benefits the Obamas have received from affirmative action programs be balanced against the costs they’ve suffered because of AA programs? For instance Michelle Obama’s thesis excerpts suggest that she felt marginalized at Princeton, possibly because of the sentiment that she was only there because of Affirmative Action. It’s possible that the Obamas were adversely affected by some discrimination against them–not necessarily racial discrimination, but discrimination against AA recipients in general.

  9. E February 27, 2008 at 6:39 am | | Reply


    February 26, 2008

    How Much Does Race Matter to Obama?

    A column in yesterday’s National Journal explores Barack Obama’s statements about race and the use of racial preferences in college-admissions decisions.

    In the article, Stuart Taylor Jr. argues that there is a “contradiction” between the Illinois senator’s history of advocating for racial preferences and the chants of his supporters that “race doesn’t matter.”

    Mr. Taylor said that that apparent contradiction also extends to the “logical implications” of Mr. Obama’s statement in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC last year, in which the senator said that he perceives his daughters to be “pretty advantaged” and that university admissions officers should probably treat them that way.

    In an interview with The Chronicle that was conducted by e-mail in the fall, Mr. Obama responded at length to two questions about his views on the use of race in admissions decisions, including an inquiry about the implications of his response to Mr. Stephanopoulos.

    In the interview, Mr. Obama reaffirmed his support for affirmative action, saying that when such policies are “properly structured,” they can “open up opportunities to qualified minorities —- and can do so without diminishing opportunities for white students.”

    At the same time that the nation should work to increase educational opportunities for racial minority groups, he said in the interview, it should also work to increase opportunities for low-income students of all races. The two goals, he emphasized, should not be considered mutually exclusive.

    “I think what we can say is that in our society, race and class still intersect,” he added, “that there are a lot of African-American kids who are still struggling, that even those who are in the middle class may be first-generation as opposed to fifth- or sixth-generation college attendees, and that we all have an interest in bringing as many people together [as we can] to help build this country.”

    A full transcript of that interview can be found here.




    Obama Logic Versus Racial Preferences

    By Stuart Taylor Jr., National Journal

    © National Journal Group Inc.

    Monday, Feb. 25, 2008

    I think that my daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged, and I think that there’s nothing wrong with us taking that into account as we consider admissions policies at universities. I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed. — Barack Obama, May 13, 2007

    This Obama response to a question by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about whether the children of two well-off Harvard law graduates should “get affirmative action” (meaning racial preferences) has potentially radical implications for a Democratic presidential contender.

    Were Obama to call for a halt to racially preferential affirmative action, it might well deliver the nomination to Clinton.

    Although Obama has often embraced racial preferences, the above-quoted statements — as well as his inspirational rhetoric about getting away from racial categorizing — are hard to reconcile either with the regime of racial preferences that now pervades this country or with Democratic orthodoxy on the subject.

    Obama seemed to imply that “advantaged” African-Americans should not receive affirmative-action preferences — at least, not at the expense of less advantaged Asian-Americans or whites — in college admissions, or (one might extrapolate) other walks of life.

    But most recipients of racial preferences are relatively advantaged. According to the most comprehensive survey of the relevant data, although white students are wealthier on average, 86 percent of the black students (and 98 percent of whites) enrolled in 28 selective colleges came from middle- or upper-class backgrounds. (The numbers come from a 1998 book, The Shape of the River, by William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, both ardent champions of racial preferences.)

    Similarly, it appears that selective colleges pass over many not-so-affluent (as well as affluent), better-qualified Asian-American and white kids to make room for more affluent black and Hispanic students. A subset of these passed-over whites and Asian-Americans “have grown up in poverty,” in Obama’s words. Indeed, a 2004 study found that only 3 percent of the students at 146 selective institutions were from the bottom 25 percent of the socioeconomic ladder. A recent study also found that high-achieving Asian-Americans have lost out more than whites under selective universities’ racial-preference regime for blacks and Hispanics.

    What we have here is a contradiction between the logical implications of Obama’s response to Stephanopoulos — not to mention his supporters’ chants that “race doesn’t matter” — and his history of advocating racial preferences.

    Other writers, including Mickey Kaus of Slate, Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation (also writing in Slate), and Terry Eastland of The Weekly Standard, have suggested that Obama should try “abandoning race-based preferences,” in Kaus’s words. Kahlenberg says that the acid test will come when Obama has to take a position on the ballot initiatives that would ban state-imposed preferences in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma; he opposed a similar initiative in Michigan in 2006.

    Such a Nixon-goes-to-China surprise might be too abrupt to hope for from a candidate whose party now sees racial preferences as an article of faith and whose strongest supporters are black voters. Indeed, were Obama to call today for a halt to racially preferential affirmative action, it might well deliver the nomination to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    But I do hope to see Obama at least acknowledge that it’s time to start phasing out racial preferences and replacing them with special consideration for promising low-income kids without regard to race. Indeed, Obama might need to go at least that far to win the general election if the Republicans are smart enough to shine a spotlight on the logical implications of his response to Stephanopoulos and of his post-racial campaign posture.

    The Republican nominee could say during the debates, or Republicans could say in campaign ads: “Senator Obama, in May 2007 you suggested that colleges should stop giving racial preferences to affluent, advantaged African-Americans and instead give special consideration to disadvantaged kids of all races. But at other times you have supported the current regime of giving racial preferences to affluent black students, in many cases, at the expense of less affluent, better-qualified Asian-Americans and whites. Aren’t you being inconsistent? Which is it? Do you want to continue favoring upper-income blacks over less affluent whites and Asian-Americans, or not?

    “Also, do you agree with the suggestion made five years ago by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and her four most liberal colleagues that racial preferences should be phased out within no more than 25 years? Isn’t it already time at least to start moving away from counting by race? Or do you want to perpetuate preferences into the indefinite future?”

    Republicans could also put a spotlight on the magnitude and social costs of the current racial-preference regime by publicizing recent studies that show how the double standard thrusts many supposed beneficiaries into academic competition for which they are so unprepared that they fail, drop out, or lose confidence.

    Such a line of argument could put Obama in a tight spot. If he were to embrace the current racial-preference regime, he would forfeit his appeal to many whites (and perhaps Asian-Americans) who might otherwise vote for him.

    Polls have long shown racial preferences to be very unpopular — even among many blacks — except when camouflaged by misleading euphemisms such as “affirmative action” and “diversity.” In a Newsweek poll last July, for example, 82 percent of respondents said that race should not be “allowed as a factor in making decisions about employment and education”; only 14 percent said that race should be allowed. And as the centrist Democratic Leadership Council asserted in 1995, racially preferential affirmative action “divides Americans most dramatically along racial lines” and makes it more difficult “to transcend racial difference.”

    If, on the other hand, Obama were to call the Republicans’ bluff by saying that it’s time to start moving from racial preferences to special consideration for promising poor kids of all races, he would infuriate many of his supporters. But he might also win far more votes than it would cost him.

    And by reclaiming Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that people should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, Obama could make his party and the country stronger and more united in the long run.

    To be sure, a move away from racial preferences would, if implemented, somewhat reduce minority admissions to selective universities in the short run. But as Kahlenberg has written, “class-based affirmative-action programs would still benefit African-Americans more than other groups, given the unfortunately strong link between race and class in American society.”

    An Obama move away from racial preferences would also require him to moderate (if not abandon) some of his own past pro-preference assertions. He has, for example, stressed that the need for “diversity” and “people of all backgrounds” in educational institutions justifies racially exclusive scholarship programs. He opposed the 2006 ballot initiative in which Michigan’s voters banned state-sponsored racial preferences 58 percent to 42 percent. He assailed the Bush administration five years ago for seeking “to slam the doors of higher education in the face of African-Americans and other minorities” by opposing racial preferences in two University of Michigan admissions cases.

    And while saying in that May 2007 Stephanopoulos interview that racially preferential affirmative action could become “a diminishing tool for us to achieve racial equality in this society,” Obama suggested that the diminishing should come only after “we improve K-12 education” to prepare more minority kids for academic competition.

    That could be read as hinting that Obama is so wedded to maximizing racial diversity that he wants affluent black kids from good schools to keep getting preferences over less affluent white (and Asian-American) kids until K-12 education for less fortunate black kids improves. If so, his position is not so different from that of the racial-preference lobby after all.

    For the fact is that K-12 education, especially for poor blacks, is not getting much better and in some ways may be getting worse. And there appears to be little hope for changing that — no matter how much more money we spend on schools — unless and until we make it easier to remove chronically disruptive kids from classrooms and to reward the best teachers and fire the worst. That would require taking on other core Democratic constituencies by cutting through the regulatory and legal thickets that have paralyzed school discipline and overriding the power of the teachers unions.

    Dare we hope that Obama might someday call for such radical steps? Not a chance. Not, that is, unless he is really, really serious about being the candidate of change and opening opportunities for the least fortunate among us.

    — Stuart Taylor Jr. is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal magazine, where “Opening Argument” appears. His e-mail address is email hidden; JavaScript is required.

    [ Opening Argument Archives ]

  10. E February 27, 2008 at 6:52 am | | Reply



    November 12, 2007

    A Chronicle Q&A with Barack Obama

    Barack Obama responded via email to questions from The Chronicle. Here is a transcript of the exchange.

    Q. On the same subject, you said in an ABC interview that your daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as people who are “pretty advantaged.” What did you mean by that? Should an applicant’s race play a role in whether he or she is admitted to a college if that person is from a middle- or upper-income background? Please explain.

    A. My daughters are the children of a very talented and accomplished woman, and of a U.S. Senator. They are growing up in a neighborhood which provides the benefits of one of our nation’s great universities. They attend an excellent school. That seems pretty advantaged to me.

    I think that my daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged, and I think that there’s nothing wrong with us taking that into account as we consider admissions policies at universities.

    I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed. So I don’t think those concepts are mutually exclusive.

    I think what we can say is that in our society race and class still intersect, that there are a lot of African-American kids who are still struggling, that even those who are in the middle class may be first-generation as opposed to fifth- or sixth-generation college attendees, and that we all have an interest in bringing as many people

    together [as we can] to help build this country.


    Legacies of Injustice

    Alumni preferences threaten educational equity–and no one seems to care.

    Shikha Dalmia | February 2008 Print Edition

    College-bound high school students do not always lose their chastity before graduation, but they certainly lose their innocence. Nearly every senior who has gone through the admissions mill can recount stories of peers with outstanding academic records—class valedictorians with stellar SATs and perfect GPAs—who were passed over by top colleges while others with far more modest credentials got the nod. The New York Times reports that Harvard turned down 1,100 applicants with perfect 800s on the math SAT this year. Yale rejected several with perfect 2400s on the three-part SAT exam. Princeton said no to thousands with 4.0 GPAs.

    To many frustrated parents, one word de-scribes the admissions process at America’s elite universities: arbitrary. But that’s not the word admissions officials use, as I discovered two summers ago when I toured a dozen or so East Coast campuses with my son, a high school junior at the time. Asked what kind of grades and scores made kids competitive for their schools, officials in university after university insisted, as if reading off the same memo, that the review process was “holistic,” “comprehensive,” or “individualized.” Grades, we were repeatedly told, “are only one among many factors we consider.”

    Another such factor is race. Nearly every selective college, public and private, gives a sizable edge to underrepresented minorities. Before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions criteria in Gratz v. Bollinger (2003), the school relied on a complicated rating system that awarded points for several personal and academic factors, including skin color. Black and Hispanic candidates automatically got 20 points. A great essay counted for only one point; a perfect SAT score, a mere 12.

    But as Justice Clarence Thomas observed in his dissent in a companion case, race is not the only factor that distorts college admission decisions. “The entire [college admission] process is poisoned by numerous exceptions to ‘merit,’ ” he noted.

    The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Golden exposes those other exceptions in his 2006 book The Price of Admission. Golden shows that elite schools routinely hand preferences to athletes; to the children of faculty, celebrities, and politicians; to “development cases” whose fabulously wealthy parents offer hefty donations up front; and, above all, to the offspring of alumni. Universities expect the parents of these “legacy” candidates to contribute to their coffers after their children are admitted.

    Robert Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, told Golden that at one Ivy League school only 40 percent of the seats are open to candidates competing on pure educational merit. According to a 2005 study by the Princeton sociologists Tom Espenshade and Chang Y. Chung, in 1997 nearly two-thirds of all these non-race-based preferences at elite universities benefited whites, even though whites comprised less than half of all applicants that year.

    We have a vigorous national movement to eradicate racial or minority preferences, at least in public universities. In 2006 Michigan became the third state in the country after California and Washington to approve a ballot measure imposing a constitutional ban on the use of race in admissions at state-run schools and in government hiring decisions. And this year the author of all those bans—Ward Connerly, a black California businessman—is stepping up his crusade. He has launched petition drives in Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, and Arizona to put similar measures before voters in November.

  11. Bill February 27, 2008 at 11:21 pm | | Reply

    I’ll preface this observation by disclosing that I would be delighted if highly selective educational institutions did awy with legacy preferences or preferences for tailbacks who run the 40 in under 4.5 or any of a hundred other preferences that irrelevant to academics.

    But what distinguishes those preferences from race or gender preferences is the Equal Protection clause of the 14th amendment. That amendment states simply that the government should not be in the business of classifying us by our skin color, hair texture, and genitalia. There is no good motive exception to this.

  12. Cobra February 28, 2008 at 10:51 am | | Reply

    anon writes:

    >>>”For instance Michelle Obama’s thesis excerpts suggest that she felt marginalized at Princeton, possibly because of the sentiment that she was only there because of Affirmative Action. It’s possible that the Obamas were adversely affected by some discrimination against them–not necessarily racial discrimination, but discrimination against AA recipients in general.”

    OK. What was the excuse for marginalizing underrepresented minorities PRIOR to 1970?

    What is the excuse for marginalizing underrepresented minorities TODAY in states where these anti-afffirmative action schemes have been implemented?

    Bill writes:

    >>>”But what distinguishes those preferences from race or gender preferences is the Equal Protection clause of the 14th amendment. That amendment states simply that the government should not be in the business of classifying us by our skin color, hair texture, and genitalia. There is no good motive exception to this.”

    Is your argument that the 14th Amendment solved the problem of discrimination in America immediately after it was ratified? If you say it did NOT, then please explain why discrimination continues in America more than a century later?


  13. JW March 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm | | Reply

    In this contest between race based special pleading and reason, perhaps it would help to step back and examine Barack Obama’s preferential treatment under Affirmative Action from a broader perspective. Affirmative Action as policy was promoted for the ostensible purpose of reveresing the consequences of prior discrimination. But in what way were the ancestors of Barack Obama subjected to discrimination? His mother was a white woman from Kansas; his father a black man from the shores of Lake Victoria, in Kenya. If we can agree to exempt the case of the mother, who was white and presumably did not suffer discriminatin, let us consider the father. Born on the shores of Lake Victoria, the senior Obama benefitted from the “Airlift” of the 1960s under which young black Africans were granted US scholarships and flown to the States. He was admitted to the University of Hawaii at the request of a Kenyan cabinet minister. After divorcing his white American wife and abandoning the two year old Barack, he returned to Kenya where he became an economist in the government Treasurey Department. There is scant hint of discrimination by the United States or its citizens in this bio! Setting aside the moral legitimacy of any race based policy such as Affirmative Action, Barack Obama was in no rational sense entitled to special treatment based on historic discrimination. To the extent that there was discrimination in his family background, he was the beneficiary of it, as was his father.

  14. karla January 21, 2009 at 10:23 am | | Reply

    Martin Luther King Jr. presented a philosophy of restoration, NOT restitution for past sins/wrongs done to African Americans. King believed forgiveness would wipe the slate clean and merit/”character” should be the standard for a level playing field/opportunity. It’s unfortunate that my 4 boys will have to face discrimination in college applications due to reverse discrimation, ie. “affirmative action.” AA doesn’t fix the problem, but creates a new segment of embittered Americans who don’t understand why their are 2 sets of rules…one for ‘special minorities’ and one for the rest.

  15. […] Did he accidentally reveal that he was the beneficiary of some government initiative, perhaps affirmative action? Or maybe that someone else, like Bill Ayers, wrote Dreams From My […]

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