Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Insulting Two Presidents

On the eve of the presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington, an advocate of affirmative action programs in higher education managed to insult both of the Presidents who will serve the United States during this 24-hour period, virtually without taking a breath.

On National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" on January 19, Shanta Driver, chairperson of By Any Means Necessary, a national advocacy group, was a guest discussing the future of affirmative action programs along with John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute. (Charlottesville's Dahlia Lithwick gave an overview of the issue earlier in the program.)

Just past the middle of the discussion, Driver said:

It obviously made a difference for Barack Obama to have been able to go to Harvard and without affirmative action programs, he wouldn't have been able to go there.
The only inference to make from that statement is that Barack Obama was, absent affirmative action based on race, otherwise unqualified to be a Harvard law student. What a low opinion Driver has of the 44th president! (That Obama had earlier graduated from Columbia University, spent several years after college as a community organizer, and then went on to become editor of the Harvard Law Review, belies Driver's insulting insinuation.)

Driver is, however, an equal-opportunity snob. She quickly went on to say about the 43rd president:
[Minority students] never have the opportunity to be able to get the same kind of education as lots and lots and lots of white students at those universities, who are there purely because their parents went there and their grandparents went there and they're legacy admits, as George Bush was at Yale, who are clearly not qualified to be at those elite institutions...
That's quite an accusation, considering that George Bush earned better grades at Yale than were earned by his contemporary, John Kerry. Bush went on to earn an MBA at Harvard (where he was not a "legacy admit") and had a life of ups and downs leading to the ultimate success of being elected President of the United States.

Let me make it clear that I believe that both Barack Obama and George Bush were qualified to be students at Harvard University, even without programs that tip the scales on the basis of some irrelevant characteristic such as from which gene pool the academic candidates emerge.

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