Rachel Swarns of the Times delivers a comedy classic in trying to
whitewash cover Obama's evolving views on affirmative action. Over the past twenty years Obama has been all over the map, which is fair enough - people ought to be allowed to change their thinking as they accumulate new experiences and encounter new ideas. However, as the Times reporting makes clear, most of Obama's new thinking seems to be about how best to position himself politically on this topic.
No matter - the biggest howler is in the fifth paragraph:
His ruminations about shifting the balance between race and class in some affirmative action programs raise the possibility that, if elected in November, he might foster a deeper national conversation about an issue that has been fiercely debated for decades. He declined to comment for this article.
I can hardly wait - Obama is so eager for a national conversation on affirmative action that he won't talk to the Times about it, but we can look to the day when he shines his light into the darkness of America's soul. Please.
The Times appreciation (or anticipation) of Obama's nuance provides a nice companion piece to "Barack Obama's Lost Years" by Stanley Kurtz in the Weekly Standard. There was a politician who favored minority set-asides!
MORE: Obama has personal experience of the notion that affirmative action stigmatizes black achievement:
Mr. Obama was sympathetic to minority students who argued that affirmative action undermined them in the eyes of their white colleagues. But he said he never felt that way at Harvard.
“I have not personally felt stigmatized,” Mr. Obama wrote in his letter to the editor in 1990.
That changed after law school.
A federal judge once asked a friend of Mr. Obama’s whether he had been “elected on the merits” as law review president, Mr. Obama told The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education in 2001. He said the question came up again when he applied for a job as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.
Mr. Obama has not described how he felt then. But as a state senator, he spoke with empathy about accomplished minority students at elite universities who sometimes lived “under a cloud they could not erase.”
However, Ms. Swarns can't make the intellectual leap necessary to connect that stigma to this:
Studies suggest that employers often favor white job seekers over black applicants, even when their educational backgrounds and work experiences are nearly identical.
I can't dredge up any links [Yes We Can!] but I am certain this was kicked around here a few years back, when an economist wrote about discrimination against people with "black-sounding" names in resumes that were mailed to prospective employers. One of my points was that if the two people have seemingly equal resumes but one has had a consistent opportunity to benefit from affirmative action, than the resumes are not really equal, now are they?
Question: Did Republican Sen. John McCain benefit from affirmative action?
Not so fast - John McCain benefited from a legacy preference at the Naval Academy, if "legacy preference" is broadly defined to include being given additional opportunities to have your sorry ass shot at. Tricky call - Obama can go on for half an hour about service to the United States without ever mentioning military service, so maybe getting shot at is not a real benefit.
The North Vietnamese also offered McCain an early release based on his legacy status, but McCain turned then down.