Obama and Presidential History

I've been learning a lot from the commenters on this site the past few weeks. Yesterday I wrote up this this New Yorker interview with Barack Obama from November, 2006, before he decided to run for President. I missed this statement by Obama, noted by Facta in Verba in the comments:

“By the way,” just as an aside. You know, I’m not a historian, so— There’s a hotel, I think it’s the Capitol Hilton, in Washington; and downstairs, where there are a lot of banquet halls, there’s a whole row of all the presidents. You walk by the forty-three that have been there and you realize there are only about ten who you have any idea what they did.

That's pretty funny. Especially coming from someone who taught Constitutional Law and is running for the Presidency. I wonder which ten Presidents they are.

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  • As a historian, (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by NJDem on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 02:45:12 PM EST
    I found this odd too?  It's like, you do know you're running for president, right?  

    Wait until Newt hears about this!

    (p.s. that entire New Yorker piece was quite interesting--thanks to whomever first referenced it!)  

    now that i know at least 2 historians (none / 0) (#119)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:35:18 PM EST
    are commenting here, i have a question for you:  how do you guys feel when people re-write history like many have done in this election?

    yikes (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Nasarius on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 02:47:31 PM EST
    I'm just some guy with a public school education, who's interested in politics, but I can count 15 I know fairly well without leaving the 20th century. It gets sketchy before that, but add another five I think.

    The Quote Was Not (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 02:50:47 PM EST
    About a list, it was about knowing what they did.

    hm? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Nasarius on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 02:56:55 PM EST
    Yes, that's why I said "know fairly well."

    But he's running for president! (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by NJDem on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 02:53:04 PM EST
    He's not just anybody!  He's supposed to know these things.  

    If HRC had said this--forget about it!  We're talking front page stuff on HuffP.

    He Was Making A Generalization (none / 0) (#9)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:00:56 PM EST
    And being a presidential historian is not is certainly not necessary for doing the job.

    Do you think that most US presidents knew all about the presidents before them and what they did?


    JFK knew his history, and (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:21:36 PM EST
    BO does try to model himself on JFK. So he doesn't need to write books, but he could read some more.

    Read Some More? (none / 0) (#33)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:30:57 PM EST
    Do you think he is too illiterate? What do you know about how many books he has read?

    Oh, I guess you are just riffing on his off the cuff comment about presidents. Must be fun to put down someone more accomplished than you. Funny it is not a turn on for me.


    Okay, let me make it universal advice (none / 0) (#43)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:46:32 PM EST
    Everyone should read more history.

    . . . but especially those who think (none / 0) (#45)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:47:30 PM EST
    they can change it. If they don't know what it was, they might just repeat the mistakes of the past. . . .

    OK (none / 0) (#47)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:00:42 PM EST
    Do you know about how much history Obama knows? If that is really one of your criteria for POTUS, would you support Obama if he gets a higher grade than HRC on a history test?

    Thought so. YOu are just having fun at Obama's expense, based on nothing.


    This is the biggest (none / 0) (#129)
    by andrewwm on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:13:29 PM EST
    logical failure of the 20th century. People are always learning the wrong lessons from history, and most "pop history" is so poorly written that I'd rather people not read it at all.

    If Obama is reading academic papers from true historians, then great. But I wouldn't want anyone reading all of the crap pop history available to be learning lessons from it, especially our next president.


    those who do not know history are (none / 0) (#133)
    by hellothere on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 10:54:32 PM EST
    doomed to repeat it. duh!

    bill clinton did. he's a voracious (none / 0) (#86)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:00:36 PM EST
    student of history.

    And that helped him how? (none / 0) (#128)
    by andrewwm on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:11:29 PM EST
    What accomplishments can you attribute to this?

    only twice elected dem (none / 0) (#130)
    by english teacher on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:41:51 PM EST
    president since fdr need i say more?

    even better, why don't you expound (none / 0) (#134)
    by hellothere on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 10:55:33 PM EST
    and tell where his knowing hurt him in anyway. come on, we are waiting. tick, tick, tick!

    Okay, Obama was born in 1961, right? (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by p lukasiak on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:01:36 PM EST
    So his list of 10 includes Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, and Carter, Ford, and Nixon.  That's seven.  I mean, I'm no presidential expert, and since I'm 7 years older, I have to include Johnson and Kennedy to my list of "lived through them" presidents.  

    And I'm not a historian, or a constitutional law lecturer, but I can sure as heck name lots more than 3 additional ones that I can say what they did.


    Even with the context (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by Anne on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:39:13 PM EST
    Obama's answer doesn't make any more sense - to me, anyway.

    There were two questions: (1) what is "being ready?" and (2) do you share the assessment that Bush 43 is the worst president ever?

    Now, he gives an answer about what "being ready" means - you have to know the gravity of the job, and you have to have vision and judgment.  

    My take on that is that every person who runs believes that he or she has the vision and judgment, and only a fool would not understand how serious a job it is, so by that measure, we're all probably "ready" to be president.

    Of Clinton, Obama and McCain, only Clinton has seen the job of president from the inside.  While it is true that she wasn't the one making the decisions, or having to be accountable for them, she still understands the gravity of the job in a way none of the other candidates do because she lived it.

    Now, on the rest of his comment, it was about as lame as it gets.  Even if I could not tell you what each president has done, I am sufficiently mindful of the burdens and responsibilities of the office that I could say - even off-the-cuff - that every president has changed the course of history in some way.  That a mere man - or woman - has the ability and the power to do that by virtue of being president should be sufficiently humbling to elicit a less dismissive comment.

    That, in my opinion, would tell me that this man has an understanding not just of the gravity of the job, but the magnitude of it and respects even those who may have been more stewards than game-changers.


    Give me a break (none / 0) (#127)
    by andrewwm on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:10:06 PM EST
    what a strained interpretation. Obama's point was that most presidents don't really make a mark. Are you disputing this? How does this at all reflect upon his gravity of the position? That he doesn't know what Ulysses Grant accomplished is a stain on his understanding of gravity is ridiculous.

    It's abundantly obvious (none / 0) (#12)
    by andrewwm on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:05:03 PM EST
    that he said a number off the cuff  to make a point. I'm pretty sure he wasn't sitting down carefully counting them all before making his comment, and I don't know anyone who would be expected to.

    This is pretty thin gruel to attack Obama with, but I suppose it is the weekend and Obama-attackers need some grist for the mill.


    Don't Understand (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:05:22 PM EST
    What you mean... typo?
    ..but I can sure as heck name lots more than 3 additional ones that I can say what they did.

    yes, the pettiness around here (none / 0) (#24)
    by Tano on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:21:42 PM EST
    is getting pretty overwhelming.

    no personal insults here (none / 0) (#29)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:28:21 PM EST
    lose them quick, seriously.

    So (none / 0) (#26)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:23:18 PM EST
    His vision and judgment are substitutes for knowing what each of our Presidents did? I don't think so.

    Van Buren (none / 0) (#75)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:24:53 PM EST
    Chester Arthur--what did they do?

    Warren Harding?  What did he do?

    This is petty.....Obama was using some self-deprecating humor--something that Hillary has never, ever done.....She is always the smartest person in the room having memorized useless trivia better than anyone else....

    Hillary has a singular lack of imagination.  She talks about an in-box Presidency, waiting for problems, or calls, to come to her....She didn't see the road ahead in Iraq, or Iran.....And her only executive experience has been to run her campaign into the ground...


    you're wrong about this. (5.00 / 1) (#88)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:14:44 PM EST
    just to name a couple instances--although i feel a little sheepish pointing this out--she was self-deprecating on tyra and in US magazine.  and setting aside for the moment what this says about our electorate, i'd bet those instances were viewed by more people than the instance cited here.  and besides, i don't think it's about self-deprecating humor here.  i think obama's just used to the obama rules and doesn't care how it comes across to some of us.

    Do not pick on Chester A. Arthur (none / 0) (#143)
    by facta non verba on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 04:55:24 AM EST
    Read my post below. He was a great President. He was also the last incumbent President to seek the nomination and lose it. There is a reason for that. He pissed off the GOP who hated him. The American people loved him. Had he run as Independent he would have won. Here's one quote:

    Publisher Alexander K. McClure recalled, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired ... more generally respected."

    Chester Arthur was a great President and certainly the most underrated. Read my post below. Thanks.


    Head of the Harvard Law Review (none / 0) (#77)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:32:11 PM EST
    It really is hard to challenge the intellectual capabilities of Obama.....The man is flat out brilliant.

    What Obama does so well is that he doesn't try to always impress everyone that he is the smartest person in the room.....even though he is.....Good people skills....


    Head of the Harvard Law (5.00 / 1) (#112)
    by tree on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:11:56 PM EST
    Review is a student elective position, after a vote by the membership of the student Board of Editors. It is not solely based on scholarship or intellect. Membership  is determined by a combination of first year grades, a written competition, and discretionary decisions. On average, about 20% of those who apply go on to become members. There is nothing inherently intellectually superior about the Head of the review versus any other editorial board member.

    And yes, Hilary was an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

    Please, you're sounding someone with a teenage crush. Obama is NOT always the smartest man in the room, probably not even most of the time, and I think he'd be willing to admit that.


    correction (5.00 / 1) (#114)
    by tree on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:18:57 PM EST
    Hillary was on the Board of Editors of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action.

    i agree with you, (5.00 / 1) (#115)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:22:16 PM EST
    except that your link says she was an editor for the Yale Review of Law and Social Action.  even better, imho.  :)

    thanks (none / 0) (#117)
    by tree on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:28:16 PM EST
    Yeah, I goofed and then caught that too. Thanks for keeping me honest.

    the world is full of people with (5.00 / 1) (#135)
    by hellothere on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 10:59:48 PM EST
    "book learning". that doesn't translate into being a leader or being able to learn from the past. those who don't know history or won't pay attenion to it are doomed to repeat. and frankly, a number of obama's comments leave me saying wth! he disses the 60s and 70s. he disses clinton's presidency and then acts like reagan was something special. oh come on, there is something very wrong here.

    head of the harvard law review (none / 0) (#87)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:08:49 PM EST
    does not equal a good president of the united states.  they're pretty different functions, and it's not about iq.  although bush jr. certainly proved that there's a minimum threshold to meet.

    The issue was (none / 0) (#95)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:33:01 PM EST
    Obama's intellect....and educational background....

    it is? (none / 0) (#99)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:44:02 PM EST
    that's not how i took it.  i see it as:  is he ready for the presidency?  does he understand the magnitude of what he's undertaking, or is this a flippant, self-glorifying ego trip for him?  nobody questions his iq; this is about whether he knows what the hell he's doing.  they are two different questions.

    Intellect he has. Educational background? (none / 0) (#146)
    by catfish on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 01:10:00 AM EST
    Not so sure.

    HRC was a Yale Law Review editor (none / 0) (#94)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:32:09 PM EST
    after, as a 22-year-old, being featured in Life magazine for an amazing speech. Etc. Impressive as these personal histories are for both of them, neither qualifies them for the presidency.

    There is no such thing (none / 0) (#100)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:44:49 PM EST
    as the Yale Law Review.  The premeier publication is the Yale Law Journal.....There are other publications, and generelly every law student can become a member of at least one of them.

    Do you have a link showing that Hillary was on the Yale Law Journal?  


    White House biography (5.00 / 1) (#131)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 10:15:48 PM EST

    again, this is trivial. (none / 0) (#108)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:55:13 PM EST
    it's a huge waste of time to focus on this at the expense of what's good for the country.

    I wonder (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by tnthorpe on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:34:42 PM EST
    what Obama thinks about Millard Fillmore, seems really crucial to me.

    Millard Fillmore (none / 0) (#40)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:37:18 PM EST
    his syndicated strip was great

    In defense of Chester A. Arthur (5.00 / 1) (#142)
    by facta non verba on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 03:28:58 AM EST
    Well thanks to Jeralyn for picking up on my comments. While I am a historian, I do not work on the United States. Granted I've taken many classes on American History and of course I am citizen who reads. Senator Obama's comments just struck me as odd and he is, of course, a Senator who most certainly deals on issues that are left-overs from previous Administrations. He should be aware of accomplishments and short-comings of past legislative agendas. To not understand history and to be so dismissive of it is frankly poor judgment.

    One comment perhaps on another thread attacked poor Chester A. Arthur, an accidental President and one of the most unpopular in his own time. Could be he accomplished something rather remarkable. To be fair he accomplished several things that set him apart from the other 43 who have held that office. There is also something else that he did that stands apart from both his predecessors and some of his successors.

    Chester Arthur was an accidental President via being a compromise choice for the Vice Presidency, an assassin's bullet and the most serious case of Presidential medical malpractice. Technically the bullet did not kill James A. Garfield. His doctors did. The bullet lodged in his shoulder. Had they left him alone to recuperate, he would have lived. Instead, they tried for over a month to dislodge the bullet, failed to do so and in the process weakened him and the infections took his life. In hindsight, we are lucky that Garfield died for otherwise the most competent and selfless man, in my view, ever to hold that office would have never held it.

    Chester Arthur was one term President because his party hated him. He ended the cronyism of the GOP that run the country since "Useless" Grant. He was put on the ticket because he was reformer from New York who did battle with the political machines such as Tammany Hall. The Civil Service Act of 1883 was his doing. That is his legacy. Arthur also gave us the first comprehensive immigration reform opening the doors to increased immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe. How many of your ancestors came to America because of Chester A. Arthur? I suspect quite a few. It is true that to get that he was forced to accept the Chinese Exclusion Act that banned Chinese immigration for the next sixty years. There were trade-offs even then. Sad but true. But don't think him a racist. Because the other great legacy of Chester A. Arthur was that he stopped the genocide of the American Indian. He was the first President to visit the West, sitting down with tribal leaders and getting securing protection for them from the US Calvary. Unfortunately, Benjamin Harrison, who only ventured out of the White House to go duck hunting, reversed that. The massacre of the Lakota and the Sioux came on Harrison's watch.

    Chester A. Arthur, so reviled by his party, was shunned at the GOP convention. Chester A. Arthur a great President and much underrated.

    This is a pretty weak attack (none / 0) (#3)
    by andrewwm on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 02:47:40 PM EST
    He was speaking off the cuff. I'm sure you've never ever over or underexaggerated something like this to make a point.

    If you really want to go dumpster diving on this kind of stuff, I'm sure I can fish up tons of Clinton quotes where she said something to make a point but was off slightly on the details.

    I Think He Was Being Generous (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 02:49:34 PM EST
    Most people who are not historians only know about four or five, and that is being generous.

    That's not true Squeaky.... (none / 0) (#71)
    by Maria Garcia on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:18:23 PM EST
    ...maybe if you asked them to name presidents they might be momentarily stumped but most people if they actually saw a row of presidential portraits in order would have some vague recollection of many, if not most of them. And I'm sure that Obama actually knew something about all of them.

    But for some reason, it reminds me of this.


    You really do not want to ask Barack any questions (none / 0) (#14)
    by DemBillC on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:06:53 PM EST
    without asking Hillary first so he can parrot what she says and sound reasonably informed.

    And, btw, she does know history well (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:24:34 PM EST
    -- even years ago, I've heard her speeches and q&a's (so not scripted) weave in historical references that really were remarkable in details. And she knows women's history, too -- not something that probably could be said about even our presidents who were historians (TR, JFK, etc.). Not something that could be said about most historians, for that matter.

    Unremarkable (1.00 / 1) (#78)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:35:52 PM EST
    linear thinking.....She can memorize facts and has good, straight ahead intellect...She makes up for her lack of imagination and creativity with hard work.....A classic overacheiver.  But sometimes she just misses, as in her Iraq and Iran votes.....Big misses

    wow, you really have that psychoanalysis (5.00 / 1) (#93)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:28:02 PM EST
    all sewn up now, don't you?  you clearly haven't read her book, it takes a village.  or noticed when she fought for health care in 1993 when nobody else was thinking outside of the corporate box.  or when she spoke up about women's rights when nobody else in her position had or would.  by contrast, i highly doubt that obama will ever fight for something "imaginative" or "creative" that doesn't involve capitulating to republicans.  thanks but no thanks.

    1993 doesn't help Hillary (none / 0) (#102)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:48:37 PM EST
    your arguments don't help you. (none / 0) (#104)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:51:15 PM EST
    No -- as it happens (5.00 / 1) (#96)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:38:43 PM EST
    I am a historian and teach it. Thus, I know a good student of history when I see and hear one. Your credentials? Practing psychologist, perhaps?

    Informed voter (none / 0) (#101)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:47:44 PM EST
    making a judgment based on the public record.....

    you are making decisons not on the public (none / 0) (#136)
    by hellothere on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 11:03:14 PM EST
    record but on your personal opinion.

    nice! (none / 0) (#116)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:24:41 PM EST
    i love this, stumbling upon these tidbits about the readers on TL.

    Underestimating Obama (none / 0) (#52)
    by AdrianLesher on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:10:34 PM EST
    Clinton supporters often speak about Obama like he has no depth and no intellect. The post is an example of that, as are the comparisons of Obama to GWB.

    This ignores the fact that Obama was the president of the law review at Harvard, that he was a professor at University of Chicago, and that he wrote two substantial books without ghostwriters.

    Lawrence Tribe, Harvard's famous constitutional law maven said  that Obama was "one of the two most talented students I've had in 37 years in teaching.'"

    I think that some of the rage against Obama comes from underestimating him. Because his opponents are willfully blind to his talents, they decide that the only reason for his popularity must be some sort of magical powers of mass hypnosis.

    I also think that Hillary Clinton's hubris allowed her to grossly underestimate Obama: hence her poorly plotted campaign.


    Factcheck: Obama not a professor (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:03:24 PM EST
    as that is for fulltime faculty. (The four levels are professor, associate professor -- those top two are tenured faculty -- assistant professor, and instructor.) Obama was a senior lecturer -- that means a longtime, parttime teacher.

    Law depsartments are different (none / 0) (#126)
    by andrewwm on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:07:14 PM EST
    The same hierarchy applies but in Law School, most are senior lecturers. The world of law is a strange one and regular academic hierarchy does not apply.

    All that said, he still (5.00 / 1) (#132)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 10:18:59 PM EST
    was not a professor. (Btw, I happen to know many law school faculty, and their ranks follow the same levels as I listed. Which law schools do you know that differ?)

    FOr The Record (none / 0) (#53)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:20:58 PM EST
    Barack Obama started his academic career at Occidental College in Los Angeles. After sophomore year however, he transferred to Columbia University where he majored in political science and specialised in international relations. After his graduation in 1983 he worked for some years, but decided to enter Harvard Law School in 1988. In 1990 he was elected as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review in its 104-year history. Obama graduated magna cum laude in 1991 but re-entered academia in 1993, this time as a senior lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago. And he seems to have been very good at it. "He was good enough that students showed up at 8:30 in the morning in the dead of winter for him". Obama has been `on leave of absence' from the U of Chicago Law School since his election as senator in 2004.



    Contract professor (none / 0) (#64)
    by Stellaaa on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:58:02 PM EST
    Not tenure track, contract classes.  

    Yeah, at that run-down (none / 0) (#80)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:43:31 PM EST
    second rate instituion, UChi.

    I think even BTD and Jeralyn would concede that Obama could have had any professorship in the country--tenure track or not.  As the President of the Harvard Law Review, he had reached the promised land of legal academia.....It is the single most presitigious legal position for a law student....

    He could have had any legal job in the country...He could easily have been appointed to the Federal Bench and the Court of Appeals under Bill, and thus been on the short track for the U.S. Supreme Court...

    Obama runs circles around Hillary intellectually.  She lacks his imagination and creativity--hence his making the right call on Iraq.  


    this is a joke. (5.00 / 1) (#97)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:38:52 PM EST
    those of us in the legal field tend to over-glorify the prestige of president of the harvard law review--or any law review, for that matter.  i don't remember using my "imagination" and "creativity" in law school, because if anything, i recall law school trying to beat and brainwash any such tendencies out of me.  

    it's fitting that you top it off with the funniest fallacy of all--that "imagination" and "creativity" led to his right call on iraq.  is that the same kind of imagination and creativity that led him to say that he couldn't convene any policy hearings of his subcommittee because he was campaigning?


    Sure, there are very smart (none / 0) (#107)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:54:16 PM EST
    lawyers who don't go to Harvard....but those who do have many more career options.....Just life.

    Not convening committee hearings doesn't go to imagination but diligence--you know that.....The same type of diligence that led Hillary to NOT read the NIE on Iraq before casting her vote for war.


    and you think hillary (5.00 / 2) (#110)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:04:47 PM EST
    hasn't foregone potentially extremely lucrative or powerful job opportunities by choosing the path in life that she has?  my god.  i'm willing to wager that she's turned a lot more of them down than obama has.

    Constitutional Law Prof (5.00 / 1) (#138)
    by Stellaaa on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 01:01:47 AM EST
    Everyone talks as if this is something he did for years, but this was part time like the state senate,  Where for the first 7 years he did nothing cause of the Republican dominated legislature.  Then, when the Dems got in, they gave him credit for each and every bill so they can make him Senator.  Smoke and mirrors.  

    You are confusing what people say about (none / 0) (#54)
    by hue on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:25:25 PM EST
    Obama's campaign message and rhetoric with Obama personally. We know both Obama and Clinton are very smart. It's a welcomed change after 8 years of Bush.

    No (none / 0) (#55)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:28:48 PM EST
    This thread seems to be focusing on Obama's personal knowledge. And it does seem that his academic qualifications are much the same as Hillary's.

    squeaky you should change your name to (none / 0) (#57)
    by athyrio on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:31:56 PM EST
    Devil's Advocate.....:-)

    HAHAHAhahaha (none / 0) (#60)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:36:26 PM EST
    God one, but I couldn't stand being stuck with the abbreviated version, namely DA.

    the reason why the battle is so intense (none / 0) (#62)
    by hue on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:41:15 PM EST
    is because there isn't a spit of difference in substance between Hillary or Obama. That's why we focus on "plagiarism" of speeches, Hillary is polarized, who's ready from Day 1 etc. The whole who supported NAFTA b.s.

    NAFTA is the poster child for all of the lost manufacturing jobs, but most of the crap Americans consume come from China.


    i disagree with this. (5.00 / 1) (#103)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:50:04 PM EST
    there is a substantive policy difference between hillary and obama, to anyone who hasn't been too busy rationalizing it away for it to sink in.  it's called their approaches to health care, social security, and economic recovery.

    True No Difference, But (none / 0) (#63)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:48:25 PM EST
    It seems that it is more personal because of the historic nature of the race. I sure hope that they run together for POTUS.

    Not really (none / 0) (#81)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:45:15 PM EST
    Hillary went to Yale...But I do not think she was on the Yale Law Journal, let alone Editor-in-Chief as was Obama....

    who cares? (none / 0) (#111)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:09:10 PM EST
    i sure don't.

    High praise from Tribe (none / 0) (#82)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:47:25 PM EST
    Wow--that says it all.....

    the debates between Obama and McCain will be (none / 0) (#15)
    by athyrio on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:08:24 PM EST
    eye opening as Obama might get the first question...He isn't too fast on his feet IMO...

    Why's That? (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:22:37 PM EST
    Because he is so old? Give the guy a break he was a POW.

    Squeaky I was referring to Obama not McCain (none / 0) (#34)
    by athyrio on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:31:02 PM EST
    Do you like to argue this much?? You seem really angry....

    I Know (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:38:13 PM EST
    I was just having some fun with your fast on feet remark. Not angry but annoyed at the fan clubbing. I do not see why people feel the need to put down one person to prop up another. Especially when it is one of our own.

    I am not fond of ultra partisan sports fans either. Seems like much of the same.


    It is not fan clubbingfor me (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:52:02 PM EST
    nor for at least one other historian here, per his post. You wish to dismiss it, but we find it dismaying -- and I see it the same way for many of our leaders who are so lacking in knowledge of the past that they keep leading us astray the same way.

    How Insincere (none / 0) (#49)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:06:09 PM EST
    You are basing your opprobrium on this off the cuff comment?

    What do you know about Obama's knowledge of history?


    You don't get it -- my issue now (5.00 / 1) (#65)
    by Cream City on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:58:45 PM EST
    is with your anti-intellectual comments.

    Anti-Intellectual? (none / 0) (#79)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:38:27 PM EST
    Hardly. Not sure what you mean by that.

    I don't think that is correct as I think it is (none / 0) (#44)
    by athyrio on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:47:17 PM EST
    a known fact that Obama really isn't fast on his feet in debates but gives inspiring speeches...That isn't an insult as much as it is just common knowledge which is why he doesn't like to debate too often....I would probably feel the same way, if I were he...He has however, gotten better over the past few months but debating Hillary must be mind boggling as she is truly amazing with her grasp of facts...I started out a tepid supporter of hers and have since become an admiring fan after watching her...

    Debating is a learned (none / 0) (#83)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:53:34 PM EST
    skill, not necessarily a reflection on inherent intellect.....especailly in the context of this campaign....Obama has picked it up well, and by most accounts did as well as a draw in the last two debates against Hillary.....

    Obama can adjust and is nimble--that is why he has become a reasonably good debater....He will only improve...Hillary has topped out...


    a big assumption on your part. (5.00 / 1) (#118)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:32:17 PM EST
    i think that if hillary and obama were to debate unscripted, off-the-cuff, and unprepped by their handlers--and this is important, in a truly impartial forum--she would win hands down.

    debate is a learned skill but frankly (none / 0) (#137)
    by hellothere on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 11:07:16 PM EST
    at this point in the campaign he should be much much better at it than he is. in fact he has been a politican and lecturer for awhile so standing on his feet and thinking should be easer than it is. as a former debater i know a little about it.

    guy a break he was a POW. (none / 0) (#39)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:35:58 PM EST
    I am beginning to wonder just how far this extends.
    I am pretty tired of every criticism being met with this.

    that is the difference between Dems and Repubs (none / 0) (#48)
    by hue on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:04:21 PM EST
    Bush and Rove didn't care. They ook McCain in down in 2000 in SC, using the POW stuff in push polls.

    If people think that Hillary has been playing dirty against Obama, they haven't seen anything yet. I prefer Hillary, but if Obama wins, I'm looking forward to GE to see how he handles the attacks. Maybe Obama is Teflon and nothing will stick.


    Maybe Obama is Teflon (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:09:12 PM EST
    and maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt

    Jeralyn as said many many times she will (none / 0) (#17)
    by athyrio on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:09:02 PM EST
    support the nominee whomever that is....

    I wonder which ten Presidents they are. (none / 0) (#19)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:15:18 PM EST
    Bush, Clinton, Bush, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grouchy, Dopey,
    Happy, Doc and Bashful?

    Reagan Is At The Top Of The List (5.00 / 1) (#73)
    by MO Blue on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:22:36 PM EST
    He was a transformation president who "tapped into what people were already feeling, which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism, and, and, you know, entrepreneurship that had been missing."

    Can't wait the debates if Obama is the nominee. He and McCain can have a real discussion on who is the most like Reagan.


    Finally, a Clinton vid worth watching.... (none / 0) (#20)
    by magster on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:15:41 PM EST
    ...courtesy of Jack Nicholson.

    just put up a new thread with it (none / 0) (#31)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:29:24 PM EST
    Let's imagine the question going to Obama... (none / 0) (#35)
    by lilburro on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:33:52 PM EST
    "Oh, well, I think his work on the European Affairs subcommittee...oh, um, I mean...."

    Of course (none / 0) (#21)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:15:52 PM EST
    Any Democrat is light years better than a Republican. I'll vote for the Democratic nominee. Always have, always will.

    doesnt mean we have to like it (none / 0) (#22)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:19:04 PM EST

    The race ain't over (none / 0) (#32)
    by blogtopus on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:30:19 PM EST
    So don't start counting your nominations before the chicken sings... or something like that.

    That's something I think is kind of funny about this situation. It almost seems as if you aren't allowed to prefer one or the other and still be able to support the other if they win the nomination. Speaking of juvenile.

    speaking of funny things about the situation (none / 0) (#36)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:34:10 PM EST
    one of the things that is really starting to gall me is the sometimes not so subtle inference that since I foresee Obamas vulnerability to attacks, including racist attacks, in the general, I am somehow a racist.
    as if sticking your head in the sand is some how a more honorable position.
    but then I am in Obamaland. Illinois.

    Why would he be vulnerable to racist attacks? (none / 0) (#56)
    by Knocienz on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:31:27 PM EST
    That he is going to be subject to them, sure. But why would he be vulnerable to them?

    Presumably we can agree that racist attacks are, by their nature, unfair? That our candidate is absolutely going to get unfair attacks whoever they are and we'll need to stand up and defend him or her against them?


    defend him or her against them? (none / 0) (#59)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:34:36 PM EST
    sure we will.  for what its worth.
    and btw I dont just think he is vulnerable because of his race.  he is vulnerable, in my opinion, in ways that, say, Colin Powell would not be.
    he is vulnerable most of all because of his associations.
    most of which have been commented on here extensively.

    I would say rather (none / 0) (#61)
    by tnthorpe on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:37:06 PM EST
    that he's vulnerable to racism, as the Nation article describes:
    "If Hillary doesn't get the nomination, this man said, he'd not only vote for but work for McCain, "and I hate McCain."

    "Why not Obama?"

    "He's too inexperienced."

    "And why else?" a woman down the bar asked.

    "Because he's black."

    "Thank you!" she replied.

    More talk, a little heat, and the man exclaimed, "I'm not going to vote for the ni**."

    Vulnerable because there's nothing he can do to alter the base attitude on display in this anecdote.


    If you go that way then Hillary is vulnerable (none / 0) (#68)
    by Knocienz on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:06:31 PM EST
    to being Hillary.

    I know a fair number of moderate Republicans (i.e. they despise what their party has become) who are planning to vote for Obama in the general, but won't vote for Hillary. IMO because they are used to hating her.

    Throw in those who won't vote for a woman and who knows who is truly more vulnerable.


    Oh you're allowed to prefer one... (none / 0) (#72)
    by Maria Garcia on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:21:33 PM EST
    ....as long as its Obama. It's only if you prefer Hillary that you have to explain yourself. ;-)

    Wicked Messenger (none / 0) (#120)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:58:49 PM EST
    you are a chatterer, see the comment rules Four a day. You have one to go. And if it's another one that insults me or TalkLeft, you are gone from here.

    This is the ultimate (none / 0) (#50)
    by mg7505 on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:06:14 PM EST
    Obama Rules: bad judgment (she was wrong on Iraq, so I'm smarter than her!!!!) matters for your opponent, but you get extra points for playing The Average Joe. I'm not convinced he only knows the accomplishments of 10 presidents. Frankly I think both these candidates are pretty educated. But I realize what he was trying to do in that statement, and marvel at people who think Clinton is "calculating."

    Self-deprecating humor (none / 0) (#84)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:55:40 PM EST
    Connecting with people rather than hectoring them with one's superior knowledge.

    ooh, how original (none / 0) (#90)
    by tree on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:18:17 PM EST
    The old Gore smear, revamped and ready to go for 2008!

    One of the things that really bothers me about this election cycle is how many supposed Democrats and progressives are willing to shake out the old Republican talking points and use them as their own against a fellow Democrat.


    well here's my list (none / 0) (#66)
    by along on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:59:54 PM EST
    I figure he means the historical ones; he and most of us obviously know what all Presidents since FDR did.


    I happen to know a lot about... (none / 0) (#76)
    by Maria Garcia on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:27:01 PM EST
    ....John Quincy Adams. And I know that James Madison had a fiery wife. Plus U.S.Grant was a drunk!

    How about Grover Cleveland? (none / 0) (#122)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:02:49 PM EST
    One I always remember because of his story. He was a two term President but the two terms weren't in a row. He was a bachelor who admitted during the campaign that he fathered an illegitmate child. The Republicans started taunting him with "Ma, Ma, wheres my Pa?" His Democratic supporters came back with "Gone to the White House, ha, ha ha."

    There were lots of philanderers in the White House (none / 0) (#125)
    by andrewwm on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:05:51 PM EST
    Not sure why that should be the criteria for remembering a president when probably over half were not faithful to their wives.

    it's the ditty I remember (none / 0) (#141)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 01:51:00 AM EST
    not his philandering, and by the way, I don't think the word philander applies. He was a bachelor when he fathered the child.  He also financially supported the child and was known for his honesty. His aides suggested he deny fathering the child but he wouldn't.

    Later in life he married a woman 27 years younger than him. That was talked about a lot too.  


    To me it is more important ... (none / 0) (#69)
    by chemoelectric on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:11:56 PM EST
    ... that the President can tell us that F = ma and the sum of forces is zero, and understand what he is talking about.

    Which is something that Jimmy Carter certainly was able to do, by the way.

    Ours is a highly technological society, so we need Presidents who understand technology.

    BTW science is not taught by studying Isaac Newton or James Faraday. It is continually redigested and simplified and taught in more and more powerful, and easier to use, forms. Only the curious and a few specialists study the direct works of great historical figures. Damn it's a shame that we still argue over Jefferson and Madison, showing we have not sufficiently advanced in the field of politics since their time.

    indeed. i want a president (none / 0) (#121)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:00:13 PM EST
    who gets it and can relate it to me in practical terms.  and as for feeling comfortable talking about technology and science, hillary beats obama hands down.

    so... (none / 0) (#70)
    by cdo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:12:59 PM EST
    is he saying most people don't know u.s. history, or is he saying that less than 10 presidents have had a big enough impact on history to be memorable?

    Good god (none / 0) (#74)
    by catfish on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:23:13 PM EST
    I went to a state school, am not a lawyer, I just like politics, and I find that statement alarming.

    After being enamored with Obama all summer I'd read profiles and occasionally read passages like this and find myself gasping for air - like WTF? They added up and I started looking around for another candidate.

    squeaky and andrew, (none / 0) (#85)
    by cpinva on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 05:59:37 PM EST
    try, try to come to grips with a reality based thought process. from your posts, i suspect it may be difficult, but start with "sen. obama is not the new messiah."

    clearly, not having a clue about what more than maybe 10 presidents did, or perhaps are best known to history for isn't a compelling argument (on its surface, anyway) against the sen.'s presidential bona fides. however, you might think he'd done at least a cliff's notes scan of all of them.

    given his tenure as a constitutional law instructor, i'd think he'd have a pretty good sense of what the first 16 dealt with. maybe they never mentioned the names of the presidents, when he was teaching. seems odd though.

    all that said, if that were his only "weakness" i wouldn't have a problem with it, we could give him one of those "american presidents" books as an inauguration present or something.

    Squeaky voted for Hillary (5.00 / 1) (#123)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:03:53 PM EST
    He's just trying to be fair to Obama.

    Yes (none / 0) (#124)
    by andrewwm on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:03:58 PM EST
    any supporter of Obama must believe he's the new messiah (not). He was clearly speaking off the cuff and just picked a number. If this is the worst you have on him then it's pretty weak sauce.

    Sorry To Disappoint You (none / 0) (#139)
    by squeaky on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 01:07:27 AM EST
    But I have not joined either cult. I voted HRC, but for me it was a coin toss. Almost everyone I know voted Obama, and there are no cultists or dummies in my crowd. I am surprised that you would think that Obama was intellectually lacking. Guess it is that you are sniffing the HRC vapors and are acting like the rest of her fan club. I hope the hangover will have been worth it for you.

    Squeaky (none / 0) (#140)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 01:47:29 AM EST
    please don't insult the commenters here, you know better. Thanks.

    Sorry (none / 0) (#145)
    by squeaky on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 11:02:17 AM EST
    I will work on it.

    Jeez, no sense of humor is allowed anymore (none / 0) (#89)
    by RalphB on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:15:51 PM EST
    I can't believe that people have managed to get nasty about the candidates over this post.  :-)

    Jumping parties (none / 0) (#105)
    by Natal on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:53:38 PM EST
    On talk shows I've heard some HRC supporters say that they'd vote for McCain rather than Obama if he is the nominee. The hostility has gotten that bad.

    I'm sure that goes both ways (none / 0) (#113)
    by RalphB on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 07:12:49 PM EST
    Politics really is war by another name.

    my take on the remark (none / 0) (#92)
    by tree on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:26:16 PM EST
    is that, in context,it was simply a way to avoid really answering the question about how bad a president Bush is. Its as if he's trying to avoid alienating the Bush base, but fails to realize that he has no chance with the 24%ers(or is it 19% now?) so all he can do with comments like that is alienate his own base. (i.e.: the Democratic base) That kind of non-statement, along with Obama's stated opinion on impeachment, leaves me cold. Obama really is not that good at thinking on his feet. Too busy triangulating.

    this is a not-so-transparent hit job on TL. (none / 0) (#109)
    by kangeroo on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:59:16 PM EST
    good luck with that, buddy.  TL's doing better now than ever.

    Great job (none / 0) (#144)
    by flyerhawk on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 09:39:54 AM EST
    taking a single comment and making a value judgment on how knowledgeable he is on history.