February 4, 2010

"Obama ... turned down high-paying jobs after graduating from Harvard Law School and became a community organizer," says The Washington Post.

This is in an article that struggles to show why "Despite his roots, Obama struggles to show he's connected to middle class."

And indeed, it is a struggle to figure this out when you are getting your facts so wrong. As John B. Judis writes in TNR:
He didn’t become a community organizer after graduating from Harvard Law School, but after graduating from Columbia. He left community organizing to attend Harvard Law School. After graduating from law school, he joined a prestigious Chicago law firm with offices just off Michigan Avenue. In 1991, he began teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He was chair of a Chicago branch of the Annenberg Foundation.
As Judis shows, Obama belongs squarely in the professional class:
Obama’s parents were professionals—his mother was an anthropology PhD and his father was a Harvard-trained economist. How much money they made was immaterial. His grandmother, who raised him in Hawaii, was a bank vice-president. He went to a fancy private school and to prestigious colleges (Occidental and Columbia) that turn out professionals and managers. He clearly was not obsessed with making money, but with performing a public service—yet that doesn’t distinguish him from other professionals or other Columbia graduates. It does distinguish him from a working- or middle-class American for whom being a civil rights lawyer or professor or politician is at best a passing fantasy.

It is admirable that Obama spent three years after graduating as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side, but many graduates of elite colleges spend several years after college doing something unusual, before returning to graduate school or settling into a profession. Some travel around the world; some join the Peace Corps; some try to write novels.... Afterwards, they usually return to more sober and sedate occupations appropriate to their social background and education. That’s what Obama did....

Once out of law school, Obama lived and worked over the next decade in a grey area between the very upper reaches of professional America and the country’s managers, owners, and rulers. He didn’t just have access to more money and live differently from ordinary Americans; he possessed power and authority that they didn’t have.... 
Judis really embarrasses the WaPo here, but I've got to give credit to the WaPo for picking out some hilarious quotes that show Obama trying — tryin' — to sound like a working class guy:
"I just like gettin' out of the White House, and then I like tooling around companies that are actually making stuff."
Is he driving a car inside these factories? I think he was searching for the right word and rejected "puttering around" because it was too golf-y, and golf is not the sport of the working class.

57 comments:

mRed said...

I believe it was a minor misspeak when he said he was tooling around inside a plant. He meant he was retooling around and in a plant. Result:Chrysler and GM. He never got to the Ford plant.

John said...

Actually Ann, golf is very much the sport of the working class. Your Yalie college professorness is showing there.

You don't see public golf courses all over America because only people who belong to Bushwood Country Club play the sport. Having worked more than my share of jobs in manufacturing and agriculture growing up, I can tell you lots of gear heads and get yoru hands dirty types are golf obsessed.

As far as the part about Obama, earth to the world, Obama isn't black. His father wasn't an African American. He was an African, which is a world of difference from African Americans. He grew up functionally the son of a bank President in Hawaii and then went on from one private school to the next. That is about as far removed from African American culture and the African American experience as you can get. From a cultural prospective, Bill Clinton, who grew up fatherless in rural Arkansas, is more of a culturally black President than Obama will ever be.

edutcher said...

Barry is an upper-class snob. Any attempt to identify himself with any part of the American people is for snow job purposes only. He was pretty much raised in the lap of luxury most of his life, sob stories notwithstanding, after he went to live with Grandma.

While Ann credits him with good intentions, I think he was really interested in making Mommy proud (and, of course, still is). Given that his "organizing" (community organizer is Newspeak for subversive) was so ineffectual (Altgeld Gardens), he should have moved on to something he could do.

Sad to say, he's still looking.

I saw a piece where he is described as being unsatisfied with his lack of power at every position he ever held, as the author wondered if Barry might choose not to run for re-election. Resigning was not discussed, but there is, after all, a just and merciful God.

WV "bless" (no kidding)

John said...

"I think he was really interested in making Mommy proud (and, of course, still is)."

I think it is more about pleasing Daddy. Having a deadbeat father, and Obama had a whopper of a deadbeat dad, does wierd things to people sometimes. I think Obama's whole life has been about realizing his father's dreams and thus proving that he and by extension Obama really wasn't the worthless waste of space he was. This is the reason why he goes so far out of his way to offend the English. See Daddy, I finally made those evil colonialists pay is pretty much the idea.

Hoosier Daddy said...

He turned down high paying jobs probably because they, unlike being a community organizer, require you to produce results.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...I like tooling around...

Because that's what tools do.

alan markus said...

For "tooling" around factories, the Segway with the dual teleprompter screen option is much recommended.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Turning down high-paying jobs is how you let us middle-class people know you're one of us. If it's not a dollar-a-year position, we don't want to hear about it.

Zach said...

What's the mystique about community organizing, anyhow? Obama wanted to be a Chicago politician. He took an entry level political job. He decided it was a dead end and went back to school.

For a first job out of college, community organizer isn't even that terrible. Adjusted for inflation, he was making 30 grand or so. That's better than I made as a grad student.

Maguro said...

Obama is about as middle class as George Bush is a cowboy.

Penny said...

If Obama's grandmother were still alive, I could imagine her staring him down and saying,

"Look, bub. The presidency isn't like a suit you try on to see how well it fits. You bought it, now make it work."

EDH said...

The "irony" of Marxism is that it's been the intellectual playpen of the bourgeois.

cryptical said...

We still don't know what kind of grades he had at Occidental or Columbia. Maybe the only job he could get was community organizing.

Bob_R said...

Well Barry did have a real job once. Here is what he wrote about it: "Eventually a consulting house to multinational corporations agreed to hire me as a research assistant. Like a spy behind enemy lines, I arrived every day at my mid-Manhattan office and sat at my computer terminal, checking the Reuters machine that blinked bright emerald messages from across..."

We have met his enemy and it is us.

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

Obama is confident as he can be. But if he was a General in the Army, he would have lost every battle so far for lack of a coherent battle plan other than sending up confusing orders to attack and to retreat the same day. We are sick of his persona being so nice while the damage he does is wiping us out... for our own good, like health care redux.

The Drill SGT said...

but many graduates of elite colleges spend several years after college doing something unusual, before returning to graduate school or settling into a profession. Some travel around the world; some join the Peace Corps; some try to write novels


FWIW: What they don't do is join the Army. That clearly is beneath most elite grads.

Both Harvard and Columbia expelled ROTC during Vietnam and refuse to allow the program to sully their campuses since.

Princeton is about the only private Ivy that welcomes ROTC, maybe it's staying true to the University motto:

“In the Nation's Service, and In the Service of All Nations.”

It will be fascinating when DADT is abolished and the elite schools lose their Solomon cover, whether they bring ROTC back on campus or whether they are revealed as just plain anti-military....

Lem said...

Before Facebook community organizing was incredibly hard.

I imagine Obama had to lick stamps, got paper cuts and even learned to use a bullhorn.

Not for the faint harted I assure you ;)

Synova said...

"It will be fascinating when DADT is abolished and the elite schools lose their Solomon cover, whether they bring ROTC back on campus or whether they are revealed as just plain anti-military...."

Fascinating, yes. But it's not as though we don't know which it will be.

The Ghost said...

This WaPo article is pure historical revisionism. After Columbia Obama worked for a Wall Street newsletter company (Business International Corporation) for 2 years. The fact is Obama didn't reject a big money Wall Street job, the big money Wall Street jobs rejected him. Can you blame them ? What would make you think Obama had any qualifications to succeed on Wall Street at that time ? He obviously had no interest in finance or business, had average grades and wasn't a star athlete.

Penny said...

"We are sick of his persona being so nice while the damage he does is wiping us out... for our own good, like health care redux."

Why is it that so many who disagree with Obama take the time to talk about how "nice" he is?

George Bush was a "nice" enough fella too, but that didn't stop anyone to his right or his left from lambasting him.

Frodo Potter said...

@EDH “The ‘irony’ of Marxism is that it’s been the intellectual playpen of the bourgeois.” Absolutely. My only quibbles are that I wouldn’t put irony in quotes and that Marxism *continues to be* the intellectual playpen of the bourgeois. It’s about time we acknowledged that most “Marxists” are playing at compassion and reform, and that they thoroughly loathe working people.

MadisonMan said...

Needs an Obama is like Bush tag.

AllenS said...

Obama is a square. Do people still use that term?

Skyler said...

I read a long time ago, but haven't seen it since, that B. Hussein never took the bar exam. Anyone know if this is true?

AJ Lynch said...

Did you hear Rush making fun of the President's pronunciation of corpsman?

Obama said "corpse man". Too funny.

wv= commid....tuday Obama commid mooder of da Engwish langwidge

CatherineM said...

It has always bugged me they way they laud his sacrifice for the common folk. He accomplished nothing as a "Community Organizer."

Also bugged me how he often brings up how his mother went on public assistance when his mother was pursuing her PhD. She didn't want to work while she was in school. She wasn't a long suffering poor person.

Public assistance for grad school. That doesn't occur to us proud middle class working folks. I wish I thought of that. I worked two part time jobs.

traditionalguy said...

Penney ...Obama's nice is a perfect ten loving nice that he calls his "gift". So far only Palin has been immune to that Kryptonite smile. I take it that you are also immune. Opposing loving nice people generates a sympathy backlash for them, like hitting a woman that can never be justified or something. The GOP needs a new army of immune spokes persons like you and Palin.

CatherineM said...

By the way, Teach for America is loaded with Ivy League trustfunders. It's easy to be an activist or not take that "high paying job" when mom, dad, grandma pay the bills.

The Crack Emcee said...

Penny,

"George Bush was a 'nice' enough fella too, but that didn't stop anyone to his right or his left from lambasting him."

Now that we have Obama in, arriving in the Sun Ra manner he did, it's cool to see comparisons with the Bush !! years, because the behavior shown to Georgieboy was surely The Macho Response.

spongeworthy said...

What would make you think Obama had any qualifications to succeed on Wall Street at that time ?

I dunno. Wall Street was under a LOT of pressure to diversify--particularly in public finance--and was hiring any and all black candidates who could dress well and affect the proper accents.

Truth be told, a lot of fine bankers came out of that push and I have no doubt he could have succeeded also.

bagoh20 said...

I've had jobs since I was in elementary school. I worked before, during, and immediately after college. Hell, I was a migrant farm worker picking tobacco at 15. But, I still consider myself a little bourgeois. Obama had a much softer and privileged life. Most people in his administration, as well the people writing about him know little about growing up in any struggle.

Treacle said...

I like the last sentence of the article: "And that has been one of his problems as he attempts to extricate America from the mess he inherited."

Obama isn't working class. He's never been working class. He'll never be working class. Oh, by the way, fuck George Bush.

rhhardin said...

I took any job so long as it was interesting.

mariner said...

mRed:
I believe it was a minor misspeak ... . He meant he was retooling around and in a plant.

And he was a plant.

And he has the leadership and executive ability of a plant.

Michael said...

Obama is a half black preppie on affirmative action rocket fuel. No way would he have made it on Wall Street. His published writings as a lawyer, his grades, his disappeared Columbia years, don't reflect the work ethic required. I expect both sides of an interview would have seen that clearly. Had there been an interview.

bagoh20 said...

"Obama is about as middle class as George Bush is a cowboy."

I like that, but W. can ride a horse. I bet Obama, can't drive a nail.

mariner said...

John:
He grew up functionally the son of a bank President in Hawaii and then went on from one private school to the next. That is about as far removed from African American culture and the African American experience as you can get.

That's why he chose Rev Wright's "G*ddamn America" church -- so that he could exploit his skin color for money and power.

He wrote as much in one of his books, but of course he didn't put it quite that way.

somefeller said...

I like that, but W. can ride a horse. I bet Obama, can't drive a nail.

According to his pal Vicente Fox, Bush was afraidof them.

bagoh20 said...

Community organizing is a manufacturing job: You make victims.

Bill of materials:
People
Problems
Lies
Envy
Promises
Anger
Other peoples money

somefeller said...

Obama isn't working class. He's never been working class. He'll never be working class.

So what? Is this the new conservative Bolshevism, where everyone is supposed to compete to see who is the most working-class of all? Plus, in this country, being working-class is something you are supposed to work hard to overcome and get into a better economic and social position.

AJ Lynch said...

Catherine:

Don't forget also that Teach For America pays pretty good salaries to the "volunteer" teachers. I know one who is being paid $42,000.

bagoh20 said...

"Bush was afraid of them."

I didn't know that, so I just went a Googling. looks like your right as far as I can see.

What I really noticed was: Man, that guy sure took some some abuse and still does. B.D.S. was real bad. I almost forgot how bad. Obama has really not seen how bad things can get. He needs to toughen up.

bagoh20 said...

"So what? Is this the new conservative Bolshevism, where everyone is supposed to compete to see who is the most working-class of all? Plus, in this country, being working-class is something you are supposed to work hard to overcome and get into a better economic and social position."

That's the point. He never worked hard at anything.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"golf is not the sport of the working class"

I agree with the larger point, but I have to disagree about golf in general: it's the sport of the upper classes on the coasts; in the midwest golf is very much an egalitarian sport. My working-class grandfather and his cronies play golf four days a weeks on any one of FIVE city-owned courses. If you drive through rural Ohio, Indiana, Iowa Nebraska, South Dakota, etc you will find driving ranges and even 9-hole courses scattered among the cultivated fields. Farmers love golf.

Of course, all of this is part of the culture of red state flyover country so it doesn't really count to the coastal elite.

Big Mike said...

He turned down high paying jobs probably because they, unlike being a community organizer, require you to produce results.

Has anyone besides me actually looked to see what Barack Obama actually accomplished when he was a community organizer? There's a very even-handed discussion here, but for me the key piece of information is in the middle of the 2nd page:

"Perhaps his most confrontational effort was to pressure city authorities to remove asbestos from the apartments in 1986. When the on-site manager didn't take action, Obama nudged the residents into confronting city housing officials in two angry public meetings downtown. These generated "a victory of sorts," Obama said later, as workers soon began sealing the asbestos in the buildings. But the project gradually ran out of steam and money. In fact, some tenants still have asbestos in their homes ..." (emphasis mine).

So let's see. He got the City of Chicago to start sealing and removing asbestos, got bored, went off to Harvard Law, came back three years later, became a state senator and then a US senator, and in the entire twenty years between when he organized Altgeld Gardens and the publication of the article he never made sure the City of Chicago ever removed the last of the asbestos? Bodes ill for this country when a man with such a lack of follow-through is in charge.

somefeller said...

That's the point. He never worked hard at anything.

You don't get to be President of the United States, much less an honors graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law School, without working hard. It may not be working hard with a hammer in your hand, but that's not the only kind of hard work there is, and according to the gods of the marketplace, the sort of hard work you do with your head is more valuable than the sort you do with your hands. No disparagement of the latter, but let's not claim it's the only kind of hard work. That's just the sort of working-class hero romanticism I'm criticizing.

knox said...

Is this the new conservative Bolshevism, where everyone is supposed to compete to see who is the most working-class of all?

No, it's more about how you're not supposed to be a total phony. Obama just sounds like a poser and a phony when he tries to come across as down-to-earth, working class, or "street." He's none of the above. He's a snobby, pampered, academic type.

[There is a growing populist strain on the right, which is understandable, considering the contempt for average plumber types that has emerged on the left... but it is, admittedly, annoying.]

Big Mike said...

You got it, knox.

Chip Ahoy said...

Har. Your many varied insights and amusingly pointed japes amuse me greatly.

Obama isn't working class. So what. Somefeller, that is the point of the article under discussion here -- an attempt to make Obama appear working class by a writer wearing kneepads for Obama. It doesn't work.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Bagoh20 said: "What I really noticed was: Man, that guy sure took some some abuse and still does. B.D.S. was real bad. I almost forgot how bad."

You know, I (along with a lot of us) pretty clearly saw the problems coming with Obama, but I recall strongly that towards the latter half of 2008,. I was just dying for the end of the Bush presidency, just because I was so tired of how bad, and widespread, BDS really was. Bush was a long way from perfect, but it sucks to see a good man get kicked around over and over like that.

knox said...

I was just dying for the end of the Bush presidency, just because I was so tired of how bad, and widespread, BDS really was. Bush was a long way from perfect, but it sucks to see a good man get kicked around over and over like that.

I felt the same way in those last years.

The low point was Hurricane Katrina, where the Left accused him not trying very hard to save people, or not caring. Some accused him outright of racism. Remember "George Bush hates black people"?

I wonder if that's the "new normal"... if they'll find an excuse to hate every republican with a blind fury like they did poor W.

Big Mike said...

Well, knox and lyssa, the saving grace of this president is that he's so thin-skinned that comparatively minor pushbacks make him whine like a loose fan belt.

JAL said...

Obama isn't working class.

The problem is Obama really doesn't get the American Experience.

Not to disparage Hawaiians (I think there is at least one commenter here who has lived in Hawai'i), but living in Indonesia as a kid, coming to live in Hawai'i where your grandmother is a bank executive, attending a very exclusive private school from age 10, having as mentor Frank Marshall Davis who scorned American opportunity and values, and never having the growing-up-in-middle-America experience -- in middle America -- he cannot pull it off.

If you read about his family and upbringing, there is very little there of his touted "Kansas" roots.

He'd be better off if he didn't try. And so would we.

joeindc44 said...

I like how Eli assumes that being a bag-man for the Daley political machine is middle classy.

CatherineM said...

AJ - and a lot of those Ivy League trustfunders who "volunteer" for $42,000 get to put that on their law and B school apps. All that sacrifice!

Bill said...

Big Mike: "Has anyone besides me actually looked to see what Barack Obama actually accomplished when he was a community organizer?"

"What Did Obama Do As A Community Organizer?" (by Byron York in National Review, September 8, 2008)