Some have accused the president of getting into Harvard solely because of race. That's the least persuasive criticism of him we've ever heard
In his new digs at The Daily Caller, Mickey Kaus notes the latest talking-point attacks regarding whether President Obama deserved admission to elite universities, and posits that it's as good a time as any to debate affirmative action:
The biggest problem with race preferences is that they taint the achievements, not just of those who benefit from them, but of everyone in the beneficiary group-even those who would have gotten into the college or gotten the job, etc., without the preference. That is an unfairness Obama may acutely feel. Race preferences are a big reason blacks feel they have to be twice as good as everyone else to measure up in society's eyes-which is a powerful argument for ending the preferences.
The amazing thing isn't that we would have a debate on this divisive issue now but that Obama's been able to duck it for so long-in part by preemptively hinting that he'd replace race-based preferences with class-based preferences.
All of that seems wrong to me.
The reason that President Obama has been able "to duck this" is that opponents of affirmative action realize that if he was in fact a beneficiary, he is perhaps the ideal example of the policy gone right. His admission to Harvard Law School demonstrably wasn't tainted by the notion that he didn't belong there: He made sure of that by graduating magna cum laude, his peers selected him editor of the Harvard Law Review, and classmates and professors gush on and on about how impressed they were by the guy. Then there's the institution's perspective. Harvard University is obsessed with training future leaders. In Barack Obama, they got a United States Senator ... and we haven't even gotten to the obvious argument, as offered by Matt Yglesias:
If it's true that Barack Obama couldn't get into college without a boost from affirmative action, then the fact that he later went on to become President of the United States of America would surely go to show that affirmative action is a good idea! The concern that super-talented people were getting locked out of opportunities is exactly the sort of thing affirmative action is supposed to resolve.
As it happens, I oppose race-based affirmative action, despite the fact that it may have worked out quite well in the case of Barack Obama. The country where he grew up wouldn't have elected him president. Times change. The notion of advantaged people like Sasha and Malia Obama benefiting from racial preferences is a much better argument against the policy than the experience of their father.