A longstanding conservative meme is that President Obama wasn't "vetted" during the 2008 campaign, and several conservative organizations have undertaken big projects to remedy that. The Washington Examiner posted its effort, "The Obama You Don't Know," Thursday; it follows Breitbart.com's "The Vetting." Today's major revelations include that Obama was only a moderately popular professor, and he didn't hang out that much with his colleagues at the University of Chicago in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Obama's background is an important and worthy journalistic pursuit. And anyone setting out to fill in any gaps remaining in the historical record of a sitting President should be lauded, in part because there are so few gaps remaining. Because it's not hard not to notice that the element that all these vetting projects have in common is that the results are a little boring. For instance, in contrast to Time magazine's gushing report that once Obama arrived at the University of Chicago in 1992, "Within a few years, he had become a rock-star professor with hordes of devoted students," the Examiner finds that his rock stardom faded quickly. Sure, in Obama's first two years, he was the top-ranked instructor, with a rating of 9.7 out of 10 from students. "But law student evaluations made available to The Washington Examiner by the university showed that his popularity then fell steadily." The sad stats:
- 1997: Obama's student rating falls to 7.75. He is ranked 23 of 40 lecturers.
- 1999: Just 23 percent of students said they'd retake Obama's class on racism. Obama was the third-least-liked law lecturer.
- 2003: Just one-third of students recommended his class.
Further, Obama did not hang out with many of his colleagues, or go to lectures with famous people, say two former students, including one guy who work now works at a conservative think tank:
Robert Alt, a former Obama student, echoes Epstein, telling the Examiner that "I think it's fair to say he wasn't engaged in the intellectual life of Chicago outside of the classroom."
Alt is director of the conservative Heritage Foundation's Rule of Law Programs and a senior legal fellow.
So, to anyone voting for Obama based on his performance as a law school lecturer, you may just want to reconsider.
Other Obama exposés in 2012's vetting have revealed that his literary agent mistakenly said he was born in Kenya in a promotional booklet, and that the average GPA of transfer students to Columbia University the year Obama transferred were lower than usual, so maybe Obama had a low GPA. The tale these revelations tell, though, is just that he's a boring guy compared to other national political figures, like Bill Clinton or Newt Gingrich. But even the conspiracy theories about him -- that he was born in Africa, that he got bad grades in college, that his biography was written by someone else -- are incredibly dull compared to all the cocaine smuggling and womanizing Clinton was accused of. Nevertheless, Examiner's multi-part series is an interesting look at Obama's background, even if there's nothing sexy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.