Classic NYT Hype: Obama Not an Engaged Academic!

30Jul08

 

BHO meeting and greeting after speaking at Reunion Arena, in Dallas, in February.

BHO meeting and greeting after speaking at Reunion Arena, in Dallas, in February.

The Times today has a somewhat interesting story on BHO’s University of Chicago teaching stint. I have no problem with the overall content of the story. More or less, it resembles even handedness. Barack was a good teacher. Students liked him. But, he wasn’t interested in the academic elements of the university: he didn’t publish articles or regularly attend “special round table” discussion and debate sessions. 

The problem, however, is the framing of his time at U of C. Not until the end of the story does Jodi Kantor tell us that Barack actually had two other jobs during his time at the university, as a state senator and with a civil rights law firm. Teaching was only a part-time job. Yet his inability to engage academically is portrayed almost as a sin. 

Quotes from a fellow professor at the U of C, libertarian Richard Epstein, are the main challenge to Barack’s intellectual vigor. He listens well but has “‘never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.'” Much later on, Epstein is paraphrased as saying Obama “was unwilling to put his name to anything that could haunt him politically.” First of all, a direct quote would have been much better. And, secondly, coming from someone with a political and ideological ax to grind, I think the criticisms carry little weight. 

Like usual, the Times swings big. And misses.

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