What Shall We Call the Next Bit? Transcripters?
The birthers are dead (kinda), so long live the transcripters!
As we all knew would be the case (and as we here at OTB have noted several times over the last several days), but the release of the long form birth certificate by the President has hardly quelled the insanity.
To wit: an editorial in WaTi: Birth certificate isn’t Obama’s only secret.
First, the piece confirms its own birtherism, even in the wake of aforementioned document release (emphasis mine):
Barack Hussein Obama II was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. For over two years, the president has resisted pressure to divulge this simple biographical information, which proves he’s a natural-born citizen.
Except, of course, that is not true. We have known the entire time that “this simple biographical information” had been confirmed. To pretend like there was a withholding of information is profoundly dishonest.
And now we have this new “controversy”: the question of transcripts. Now, the actual issue is not that new, it dates back to the 2008 elections, but its emphasis is new (apparently, thanks to Trump):
Mr. Obama’s hostility to openness drives the public’s curiosity about the most basic facts of his life. For example, he has refused to release his college and law-school transcripts, information recent presidential candidates have openly shown the public despite some embarrassment over decades-old bad grades. What is there for this president to hide? Maybe he flunked government classes or got busted for dope. He has openly discussed his past drug use, but is there more to it? Secrecy breeds speculation.
This is all utter nonsense. First, given that the man has written two books about himself and the simple fact that in current media environment we probably know as much, if not more, about Obama’s bio than we ever have about a given candidate.* Second, it is not the case that recent candidates have “openly shown the public” their transcripts. See here for some details on Bush and Kerry—where much of the information was leaked, not freely shared (Kerry did, after some hounding, agree to release his transcript). In other words: it isn’t the case that it is a normal course of action for candidates to release transcripts (the way we tend to expect tax returns and even medical records). I don’t even recall transcripts coming up in any major way (especially over two years into an administration) prior to the 2004 cycle.
And the issue is not secrecy breeding speculation, it is petty politics breeding speculation (or, more accurately, using speculation as petty politics).
It is curious as to why people are so willing to jump on an issue like this. I do understand that a) this is easier to focus on than complex policy and b) it is based on a need to declare Obama illegitimate in some capacity.
But, let me note, even to our resident transcripters: this is a pointless endeavor. It has no political utility and it makes you look like, well, an idiot (to use the social science term). Are people really going to say the following: “What!? his GPA was only a 2.8? Well, in that case, I am voting for the other guy!”
At least if the birthers were right, Obama would have been constitutionally barred from office. The stakes for the transcripters are what, exactly? That he might be stripped of his “magna cum laude” status at Harvard Law School?
Let me be clear about my own position on transcripts and politicians: I don’t see a need for politicians to release them. It isn’t as if I am going to choose to vote for a candidate based on who had the higher GPA two or three decades ago. Now, I will admit, if the documents get leaked, or if a politician releases them of their own volition, then I will read them.
To me, the operative information is the institution attended and the degree earned. It seems to me that wanting to know individual grades is about looking for embarrassing tidbits rather than trying to figure out actual qualifications. Further, grades tell me nothing about the now. If my lawyer has done a good job for X number of years, and then I find out he got a “B” in contracts doesn’t mean that I will then fire him (likewise, if he does a lousy job, I am going to fire him even if he received a 4.0 in school).
I did not call for Bush and Kerry to release their transcripts and I see no point in hounding the current occupant of the White House to release.
Beyond any of that: can anyone believe that someone who wrote the first paragraph written above (specifically the bolded portion) actually just wants information for information’s sake? I think not.
Seriously: if the best one can do as a critic of any candidate is their college/grad school transcripts, then I would argue that there must not be much to criticize—especially after a given candidate has served as President of the United States.
*Heck, we even know he once dressed up like a pirate as a child.