Michael P. Ackley has worked more than three decades as a journalist, the majority of that time at the Sacramento Union. His experience includes reporting, editing and writing commentary. He retired from teaching journalism for California State University at Hayward.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
As Barack Obama has refused to release his collegiate records, and as the mainstream media have failed to show any interest in them, we have undertaken our own investigation.
This has turned up some fascinating intelligence with regard to his sojourns as a student at California’s Occidental College and as a teacher of the Constitution at the University of Chicago Law School.
It was at Oxy that we were able to contact one faculty member who clearly recalled having the future chief executive in his classes between 1979 and 1981.
Professor emeritus Howard Bashford, who in the ’70s and ’80s occupied the prestigious Barcalounger Chair in Economics, received us in his cluttered office on the campus of the liberal arts institution, less than a mile south of Pasadena’s famed Colorado Boulevard.
“Barack Obama … Barack Obama,” he mused as he reclined behind his large, oak desk, which was cluttered with papers, monographs and textbooks. “Barack … Oh! You mean Barry Obama. I remember him well. President now, isn’t he? He took a couple of my courses. Quite a student, quite a student.”
“You mean he was intellectually gifted?” we asked.
“Uh … not … exactly,” said Bashford. “He never seemed to grasp that the value of a product or service reflected the value of capital and risk. He would just keep harping on the value of the labor that went into something.
“It was right out of Karl Marx. You know, boil Marx down to its essence and you get Adam Smith’s “On the Wealth of Nations” – minus the contribution of capital. And Barry was quite persistent in debating that point of view.
“No matter how I explained it, he would keep asking, ‘Why are you unwilling to compromise?’ It was always compromise, compromise, compromise – as though facts were amenable to negotiation.”
“So, did you fail him?” we asked.
“Of course, but the administration made me give him a ‘C-minus.’ Special case, you know,” said the professor, who then exclaimed, “Good heavens!”
Appearing flustered and running his fingers through his unkempt, white hair, Bashford said, “Oh, dear! We’re not supposed to discuss a student’s grades. Confidentiality, you know. I can trust your discretion?”
We replied, “absolutely not,” and Bashford said, “Thank you.” Then he continued, “About this compromise thing: Didn’t the president – Barry – recently ask for a compromise on the so-called Bush tax cuts?”
“He did,” we said.
“And didn’t he say, in essence, ‘Compromise with me now, and we’ll discuss your points later’?” the professor queried.
“That would be right,” we answered.
“Same old Barry,” Bashford chuckled. “‘Give me my point, and we’ll get to yours somewhere down the road.’ It’s classic. He’s saying Republicans would hurt the middle class by not extending middle-class tax breaks, then threatened to veto any bill that extended everybody’s tax breaks – including those of the middle class.
“He never could see that his was a scorched-earth position. He’s willing to punish the middle class along with high-income individuals and businesses if he can’t have it all his way.
“You really ought to talk to philosophy professor emeritus Amy Handleman. She had Barry in her Logic 101 class in ’79. She flunked him, too.
“Oops! There I go again.”
Getting information about Obama’s teaching at the U of Chicago Law School was more difficult. Though he taught scores of scholars, almost none of them would agree to talk with us. Finally, we located one, Jill Poke, who took Obama’s class on the Constitution in 2003.
“The president’s course,” she said. “Golly, what and eye opener that was. We learned that the Constitution was written by a white slave owner … or, was that the Declaration of Independence?
“It doesn’t matter, I guess. The Constitution was signed by a bunch of old, white men, many of whom owned slaves, like James Madison, who wrote what professor Obama called ‘the Bill of Whites.’”
Shocked, we asked, “Did he really say that?”
Poke was bemused. “He might have,” she said. “Or it might have been one of my undergraduate professors. They all taught pretty much the same thing. Anyway, I’m sure professor Obama said the Constitution was outdated and didn’t deal with economic equality. It didn’t share the wealth, you know?”
“Look, I’ve got to go,” Poke said. “Somebody from the White House called and wanted to talk to me. Me! Can you believe it?
“Somehow they knew I was meeting with you, and they said they wanted to see me before we got together. But you were on my way, so I figured, ‘What could it hurt?’”