There is a detailed article about Sarah Palin’s college years in this morning’s Los Angeles Times.
Does anyone remember their piece on Obama’s college years?
There’s a lot of us who would be interested to read it, if it exists. After all, there appears to be very little information out there about Obama’s time at Columbia (the second undergraduate institution he attended, and the one from which he obtained his degree). An October 2007 article in the New York Times is titled Obama’s Account of New York Years Often Differs From What Others Say and observes that Obama “barely mentions Columbia” in his memoir. The paper said:
[H]e declined repeated requests to talk about his New York years, release his Columbia transcript or identify even a single fellow student, co-worker, roommate or friend from those years.
Odd. Andrew McCarthy finds it more than odd — he finds it suspicious.
So what hard-hitting journalism has the L.A. Times done on this intriguing topic?
I spent a few minutes this morning trying to find out. I warn you that this is not a comprehensive investigation; it’s me sitting in front of my laptop for less than an hour, doing a search and writing a post about the results. If I’m missing something — and I might be — I’m counting on some staunch defender of the paper to come to its defense. I’m looking at you, Tim McGarry!
Here’s what I did: I performed a search for “Obama Columbia” in the paper’s archives for the last two years. Now, I didn’t find and read every story in that search; again, I did the search this morning quickly, before going to work. But I did scan through every headline in the 83 results, and tried to find and read the entries that looked the most promising.
Here’s the closest I could find to an investigation of Obama’s Columbia years in the L.A. Times:
Oddly enough, this morning’s Palin story has a reference to those years, in this passage redolent of the hard-nosed journalistic skepticism characteristic of this newspaper:
Sen. Barack Obama, who attended Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School, is remembered as a daunting scholar and calming influence.
That’ll leave a mark.
The 28th entry in the search yields an abstract of a story by Cathleen Decker and Noam N. Levey, headlined Debate dwells on Obama’s past; Clinton and the moderators put him on the defensive for the first half of the tense Democratic face-off, but I couldn’t find the story. It appears to have been quoted in this blog entry, for example, but when you click on the URL you get a completely different story by Scott Martelle. Another example of the editors’ replacing Story A with Story B at the same Web address.
Entry 80 of 83 yields this abstract of a story from January 2007. I found the story, still accessible online: a hard-hitting expose titled Early on, Obama showed talent for bridging divisions.
That certainly sounds promising! Eager to see the deep digging that this paper had done into Obama’s Columbia years, I clicked through. I saw this:
Barack Obama’s entry into politics came on a winter morning at the white-columned Harvard Law Review building when, about 2 a.m., a deeply divided editorial staff chose him as the first African American to lead the prestigious publication.
It was no small accomplishment. Obama, who at nearly 30 was older and more world-wise than most of his classmates, had to navigate among sharply drawn factions of conservatives and liberals to beat 18 other candidates for the job.
Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.
I couldn’t find the word “Columbia” in the story. I’m still not sure why it popped up in the search.
If I’m missing something, please let me know.
UPDATE: I also found this article on Obama’s Occidental years.
UPDATE x2: Several readers wrote the author of the piece asking if the paper had done an article about Obama’s years at Columbia. The reporter cited the Harvard piece and the Occidental piece (both cited above) and this piece, which addresses the Columbia years in this way: “Obama left Occidental in 1981 to finish his degree in political science at Columbia University, in New York.” That’s it.
I think it’s now safe to say the L.A. Times has not bothered to do a piece on Obama’s time at Columbia.
P.S. Regardless of whether Tim or the other L.A. Times defenders can find the article I couldn’t find, this discussion raises an interesting question: if Barack Obama were applying to be an FBI agent, could he refuse to “identify even a single fellow student, co-worker, roommate or friend” from his college years?
I think not. I think such information would be part of the required background check.
If Barack Obama refuses to provide the information that would be necessary for him to pass a background check for an entry-level federal position, then why are we comfortable electing him President?