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College transcripts replace birth certificate for Obama detractors

By Robin Abcarian

Los Angeles Times (MCT)


LOS ANGELES >> Now that the issue of the president's birth certificate has been laid to rest (mostly), some conservatives are turning their attention to a new obsession: Barack Obama's college transcripts.

Last week, a website that already had offered a $10,000 reward for Obama's transcripts from Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School, increased the bounty to $20,000.

About a year ago, Donald Trump, among the highest-profile "birthers," helped get the mini-movement started. After the president released his long-form birth certificate, Trump abruptly changed subjects:

"The word is, according to what I've read," Trump said, "that he was a terrible student when he went to Occidental. He then gets into Columbia; he then gets to Harvard. ... How do you get into Harvard if you're not a good student? Now maybe that's right or maybe it's wrong, but I don't know why he doesn't release his records."

What do these "transcripters" (if we may coin a phrase) hope to prove?

"We're not convinced that Barack is as smart as you media elitists keep insisting he is," says The Trenches, the website that posted the reward. (The Daily Caller outed the responsible party as Brooks Bayne, a conservative blogger who admitted he was behind the reward.)

That rationale may strike some as a little flimsy, given that Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, taught constitutional law, has two best-selling books to his credit and is, at the moment, leader of the Free World.

We do know a few things about the president's college career.

In his new book, "Barack Obama: The Story," David Maraniss quotes Obama as saying that his grade-point average at Columbia was an impressive 3.7. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, which cannot happen with poor grades.

The president's presumptive opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, was no academic slouch either. According to various news reports, Romney graduated from Brigham Young University with a 3.97 grade-point average and was in the top 5 percent of his class at Harvard Business School, where he simultaneously earned a law degree.

Unfortunately for transcript transparency advocates, school transcripts, like tax returns, are private. They are protected by a 1974 law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.

"There are all kinds of exceptions, but the rule is records may only be released with signed written consent of the individual," said Barmak Nasserian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. The group counts more than 2,600 degree-granting institutions among its members. "Barack Obama, like every other American, is entitled to privacy rights under federal law."

In any case, said Nasserian, he doesn't see much benefit in allowing voters to peruse candidates' college transcripts.

"I am not sure looking at 20-year-old Mitt Romney or Barack Obama at that granular level of detail would make a difference," he said. "It's kind of a stretch to say performance in a particular course, or that they took a course with a professed Marxist, or they studied Russian for heaven's sakes, is going to be relevant or helpful to someone making up their mind."

Though it may be true that college transcripts are not determinative, they can certainly be revealing.

In 1999, the New Yorker published an apparently purloined copy of George W. Bush's Yale transcript before he became the Republican nominee for president. Bush, it turned out, was basically a C student. Was this a scandal? Hardly. He never cast himself as an intellectual or brainiac, and, despite his Harvard MBA, often made fun of highly credentialed people.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry was assumed by many to be Bush's intellectual superior. But months after he lost to Bush, his college transcripts were inadvertently sent to the Boston Globe and he was revealed to be a C student as well, earning four Ds his freshman year. (Stung by allegations that his Vietnam War service was not what he had claimed, Kerry had given permission for his Navy records to be turned over to the newspaper. The college records were part of those documents.) Can a mediocre student hope to achieve the highest office?

The answer is self-evident.

"To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done," President Bush told Yale graduates in 2001. "And to the C students, I say you too can be president of the United States."


Los Angeles Times reporter David Lauter contributed to this article.

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kuewa wrote:
The birthers will never be happy until President Obama miraculously turns white-looking. The fact that his mother was white doesn't matter to them since he still looks black.
on May 28,2012 | 03:23PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
Why do you bring up the race issue?
on May 28,2012 | 08:26PM
summer43 wrote:
Because he/she is a racist!!!
on May 29,2012 | 05:17AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
Kuewa is probably right. You don't see anyone of color among the "birthers."
on May 29,2012 | 06:34AM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Because the birthers and the transcripters are prejudiced. No one challenged John McCain as being born outside the USA even though he was born on a ship in Panama Harbor because he is white. Transcripters are challenging the President on some he had bad grades but was accepted to Harvard because of affirmative action theory. They are prejudiced because they cannot accept that the President is smart because he is half black. The article correctly points out that you can't graduate magna cum laude unless you have high grades, in the top 5 % of your class I believe. Also, trhe President could not have gotten onto the Law Review unless he is grades his first year were very good. Yet people still argue that he is unintelligent, the implication being that he is unintelligent because he is black.
on May 29,2012 | 10:57AM
shshimizu wrote:
I can't see it any other way. The birthers are always looking and questioning President Obama, the difference between our President and Mitty is the color of their skin. This looks and smells like a RACE Issue.
on May 29,2012 | 10:39AM
Big C wrote:
If these "birthers" are so dis-satisfied with Pres. Obama, they should either run for a government office and do something for their country or just give up their US citizenship and move to a different country.
on May 28,2012 | 04:26PM
kainalu wrote:
Obama doesn't have to show me anything. Just by the way he articulates, communicates, by his actions and by his words, he demonstrated that he's more than intelligent enough.
on May 28,2012 | 04:46PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
If the "Media" vetted his candidacy back when we would not have to go through all this second guessing.
on May 28,2012 | 08:30PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
on May 28,2012 | 08:37PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
You can wash hog all you want. This empty suit president will not get my one vote.
on May 28,2012 | 09:21PM
summer43 wrote:
Ditto for me !
on May 29,2012 | 05:19AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
So? Like you (or summer43) were going to vote for him anyway... He won't need your vote in this state.
on May 29,2012 | 11:07AM
honopic wrote:
Oh, I'm sure he won't lose any sleep over your vote. President Obama could have ended both wars, found a new unlimited source of free, clean energy, ended world hunger and unemployment and you still wouldn't vote for him. Your screen name says it all, thepartyfirst. I don't think we have to ask whhich party, do we?
on May 29,2012 | 01:08PM
OldDiver wrote:
thepartyfirst..........By media I take it you mean Republican TV (Fox News).
on May 29,2012 | 06:03AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
He is certainly an improvement over his predecessor, who couldn't even pronounce "nuclear."
on May 29,2012 | 06:35AM
Living_Large wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on May 28,2012 | 04:51PM
OldDiver wrote:
LOL, you are a birther.
on May 28,2012 | 05:13PM
Beaglebagels wrote:
How do we know Mitt Romney really only has one wife?
on May 28,2012 | 05:16PM
OldDiver wrote:
Like Bill Mahr said, some people have said that Mitt Romney's five children are all thirty years old.
on May 29,2012 | 06:01AM
Taisho808 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on May 28,2012 | 07:46PM
palani wrote:
Right, and Obama, a mediocre Punahou graduate, somehow leaped from the obscure Occidental College to the Ivy League. And even an unimpressive 3.7 GPA from Columbia will not get you into Harvard Law.
on May 29,2012 | 06:51AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Do you work in Admissions? If you did, you would already know that GPA is only one of MANY criteria for admission to Harvard. Interesting how you gloss over the fact that he was in the top 5% of his class at Harvard. Facts are tough when they don't support your talking point.
on May 29,2012 | 11:09AM
honopic wrote:
Well put, DowntownGreen.
on May 29,2012 | 01:10PM
ross13moon wrote:
Memorial Day, a time to remember those who died to protect Constitutional Freedom to act like idiots.
on May 29,2012 | 05:56AM
palani wrote:
In his new book, "Barack Obama: The Story," David Maraniss quotes Obama as saying that his grade-point average at Columbia was an impressive 3.7. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, which cannot happen with poor grades.

What is not explained is how Obama, an average Punahou graduate, made the remarkable leap from the mediocre, obscure Occidental College to the Ivy League. And a 3.7 GPA, even from Columbia, is not good enough to earn admission to Harvard Law.

on May 29,2012 | 06:49AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Once again, more Hogwash.
on May 29,2012 | 11:10AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Then change the law people! Make the college transcripts part of the requirements for President. Oh wait, that would eliminate George Washington.
on May 29,2012 | 07:08AM
iwanaknow wrote:
Hurray for C students! Somebody grades on the curve?......I thought we are all above average?
on May 29,2012 | 08:55AM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
The Birther now Transcripter movement is a thinly veiled guise for a racist attack on our number one Highly Educated Local Boy, the President. These racists attack the President as not being born in Hawaii Nei because he is half black. They didn't attack John McCain as not being born in the USA even though it is well established that McCain was born on a ship in Panama, because McCain is white. Now they are attacking the President as not being smart and getting into Harvard and Columbia (the bastion of Ivy League white elitists) only on affirmative action. That's another lie. You can't get onto the Harvard Law Review unless your grades place you in the top 3 to 5 % of your class. You can't graduate magna cum laude from Harvard unless you are in the top 5 % of your class. Most Harvard Law Review members don't graduate cum laude much less magna cum laude because of the rigorous duties of the Law Review and because to some extent they slack off because their futures are made once they receive high enough grades to get onto the Law Review. The President wasn't one who relaxed after he "graded on" th the Law Review. Pay no attention to these racists.
on May 29,2012 | 10:51AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Donald Duck is not even human. Evidence is his hair. It's actually alive and has a life of its own. If you look at it too long you will turn to glass.
on May 29,2012 | 11:09AM
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