Massive Problems with Anti-Obama Allegations That Have Been Making the Rounds Recently

[UPDATE: I just received a message from the Content Manager for Right Side News, which had posted the article I cite below, saying that the article has been removed (I’ve updated the link below to point to the Google-cached version). The message explained that, “After reading the article written that addressed the errors in an editorial post on Right Side News, we pulled the article and will not publish that author’s material again. This URL is now inactive … Just wanted to say thank you, sir ….” Very glad to hear it! I should note, though, that some of the errors below remain present either in places that the original article cited, or in places that now cite the article.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: The Blogging Professor has also taken down the post that Right Side News originally linked to.]

A couple of people e-mailed me this story, which is apparently making the rounds in some conservative circles. I wanted to warn people away from this; it’s a mixture of error, unsupported rumor and speculation, linguistic gamesmanship, and innuendo suggesting some malfeasance in what is actually perfectly normal behavior. It’s wrong to fall for it and to recommend it to others. And it’s also counterproductive: it undermines your credibility for the actual substantive arguments that should be made against the Administration’s policies. (For me, it’s enough that it’s wrong; but I mention the counterproductiveness as an extra incentive.)

Let’s look at some items:

According to a special report issued by ‘the Blogging Professor,’ the Chicago Law School faculty hated Obama. The report states that Obama was unqualified, that he was never a ‘constitutional professor and scholar,’ and that he never served as editor of the Harvard Law Review while a student at the school.

1. President Obama’s serving as an editor of the Harvard Law Review is amply documented in publications — including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe — from the early 1990s, including when Obama was still a student. Nor would it have been an easy hoax to pull off then, since the board contained many dozens of people, including many conservatives, all of whom could have blown the whistle had the allegation been false.

Just to satisfy the super-skeptical, I personally confirmed this with Paul Clement, who was a year behind Obama (and was therefore on the board with Obama the year that Obama was the Law Review’s President), who was Solicitor General of the United States from 2005 to 2008, who is a very solid conservative, and whom I know from when we were clerking. And you can also see Obama’s name of the board member listings at, for instance, p. 128 of volume 104 of the Harvard Law Review (though, in keeping with Harvard Law Review practice, that listing doesn’t include the titles of the various members).

2. The “special report issued by ‘the Blogging Professor,'” which supposedly shows that “the Chicago Law School faculty hated Obama,” is actually a quote of a blog post based on an interview with “the highest tenured faculty member at Chicago Law.” Who that is, I don’t know; the source was anonymous, and it’s not clear to me what “the highest tenured faculty member” even means. But in any event, the uncorroborated views of one anonymous source about the supposed attitudes of his colleagues do not make for particularly persuasive proof.

3. The quotation marks around “constitutional professor and scholar” — in an article about supposed “bogus claims on [the] Obama resume” — seem to suggest that the article is quoting some claim of Obama’s or the Administration’s that he was indeed a “constitutional professor and scholar.” My quick searches revealed that Obama has indeed been described at times as a constitutional scholar by others, in contexts where “scholar” seems to just mean “one who has profound knowledge of [the Constitution]” and not “someone who has written scholarship on the subject.” If you want to point out that Obama isn’t a scholar in the sense of having written scholarship on the matter, or that you think his knowledge of the Constitution is weak (as opposed to that you think his views on the Constitution are wrong, a very separate matter), that’s fine. But absent some claim on his or his authorized agents’ part that he’s a constitutional scholar in the “written scholarship” sense, don’t include the claim that he is a “constitutional professor and scholar” as a “bogus claim[] on [the] Obama resume.”

As to the claim that it’s somehow bogus for Obama or his staff to claim that he’s a “professor,” because his title was actually “Senior Lecturer,” Orin addressed this well in July, but the short answer is that “professor” is a commonly used way of referring to university and graduate school teachers, regardless of their titles. If at some point he wrote on his actual resume, or similar document, that he held the title “Professor of Law,” that would be wrong. But that he is casually referred to as “professor,” or refers to himself this way, is quite normal.

4. The article continues, “President Barack Obama, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, is no longer a ‘lawyer’. He surrendered his license back in 2008 possibly to escape charges that he ‘fibbed’ on his bar application.” And “possibly” because the Illuminati ordered the Bar to do it, but that’s just empty hypothesizing, with no actual evidence. The fact that someone who doesn’t actually practice law, and is unlikely to practice law, voluntarily retires is hardly a sinister signal: It costs money to be a member of the bar, and if you’re not going to practice, it may make sense to retire. Nor does this somehow undermine claims that he’s a lawyer; a retired lawyer is still commonly called a lawyer — as an indication of what he has studied, and his general professional field — even if he is no longer a member of the bar.

5. It then says, “Michelle Obama ‘voluntarily surrendered’ her law license in 1993.” Again, I’m not sure what the quotes mean, but the bar record says that she is “Voluntarily inactive.” This is even more common for lawyers who don’t need a bar card, such as many lawyers who don’t appear in court or counsel clients other than employer. Being an active status lawyer costs more money (see Rule 756) than being inactive, and it requires one to do Continuing Legal Education classes (Rule 790), unless one is in certain jobs for which the CLE requirements are waived). The difference in bar fees, for instance, is why I myself was inactive in 2001. Moreover, it’s pretty easy to switch back to active status should one need to do that (as I did in early 2002); again, in Illinois, see Rule 756.

6. The article also reports that “The former Constitutional senior lecturer cited the U.S. Constitution recently during his State of the Union Address. Unfortunately, the quote he cited was from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution…. In the State of the Union Address, President Obama said: ‘We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal.'” But of course President Obama’s statement is quite correct: The Constitution enshrines the notion that we are all created equal in the Equal Protection Clause, in the voting rights amendments, chiefly the Fifteenth Amendment and the Nineteenth Amendment, and in large measure in the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. (And don’t quibble that these are Amendments, and not the Constitution. As Article V of the Constitution says, the Amendments “shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution.”)

It’s true that, as people on the Left often like to point out, the original Constitution did not live up to the ideals of the Declaration, especially in the tolerance of slavery generally and race-based slavery in particular. But I think it a merit of the State of the Union speech, and not a fault, that President Obama didn’t dwell on this, but rather pointed to the way that the Constitution now does indeed enshrine the Declaration’s notion of equality.

I could go on, but I’ve already spent too much time on this. Suffice it to say that it would behoove us — as human beings, as Americans, as conservatives, and as critics of various parts of President Obama’s agenda — to stay away from such erroneous or unfounded attacks. Criticize the Administration’s arguments all you wish. Criticize the qualifications of the Administration’s personnel, including the President, if you have sound criticisms. But make sure that your criticisms are indeed sound. And be skeptical of allegations that you read, whether online or elsewhere.

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