Osama and Obama: Dueling Perpetual Grad Students


Daniel Drezner has an amusing take in the Washington Post on "What we can really learn" from the contents of the library inside the compound where "Osama bin Laden, perpetual impoverished grad student" spent his last days before matriculating into Hell:

This is not the collection of an ordinary policy wonk. No, as I perused this mish-mash of conspiracy tomes, quasi-conspiracy tomes, radical texts, mainstream bestsellers, and the occasional hidden gem, it struck me as an off-kilter, but very familiar mix.

And that’s when it hit me: this is the precise collection of books you would find if you went to a used bookstore and bought out the entire international relations section.

Any former graduate student who trolled used bookstores in search of bargains while living off of a modest stipend in the days before Amazon.com knows what I’m talking about. The search for book bargains never ends for impoverished grad students. The problem is the kind of books that find their way into used bookstores. Seriously, if you were to go to Half-Price Books in Austin or Powell’s in Chicago’s south side or Capitol Hill Books, this is pretty much the assortment you would find: crazy conspiracy books, past bestsellers, random think tank monographs, and Noam Chomsky. Lots of Noam Chomsky.

Read the whole thing, which concludes with Drezner's very funny imaginary set of shopping instructions from bin Laden to one of his henchmen.

I can't be the only person who read Drezner's column and thought of a similarly named (just ask the late Teddy Kennedy!) perpetual grad student. As Michael Ledeen wrote in his PJM column in 2010, like the late Osama, Obama "doesn’t much like America or Americans, or the 'former colonial powers' like Britain." and "Like so many would-be intellectuals, he admires lefty writers and screenwriters and actors and actresses:"

He likes the downtrodden, like the Palestinians, but he’s overcome with awe for the occasional cool (non-Western) monarch or emperor (whether Arab or Chinese).  He probably has a Che tee shirt tucked away in a drawer, don’t you think?

He doesn’t know much history (he thinks Muslims invented printing), geography (his America has 57 states), or economics (he believes you can reduce health care costs by adding millions to the public rolls).

The most important thing to this president is how you feel and what you say, not all those annoying facts (50 states, the Chinese invented printing, and you increase deficits when you spend more).  And, like most students, when the debate goes badly for him, the president makes fun of his critics–when he actually lets them talk a little bit.  Remember when he hosted a few Republicans in the White House so he could listen to what they might say about health care…and then talked twice as much as they did?

As a typical undergrad, Obama loves to talk, and loves to talk about peace and justice.  You know, the really important things.  His new nuclear policy is right out of a college bull session:  “Why don’t we just promise not to use them?”  Nukes are bad, ugly things. Doesn’t everyone agree that the world would be better off without them?

Well,  grownups don’t necessarily agree.  It all depends how you get there, and what the others do along the way.  We do have real enemies, but our undergrad-president understands their ire and shares their pain.  It’s up to us to make things right.  And so he apologizes, worrying more about our nukes (about which he has done something) than Iran’s (we haven’t done a thing).

Finally, he doesn’t seem to realize what a mess he’s making.  And when he gets his grades, he blames the professors (we the people, in this case) for being unfair.

That’s the sort we’ve been graduating for a generation or more, isn’t it?  Did you really think we’d never get one as president?

It was only a matter of time before we'd be forced to suffer daily with Obama's voice, which shares the exact timbre and frequency range as the stereotypical wah-wah'd trombone-style Peanuts cartoon teacher. Speaking of which, "The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing," P.J. O'Rourke added shortly after Michael's article went online:

His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. We sit once more packed into the vast, dreary confines of a freshman survey course—“Rocks for Jocks,” “Nuts and Sluts,” “Darkness at Noon.” At the lectern is a twerp of a grad student—the prototypical A student—insecure, overbearing, full of himself and contempt for his students. All we want is an easy three credits to fulfill a curriculum requirement in science, social science, or fine arts. We’ve got a mimeographed copy of last year’s final with multiple choice answers already written on our wrists. The grad student could skip his classes, the way we intend to, but there the s.o.b. is, taking attendance. (How else to explain this year’s census?)

America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects. This is why good businessmen have always adhered to the maxim: “A students work for B students.” Or, as a businessman friend of mine put it, “B students work for C students—A students teach.”

It was a bunch of A students at the Defense Department who planned the syllabus for the Iraq war, and to hell with what happened to the Iraqi Class of ’03 after they’d graduated from Shock and Awe.

The U.S. tax code was written by A students. Every April 15 we have to pay somebody who got an A in accounting to keep ourselves from being sent to jail.

Now there’s health care reform—just the kind of thing that would earn an A on a term paper from that twerp of a grad student who teaches Econ 101.

Why are A students so hateful? I’m sure up at Harvard, over at the New York Times, and inside the White House they think we just envy their smarts. Maybe we are resentful clods gawking with bitter incomprehension at the intellectual magnificence of our betters. If so, why are our betters spending so much time nervously insisting that they’re smarter than Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement? They are. You can look it up (if you have a fancy education the way our betters do and know what the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary is). “Smart” has its root in the Old English word for being a pain. The adjective has eight other principal definitions ranging from “brisk” to “fashionable” to “neat.” Only two definitions indicate cleverness—smart as in “clever in talk” and smart as in “clever in looking after one’s own interests.” Don’t get smart with me.

The other objection to A students is what it takes to become one—toad-eating. A students must do what teachers and textbooks want and do it the way teachers and texts want it done. Neatness counts! A students are very busy.

Well, we can't call Obama and "A" student, as he's never revealed his grades. But how's our perpetual grad student doing in his current gig? John Podhoretz isn't giving him very good grades today, as "ISIS rises, the economy falters, and Obama’s legacy falls apart:"

So it will be up to his successors to bail him out in the eyes of history and make it appear as though his legacy wasn’t the nuclear destabilization of the Middle East!Speaking of legacies, how’s that key domestic-policy legacy going? Not so hot.

ObamaCare remains unpopular; far more Americans oppose than favor it.

People still remember the disaster of the October 2013 rollout, which still casts a shadow over the program today.

Those hard feelings were deepened last year by the discovery of a series of talks by key ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber in which he bragged that it had been falsely marketed to the American people to take advantage of their stupidity.

Its defenders say the program is beginning to work, in the sense that it’s covering more people — but it’s not covering as many as the administration said it would by this time.

They tout the fact that the cost of the program is lower than it was supposed to be by now.

But that’s an inconsistent claim; it’s only less expensive because it isn’t meeting its target numbers, not because cost savings have suddenly materialized from the ether.

Meanwhile, at some point over the next month, the entire policy may be thrown into terminal chaos when the Supreme Court issues its judgment in a case called King v. Burwell — which challenges the legality of a central component of ObamaCare.

As the Supreme Court debates and writes its opinions, the overall economy continues to sputter. Over the past five years, it grows and halts, grows and halts, in a somewhat mystifying pattern that has kept the American people on guard and on edge.

In the latest RealClearPolitics polling average, 62% say the country is on the wrong track — more than seven years after Obama moved into the White House.

Of course, that assumes that Obama means well, both in America and the Middle East. Obviously, he's no OBL -- but as Rudy Giuliani pointed out in February, much to consternation of Obama's Democrat operatives with bylines, that doesn't mean he unambiguously has the best interests of America at heart, either.

But then, don't all perpetual grad students long to play socialist dictator and try reshaping her, one way or another?