The Magazine

A Plague of ‘A’ Students

Why it’s so irksome being governed by the Obami.

May 3, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 31 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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Let us allow that some intelligence is involved in screwing up Wall Street, Washington, and the world. A students and Type-A politicians do discover an occasional new element—Obscurantium—or pass an occasional piece of landmark legislation (of which the health care reform bill is not one). Smart people have their uses, but our country doesn’t belong to them. As the not-too-smart Woody Guthrie said, “This land was made for you and me.” The smart set stayed in fashionable Europe, where everything was nice and neat and people were clever about looking after their own interests and didn’t need to come to America. The Mayflower was full of C students. Their idea was that, given freedom, responsibility, rule of law and some elbow room, the average, the middling, and the mediocre could create the richest, most powerful country ever. 

Thus in America nobody loves a smart-ass. What’s interesting about Obama is that he didn’t start out being one. Lips (and academic records) are sealed at Occidental College and Columbia, but Obama doesn’t seem to have been an A student as an undergraduate. He learned to “make it or fake it” at Harvard Law where he graduated magna cum laude. Worse than an A student is somebody pretending to be one, witness Al Gore.

However, perhaps I should hold my tongue and temper my ire. I have just received my junior high school daughter’s report card. She’s an A student. I questioned her, and it turns out so is every one of her girlfriends including the numbskull jock and the complete feather-brain who’s besotted with Justin Bieber.

I can’t imagine what kind of input my daughter’s school is measuring (although I assume my daughter delivers it via Twitter). But when input is valued enough, America turns into that blissful land of social justice so desired by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barney Frank—outcomes are equal at last. I’m old-fashioned in my criticism of Barack Obama. He graduated from Harvard Law in the 1990s, barely yesterday. I’d forgotten the wonderful progressiveness of the American educational system. We’re all A students now.

P.J. O’Rourke, a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, is author, most recently, of Driving Like Crazy.


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