Are Barack and Hillary Ashamed of their Law Degrees?
I think we can all agree that the 2008 race for the White House has received more media coverage than any election in history. I have certainly watched and read more campaign speeches than ever before. One thing that has struck me, however, is the Democratic candidates’ reluctance to discuss their law degrees. Sen. Obama occasionally mentions that he was a community organizer or that he taught Constitutional Law. But I have never seen him even mention that he graduated from Harvard Law School, much less that he was Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Review, a phenomenal accomplishment. And I have not seen Sen. Clinton discuss that she graduated from Yale Law School.
Am I alone in thinking that these accomplishments are much more significant to one’s qualifications for the Oval Office than a bowling score or ability to shoot a rifle? Why do even the candidates themselves seem to feel that these remarkable educational achievements are not worth touting on the campaign trail? I think there are two equally troubling explanations. The first is this is this yet another manifestation of anti-lawyer sentiment. I certainly know from my own life experience that being a lawyer often seems like something to apologize for rather than to be proud of, as years of a carefully-scripted campaign to demonize trial lawyers, aided by the actions of a few misguided members of our profession, have led many Americans to believe that lawyers are themselves the problem. The second reflects the point that Susan Jacoby makes in her new book, “The Age of American Unreason.” We have shifted, in four decades, from a society that wanted to elect “the best and the brightest” to one that bases its presidential choice on the basic question, “Who would I like to have a beer with?” Frankly, I do not want to have a beer with the President. And I do not want the President to be just like one of us. I want him or her to be smarter than us. Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton are smarter than the average bear. Their noteworthy achievements include juris doctor degrees from two of the best law schools in this country. They should be proud to talk about it.