For years I have consistently and publicly held a simple principled position: All candidates and nominees for major national office should be transparent with respect to their college transcripts, tax returns, voting records, arrest records, and military service among other things. The critical principle at stake is that the electorate should be able to have and weigh relevant truthful information about candidates so that voters can make informed judgments using their own formulas and criteria. Excuse my cynicism, however, for buffoons, like birther pied piper Donald Trump who conveniently, embraces the principle ala carte after his other attempts at delegitimizing the President's citizenship failed. I do not recall him being so admirably committed to probing President George Bush's or Dick Cheney's military service or arrests for drunk driving or Sara Palin's collegiate journey across five different colleges in pursuit of her communication's degree. Some role model--he also refuses to release his college transcripts.
And despite my continuing assertion that all candidates, present and future should release
college transcripts, there is something downright repulsive about the backstory of the deligitimization of the nation's first African-American president. To be sure President's have been the critical focus of pundits, commentators, and comedians for as long as many of us can remember. President Ford, an eagle scout and University of Michigan All Star, was relentlessly characterized as a klutz by Chevy Chase and hero World War II pilot George Bush was derided in the press as a wimp.
However, in this century the combination of internet rumors, a deeply divided and angry electorate, and the elevation of distrust over reason has created a disturbing trend where disagreement over policies and vision has been replaced among many by a no-holds barred truth be damned strategy where decimation, rather than spirited debate is the goal. While the trend has gone viral with respect to President Obama, it didn't start with him as the target. President George W. Bush's electoral win and popular vote loss, made him the target of many who regarded him as an illegitimate President, who worse yet later planned or allowed the 9/11 attacks to serve his own militaristic agenda. Popular internet postings showed him in the form of a gorilla and bumper stickers replaced the "s" in his last name with a swastika. A respected survey revealed that 19% of Americans believed that George W. Bush was either definitely or could be the anti-Christ.
The delegitimization of Barack Obama created a situation where 20% thought he was or could be the anti-Christ and the run up to his election saw a disturbing number of violent plots directed towards him. He was even interrupted in the middle of the State of the Union address by a Congressman yelling "liar". President Obama is the target of some who seriously believe he is the opening salvo in a crafty non-Christian socialist attack on white America led by a smooth talking Kenyan Muslim Manchurian candidate. According to the internet rumor mill if you really dig into his prior life you'll find not only find that he is a foreign-born madrassa educated Muslim, but a gay, crack dealing killer who also got lousy grades. President Obama's college grades fit into this false narrative as someone who improperly got a break on a questionable academic performance as part of a larger effort by leftist academia to undermine America and prop up future socialist leaders.
For many, these multifaceted attacks on President Obama's citizenship, religious faith, educational achievement, and legitimate election are profoundly hurtful. For our African Americans neighbors in particular it was the very struggle for citizenship, equality in education and the right to vote where they and others literally put their religious faith, belief in democracy and their lives on the line. The iconic images of bombed churches, the Little Rock Nine or Reverend C.T. Vivian's beating by Alabama Sheriff Jim Clark while trying get elderly blacks registered to vote is a painful reminder of how difficult the path to greater racial equity has been.
Yes, all candidates should release their college grades. However, the effort here to advance the narrow truth regarding the president's grades, is being abused as part of a more nefarious effort to paint the president as somehow alien to our nation by birthright and ideology. Conservatives of good will have rightfully concentrated on criticizing Obama's actual record and his vision as a means to distinguish their candidate from that of the President's. Those however, who routinely inject lies and conspiracy theories into the mainstream under the guise of truth-seeking damage not only their own reputations, but the democratic process as well.