Obama’s Love of Elites

The president struck a populist note in his speech, but it’s hard to tell he believes it when you look at his administration.

US President Barack Obama makes remarks before entertainment following a state dinner in honor of Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the White House in Washington on May 19, 2010.
National Journal
James Oliphant
Jan. 29, 2014, 1:22 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama drew ap­plause from the House cham­ber for strik­ing what seemed to be a pop­u­list blow against elit­ism in his State of the Uni­on.

“I be­lieve that here in Amer­ica, our suc­cess should de­pend not on ac­ci­dent of birth, but the strength of our work eth­ic and the scope of our dreams,” Obama said early in his re­marks.

Look­ing at his ad­min­is­tra­tion, however, you would nev­er know he be­lieves that. Yes, as the pres­id­ent poin­ted out, both he and House Speak­er John Boehner come from mod­est back­grounds. But as a gradu­ate of Har­vard Law School, Obama has shown him­self more of that stripe, stuff­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion with like-minded den­iz­ens of the Ivy League.

George W. Bush at­ten­ded Yale Uni­versity and Har­vard Busi­ness School, and his vice pres­id­ent, Dick Cheney went to Yale as well (and, yeah, he flunked out), but they car­ried chips on their shoulders about it the rest of their lives. Both felt like out­siders among the East­ern elite. Obama in­stead has em­braced that cul­ture like few pres­id­ents be­fore him.

Na­tion­al Journ­al sur­vey last year of 250 de­cision-makers in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion found that no few­er than 40 per­cent of them held Ivy League de­grees. Moreover, just one-quarter of those of­fi­cials held gradu­ate de­grees from a pub­lic uni­versity. In fact, more Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials se­cured ad­vanced de­grees from Ox­ford — you know, in Eng­land — than from any Amer­ic­an pub­lic school. And more than 60 either at­ten­ded Har­vard as an un­der­grad or a grad stu­dent.

The sur­vey also found than an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials hailed from the North­east, with the West and South severely un­der­rep­res­en­ted. Just 18 per­cent came from a state that voted for Mitt Rom­ney in 2012. As the sur­vey noted, “You’re more likely to find someone who grew up over­seas work­ing in the top ranks in the ad­min­is­tra­tion than someone who grew up in Texas.”

To be fair, not every Ivy Leaguer sports a sil­ver spoon — and Obama at times has shown an af­fin­ity for those who, like him­self, got there the hard way. One prime ex­ample is Justice So­nia So­to­may­or, the pres­id­ent’s first pick for the Su­preme Court, who at­ten­ded Prin­ceton and then Yale Law.

Still, it all sort of makes one grate­ful for the pres­ence of the two men who sat be­hind Obama on Tues­day night: Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden — a grad of the Uni­versity of Delaware (go, Fight­in’ Blue Hens) and Syra­cuse Law, where he fin­ished 76th in his class out of 85 — and Boehner, who ma­tric­u­lated from Xavi­er Uni­versity. Xavi­er, ac­tu­ally, is just down the road from Ox­ford.

Ox­ford, Ohio, that is.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4691) }}

What We're Following See More »
WORDS AND PICTURES
White House Looks Back on bin Laden Mission
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Sanders Looks to Right the Ship in Indiana
12 hours ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs." 

Source:
‘SPOOKED’ IN NORTH DAKOTA
Cruz Delegates Having Second Thoughts?
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

As unbound delegates pledged to Ted Cruz watch him "struggle to tread water in a primary increasingly dominated by Trump, many of them, wary of a bitter convention battle that could rend the party at its seams, are rethinking their commitment to the Texas senator."

Source:
MORE PRESSURE ON CONGRESS TO ACT
Puerto Rico to Default on Payment Today
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The confrontation between debt-swamped Puerto Rico and its creditors is intensifying as the U.S. territory will default on payments due Monday, deepening the island's financial crisis and placing additional pressure on Congress to intervene." The amount of the default is estimated at $422 million.

Source:
A RARE KIND OF REBUKE
Leading Republicans Would Say ‘No Thanks’ If Asked to Be Trump’s VP
20 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Nikki Haley. Jeb Bush. Scott Walker. Lindsey Graham. John Kasich. The list is growing ever longer of Republicans who say they wouldn't even consider becoming Donald Trump's running mate. "The recoiling amounts to a rare rebuke for a front-runner: Politicians usually signal that they are not interested politely through back channels, or submit to the selection process, if only to burnish their national profiles."

Source:
×