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Just What Kind Of Student Was Donald Trump?

Donald Trump has been aggressively questioning Barack Obama’s academic record, suggesting that the president was a “terrible student” who did not deserve to get in to Columbia University and Harvard Law School. While Trump has no evidence to back up these claims, there are strong indications that Trump has repeatedly inflated his own academic record — and that he used family connections to gain admission to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I heard [Obama] was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump asked in an interview last month. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”

But an examination of Trump’s own academic record yields a distinctly unflattering picture of the celebrity businessman. Among other things, Trump has allowed the media to report for years that he graduated first in his class at Wharton, despite strong evidence that this is not true and indications that he was, in fact, an undistinguished student.

Trump did not go to Wharton’s prestigious MBA program. Rather, he received an undergraduate degree offered by Wharton to University of Pennsylvania students. And Trump didn’t attend Wharton for a full four years. Instead, he transferred there after spending his first two undergraduate years at Fordham, the Jesuit university in the Bronx.

“I decided that as long as I had to be in college, I might as well test myself against the best,” he explains in his 1989 autobiography, “The Art of the Deal.”

So how did Trump get into Wharton?

Gwenda Blair’s book on the Trump family reports that he gained admission as a transfer student only because of “an interview with a friendly Wharton admissions officer who was one of Freddy’s old high school classmates.” (Freddy is Donald’s older brother.) Trump was also the son of one of the wealthiest New York businessmen of the era, the developer Fred Trump. That certainly couldn’t have hurt his admission chances.

Blair also reports in her Trump biography that his grades at Fordham were merely “respectable.”

Trump has consistently portrayed himself as an exceptional student at Wharton. In March, for example, he explained his doubts about the president’s birthplace by saying, “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy. I was a really good student at the best school in the country.”

In 2004, Trump told CNN, “I went to the Wharton School of Finance, I got very good marks, I was a good student, it’s the best business school in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

Over the years, myriad profiles of Trump have claimed that he was “first in his class” at Wharton in 1968.

Here’s what the New York Times reported in a January 1973 piece:

Donald, who was graduated first in his class from the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, joined his father about five years ago. He has what his father calls “drive.” He also possesses, in his father’s judgment, business acumen. “Donald is the smartest person I know”, he remarked admiringly. “Everything he touches turns to gold.”

The Times repeated the “fact” again in a 1976 profile, “Donald Trump, Real Estate Promoter, Builds Image As He Buys Buildings”:

Donald, who grew up in the Trump-built home in Jamaica Estates, Queens, began learning the business when he was only 12. He continued helping his father make deals while a student at the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated first in his class in 1968.

The clear narrative being presented is of Trump as an intellectual heavyweight — starting a business at age 12, first in his class at Wharton, “the smartest person I know.” Who told the Times reporters that Trump graduated first in his class? It’s not clear, though Trump himself is an obvious possibility. We also know that Trump, a voracious consumer of media coverage of himself, would almost certainly have seen these references to his graduating “first in his class.”

The “fact” that Trump graduated first in his class made its way into various books, magazines,  and websites.

So what’s the truth about Trump’s record at Wharton?

Writing in the New York Times magazine in 1984, William Geist reported that “the commencement program from 1968 does not list him as graduating with honors of any kind,” even though “just about every profile ever written about Mr. Trump states that he graduated first in his class at Wharton in 1968.”

The writer Jerome Tuccille reported in his 1985 biography of Trump that while “it has been reported that he graduated first in the class … Donald denied that he ever made such a claim. Actually he was not among the honor students that year.” Emphasis added.

Tuccille continues:

“Donald agreed to attend Wharton for his father’s sake. He showed up for classes and did what was required of him but he was clearly bored and spent a lot of time on outside business activities.”

In 1988, New York magazine reported that the idea that Trump had graduated first in his class was a “myth.” The writer snarked that, in fact, Trump had gotten merely the “highest grades possible.”

I wanted to get Trump’s response to all this, but his spokesman has not replied to a request for comment. A Wharton spokeswoman tells me that the school does not release information about alumni beyond year of graduation and degree granted.

I will update this post if Trump gets back to me. The easy solution to clear this all up, of course, would be for Trump to release his academic records — something he has repeatedly demanded that Obama do with his own academic records.

Trump’s academic performance at Wharton, good or bad, didn’t affect his career much. When he graduated, he promptly went to work for his father’s real estate firm, where he was made president a few years later.

May 3, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Donald Trump, Journalists, Politics, President Obama, Press, Racism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Birther’s Guide To Staying Relevant In A Post “Long Form” World

So you’ve spent the last few years constantly asking “where’s the birth certificate,” and now you have an answer. Do you give up? Do you stop constantly emailing journalists and bloggers accusing them of being part of the cover-up? Do you quit commenting on FreeRepublic? Return your WorldNetDaily survival seed bank unopened? No! Of course not!

Professional Birthers have expanded their investigations beyond the question of “where was the president born,” because even before today it was quite obvious that he was born in Hawaii. True birtherism — not the lazy, low-information “I heard he was born in Kenya or something” birtherism of amateurs — has already gone baroque, asserting that Barack Obama never had or possibly lost his American citizenship for reasons that go far beyond the simple fact of his “birthplace.” As Justin Elliott already reported, the conspiracists have other conspiracies developed and ready to explore. And that is how birtherism and its associated theories will live on.

The certificate is a forgery

Ahem. Some FreeRepublic commenters are already on the case:

“Look at the document…it is superimposed on a different background that contains Onaka’s signature (hint: look at the curling on the left-hand margin of the text fields).”

“In 1961, blacks were called negro, colored, darkie, and several other less accepted names, but they were NEVER called ‘African’ as Urkel’s father was in this document. An American adult in 1961 would no more have called a negro ‘African’ than they would have called a homosexual ‘gay’. That alone is enough to raise huge questions about this document.”

“The Security Paper is a Photoshop. If you look at the full form, the ‘Security Paper’ is a background, the ‘Certificate of Live Birth’ appears like it was scanned from a book, the paper made to be transparent – and the ink and borders were then laid on a backdrop with the “Security Paper” background.”

His “African” father disqualifies him

One popular theory has it that “natural born citizen” does not mean what you think it means. Apparently, a “natural born citizen” has to have two American parents. So while Barack Obama has definitively proven that he’s a “native-born citizen,” he is still not a “natural born citizen,” thanks to his father being African. (This would also disqualify a number of past presidents, including Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson, and Chester Arthur, but no one would miss them.)

Something about British citizenship and the Kenyan constitution

I dunno, I don’t really get this one. Barack Obama had dual U.S./British citizenship which became U.S./Kenyan citizenship which then became Kenyan citizenship because he never renounced it.

He lost his citizenship

As WND has written: “Several court cases challenging Obama’s presidential eligibility have argued he gave up his U.S. citizenship in Indonesia and used an Indonesian passport to travel to Pakistan in the early 1980s. Indonesia does not allow dual citizenship.

Still a secret Muslim

One big hope of the long-form birthers was that Obama’s birth certificate would finally reveal that he is a secret Muslim. It does not reveal that, but there’s no reason they can’t still say it.

How did he get into Columbia?

Donald Trump already brought this one up, but the new frontier in questioning the president’s legitimacy is asking about his college years. Because, in their minds, there is simply no way a black man gets into a good school without receiving special favors or somehow cheating, the Schoolers are developing weird, complex theories about how Barack Obama transfered from Occidental to Columbia (and then got accepted into Harvard Law). The new rallying cry will be “release the transcripts.”

This will probably be the most popular of the new avenues of birtherism, though may not bleed into the mainstream discourse with as much ease as the birth certificate stuff, because it has no bearing whatsoever on the president’s qualifications to be president. Schoolerism is simply about proving that the president’s a phony who duped the world with his hoodoo, “the biggest affirmative action baby in history” in the detestable words of Mickey Kaus.

In the imaginings of the crowd desperately searching for evidence that Barack Obama is who they wish he was, the president was obviously, transparently unqualified to go to an elite university, because just look at him.

So birtherism will survive. It will mutate and adapt. There’s no satisfying some people.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon War Room, April 27,2011

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Politics, President Obama, Public, Racism, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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