Hearing old acquaintances' opinions of Barack Obama is starting to resemble hearing old Korean War buddies' opinions of Raymond Shaw.
Fine, but what would he do as President? And what would he do in a second term as President, when he doesn't have to run for re-election? When it comes to those minor questions, nobody who has known him seems to remember him saying anything terribly relevant.
Fortunately, in these days of electronic databases, we can look up what a public figure has published in the past on controversial topics. A couple of readers have now done searches looking for Obama's published contributions to public debate in the 1980s and 1990s.
Unfortunately, despite the enormous amount of talking about politics Obama did during those years, he doesn't appear to have put much of anything down on paper where it might come back to haunt him in a future campaign.
Reader Sideways comments:
LexisNexs law gives 4 hits for author Obama, all years. 2 from 89 with Obama as noted as a researcher for the author, one that simply borrows "the Audacity of Hope" title, and one that has nothing to do with him at all.
A search for Obama in the body, ignoring the earlier searches and before 1999 turns up one mention of "Dreams of My Father"
So, yeah, nothing much.
I ran a few other academic/legal searches for the heck of it, nothing came up. It's so little I suspect I'm doing something wrong.
Reader Planetary Archon Mouse comments:
"A Lexis-Nexis search pulled up a few mentions of Obama between Jan 1, 1980 and Dec 31, 1996. Most of it wasn't too interesting — news articles about his being named to head the Harvard Law Review and thanks for his input on articles written by professors. (Although one of those articles, by Lawrence Tribe, is about what law can learn from modern physics, and is quite laughable. I wonder what Obama would say now about it..it was written in 1989, and he's probably smart enough now to stay away from a topic like that.)
The only thing specifically published by Obama, apparently, was a 1994 NPR vocal contribution, in which he went way out on a limb and ... took the side of all right-thinking people everywhere:
Charles Murray's Political Expediency Denounced
HIGHLIGHT: Commentator Barack Obama finds that Charles Murray, author of the controversial "The Bell Curve," demonstrates not scientific expertise but spurious political motivation in his conclusions about race and IQ.
Can anybody find anything else he published?
If not, we're faced with a puzzle. Here we have the president of the Harvard Law Review, who was later employed as a Lecturer at the U. of Chicago Law School for eight years. Yet he has apparently never published a law journal article.
What about in the popular press? He was a glamorous figure as first black president of HLR, and was given a book contract while still in law school He was, at least in part, the model for Blair Underwood's character on the hit TV series "LA Law." His contributions on public issues would have been widely welcomed. He was, by his own testimony, obsessed by politics and social change. Yet, he managed to leave a remarkably thin paper trail before he had pollsters to advise him.
With one fat exception — a massive autobiography, whom nobody except Shelby Steele appears to have read with any comprehension. Everybody else just seems to absorb a sense of Obama's mellifluousness from it, and then gets bored before long, but never holds their boredom against Obama, who seems like such a nice young man.
So, what would he be like as President?
My original surmise a year ago still seems the most plausible: that Obama doesn't know either. His head is in the center and his heart is way to the left. Whether his head or his heart would win when he has attained the summit of power and can finally take off the mask that he has worn all these years remains a mystery, even to him.