Did Barack Obama go to Columbia?

[Update: please see the following post.]

I know. I swore that my evil demagogic talents would go unused in this volatile, historic, and deliciously operatic election. And we’ll certainly have a fun discussion after the event.

At the moment, though, I find myself tussling with a question I’m not sure anyone has seriously asked. And I just can’t resist.

My question is: was Barack Obama ever a student at Columbia? Because here’s how one scurrilous compendium of racist smears puts it:

Obama graduated from Columbia College in 1983, and after spending a year in New York, moved to Chicago.

Wayne Allyn Root says, “I don’t know a single person at Columbia that knows him, and they all know me. I don’t have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia. Ever! … Nobody recalls him. I’m not exaggerating, I’m not kidding.”

Questioner: Were you the exact same class?

Root: Class of ’83 political science, pre-law Columbia University. You don’t get more exact than that. Never met him in my life, don’t know anyone who ever met him. At the class reunion, our 20th reunion five years ago, 20th reunion, who was asked to be the speaker of the class? Me. No one ever heard of Barack! Who was he, and five years ago, nobody even knew who he was… the guy who writes the class notes, who’s kind of the, as we say in New York, the macha who knows everybody, has yet to find a person, a human who ever met him. Is that not strange? It’s very strange…

When asked about his undergraduate training at Columbia University, The New Times states that Obama “declined repeated requests to talk about his New York years, release his Columbia transcript or identify even a single fellow student, co-worker, roommate or friend from those years.”

Many of his classmates don’t remember Obama. He’s not in the yearbook. Columbia couldn’t find a picture of him at school.

What can be said with some certainty is that Mr. Obama lived off campus while at Columbia in 1981–83 and made few friends. Fox News contacted some 400 of his classmates and found no one who remembered him.

Does this ring true for you? Does it even pass the laugh test?

Barack or Barry—note that he is still Barry while at Occidental; at the next place we know he existed, Harvard Law, he has become Barack—spends two years at Columbia. He presumably receives two years worth of college credits. By taking two years worth of college courses.

Furthermore, in every other period of his life, he is known as the gregarious and charismatic young man he obviously was. Nor can his looks be described as ordinary. Nor is even his name ordinary. This man is a future president. And no one remembers him? No one?

What is the chance that a budding young politician of undeniable talent and promise spends his junior and senior years at Columbia, and no one remembers him? What is the chance that my right ass cheek, through spontaneous quantum vibration, suddenly transmutes into a hemisphere of polished gold? Don’t you feel these probabilities are at least roughly comparable?

I can speak slightly to this issue, because while Obama (purportedly) was a transfer student at Columbia in 1981, I was a transfer student at Brown in 1989. It is certainly easy to disappear into the void as a transfer, because most everyone acquires their principal social networks as a freshman. I am also a naturally reticent person who was quite a bit underaged, and I have to say that if anyone “lived like a monk” it was me (although I was in the CS lab, not the library). And I certainly have no plans to seek political office!

Nonetheless, if you were a major media organization, and you went looking for people who were at Brown in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and asked them if they remembered Mencius Moldbug—giving my real name, of course—you would find them. Easily. Very easily.

So let me ask anyone who cares to comment below. How, exactly, do we—the American people, Lord help us—know that Barack Obama attended Columbia? Or, more precisely: why should we assume, on the basis of the evidence that we have, that he did? Do we seriously believe it is possible for a future President to be unremembered at his alma mater?

What we know is that a Columbia spokesman has confirmed that Obama attended Columbia. If we’re lucky, this means precisely one thing: someone at Columbia went over to a file cabinet, opened it, and found a file that looked basically right. Which is more likely: that no one remembers one of the most articulate and talented black students on an Ivy League campus? Or that someone planted a file or two?

WikiCU, the Columbia wiki, in a paragraph which is of course completely unsourced, contains names of two individuals whom it claims claim to remember him (Michael Baron, a professor and contributor, and Michael Wolf, former president of MTV). They

confirm that he was a brilliant, standout student and that he was an active participant in seminars. Baron said he was one of the top one or two students in his class.

No wallflower, in other words. And despite this—no one else remembers him. (Nor did the NYT find Messrs. Baron and Wolf—at least, not on the first pass.) Does this make you less suspicious? Or more? WikiCU is also oddly tentative about a couple of other things:

Obama claims to have participated to some extent in anti-apartheid activities with the Black Students Organization, but no one is quite sure.

He majored in PoliSci, and claims to have concentrated in “International Relations,” (now International Politics—this is a subfield of the PoliSci major and should not be confused with a “concentration,” the Columbia term that substitutes for what most schools term a “minor”).

“Claims.” “To some extent.” “No one is quite sure.” And his concentration is not a concentration at all. You don’t smell anything here? You don’t detect perhaps a little teensy bit of an odor?

If we rule out the impossible, we have to accept the improbable. In my mind, knowing what I know (if anyone has better information, hopefully they will post it in the comments), it is close enough to impossible that Barack Obama went to Columbia, that I’m willing to say the unsayable and theorize about what else might have happened. Yes, I realize that this makes me a racist.

My guess is that young Barry dropped out of Occidental in ’81, not to go to Columbia, but to go to New York and be a black revolutionary bohemian. We know he was a red-diaper baby (no shame in that—my father’s parents were CPUSA members), and we know he was involved with an SDS splinter group at Occidental. Zombie has a very interesting timeline of his time in New York, during which it seems very probable that Obama met Bill Ayers. She also links to a completely unsubstantiated and irresponsible speculation that Obama was a roommate of Ayers and Dohrn—which I’m afraid can’t help but remind me of this chilling story. Yes, these people are that evil.

What’s certain is that whenever they met, Obama and Ayers did not just “meet.” At least until Obama was actually elected to state office, their relationship cannot have been one of equals. Ayers was the warlord of the Weathermen. Since that time, probably everyone in his social network, and certainly everyone younger than him, has been a supporter, groupie, protege, or what have you. Ayers is a celebrity of the Left. Celebrities have peers, and celebrities have entourages. There is never any doubt over who is which.

And for those of you still convinced that Obama and Ayers were “neighbors,” note that Obama almost certainly worked out of Ayers’ office for three years. If you know anything about the granting process, the relationship between Ayers’ “Small Schools Workshop” (educacion es revolucion!) and Obama’s Annenberg Challenge is obvious: the AC was a funded grant proposal out of Ayers’ office. An organizational bud or pseudopod, basically. So under this scenario, Ayers is Obama’s professional mentor for at least fifteen years. (And if that doesn’t bother you, cue up Larry Grathwohl.)

My guess—not because I have any reason to believe that this specifically is what happened, but just because every other explanation I can think of strikes me as less probable—is that Obama, as a young black radical with SDS credentials and obvious talent and potential, found it relatively trivial to earn quick admission to the inner circle, spent two years as a gofer, intern, catamite, or what have you for the Ayers crime family, and was rewarded by the gift of a Columbia degree and a ticket to Harvard Law.

Did Bill Ayers have connections in the administrative staff at Columbia? It would be remarkable if he didn’t. Folks, the Movement was the center of the universe in 1968. If you were one of the top hundred people in it, let alone Bill Ayers, you were the giant glowing sun in the core of your social galaxy. You were a stud beyond studs. You had friends everywhere.

And would someone who blows up police stations blanch at planting a file? Honestly, can we even be confident that the staff at Columbia looked at the file? Who are they, and how do we know them? Again: why do we believe that Barack Obama attended classes at Columbia?

Moreover, a bogus Columbia degree is exactly the sort of thing an ambitious person can get away with in this world. Especially an ambitious black person. Everyone hates to be a racist. Of course, you have to have a serious pair of brass balls, but I think we know Obama has those.

But running for president? And, seemingly, winning? Is it possible? It would certainly be something new under the sun, that’s for sure. But semper aliquid novi, as they say.

The story is easy to check. Just ask Barack Obama to tell us the names of some of his classes and professors at Columbia. He may not have had friends, but he took classes from professors. Then, find the professors and students. Not just one of each. All of them. (For example, there were apparently only seven other students, presumably all jealous of the One’s rapierlike wit, in Michael Baron’s seminar.) Interview these people. Take depositions, if needed. Ask them if they remember Barry. Or Barack. Or whatever he was calling himself at the time. If not…

Of course, the One is scheduled to be elected President in a few days. So he may not find the time to answer. But does it matter? All this will be so much more fun after the election.

And in case it matters, no: I don’t really believe Barack Obama is the Manchurian Candidate. If I had to bet, I would bet that Steve Sailer has him pegged: Obama is Gatsby. I think Obama is a man without qualities, a person of no particular character or perspective, who is very good at conforming to the expectations of whatever context he finds himself in. I think he wound up in Ayers’ circle just because he’s a climber, and that was the handiest pole to climb. I think that in an Obama administration the White House will revert to its long-term trendline of becoming a basically ceremonial and functionless agency. I think, I think, I think.

But I don’t know. And that worries me a little. Doesn’t it worry you too? A little? Just a little?

[Update: see also the following post.]