A Further Perspective

A Harvard Fairy Tale About Romney and Obama

Meet Alexander Heffner, a pro-Occupy student who targets the first and praises the latter in a false Harvard story.

By 11.29.11

Alexander Heffner is an idealist.

Good for him.

He is also your basic left-wing Harvard senior. Then again, I repeat myself.

Mr. Heffner, a blossoming left-wing journalist (oops -- there I go again repeating myself) who has cut his journalistic teeth interning in the sacred liberal precincts of the Washington Post, penned a holiday missive for the New York Daily News titled "The Tale of Two Harvards."

In it, Mr. Heffner writes a boldly constructed deceit.  Which no one, apparently, has recognized.

In which he compares Harvard graduates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to the disfavor -- shocker I know -- of the former. Mr. Romney, you see, represents the "old Harvard of assumed privilege -- and of a go along-to-get-along attitude that bordered on the sycophantic. By just about all accounts he was not one for rocking the boat."

But Obama? Ahhhhhhhhh, the Anointed One. Even way back at Harvard where The One was "remembered as an open-minded moderate on campus" -- yes He, The One, "was much further removed from the pedigree of the conventional Harvard student." Why was this? Because, silly, thirty years before his arrival "he would have been laughed off most elite campuses simply for the shade of his skin."

Well.

Where does one begin? And why bother? In his senior year at Harvard Mr. Heffner is already well down the road nodding and kneeling to all the sacred liberal cows that have created such a massive drop in ratings and circulations for the once supposedly impregnable fortress that was so-called "mainstream" (aka: liberal) journalism.

Be that as it may, it's useful to understand just how filled with disingenuous nonsense this constant stream of chatter is -- and perhaps even more to the point -- the central deceit in this particular story.  Let's go through Mr. Heffner's liberal constructs.

Mitt Romney: Certainly Mr. Romney is not immune to criticism. He has been getting a great deal of it from conservatives, including here in this space. But the criticism Mr. Heffner levels in an effort to make his "two Harvards" case is blatantly deceptive.

Take this description of Romney from Heffner:

The son of a Michigan governor and the product of the wealthy Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Romney represented the old Harvard of assumed privilege…

The impression conveyed here is that Romney comes from a long line of Harvard-bred Romneys who have always, through accident of birth, whiled away their privileged youth in the precincts of Harvard Yard.

This is laughably untrue. Mitt Romney's father, the aforementioned Governor George Romney of Michigan, was the son of hardscrabble Mormon missionaries. Son George grew up under decidedly modest if not poor circumstances in the Great Depression. In fact, not only did George Romney never go to Harvard -- he never graduated from any college at all! What he did do was struggle -- working in several different jobs to cobble together a living, eventually gaining the skills and confidence that, added to his native smarts, led him to fame and fortune as the CEO of American Motors, the governorship of his state, a presidential run (losing the 1968 GOP nomination to Richard Nixon) and service as a Cabinet member (Nixon's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development). Not bad for a boy who never had a college degree.

By the time his financial success arrived George Romney was able to provide son Mitt his education and the privileges that flowed from the George Romney-bootstrapped success.

In other words, soon-to-be-Harvard-grad Heffner is ignoring the fact that George Romney was not only no son of privilege. Heffner is in effect saying that Mitt Romney should be somehow penalized and made into a poster-boy of privilege because his father escaped poverty altogether and made a considerable Horatio Alger-style success of both his professional and family life. Heaven forbid that Americans learn from an example like that! Alas, this attitude of Heffner's will surely make life difficult for the likes of Malia and Sasha Obama who already fit the privileged profile that Mr. Heffner says is so troubling about Mitt Romney.

Curiously, one never heard a word from Heffner about this subject when another son of Harvard, the late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy was alive and well. Mr. Kennedy, famously, was precisely the living embodiment of privilege Mr. Heffner says he disdains. Kennedy's father Joe went to Harvard (unlike Mitt's father George, who, remember, never graduated from college at all) and, of course, Teddy was one of four equally famous and privileged brothers, every last one of whom went to Harvard. The others being Joe, Jack and Bobby -- the latter two using their Harvard privileges and wealth to achieve, between them, one House seat, two Senate seats, a Cabinet post and the presidency. Ted was thrown out of Harvard for cheating, as one recalls, but went into the army to make amends and was quickly allowed the privilege of getting back in. At thirty, on the strength of no serious resume beyond being the then-president's kid brother Teddy was handed a Senate seat where he lived comfortably for the rest of his life.

Barack Obama: Mr. Obama, assures Heffner, is a treasured symbol of the new Harvard.

What is the new Harvard? Why, a place where one gets to be without the "assumed privilege" of the old family tie. But is this true in President Obama's case? Really? Let's see. We now know about the hard scrabbling George Romney, father of Mitt who never graduated from any college much less Harvard. But Mr. Heffner makes no mention whatsoever of Barack Obama's father. Why might this be?

Hmmm. Doubtless there is a reason. Ah yes.

Barack Obama, Sr., you see, not only went to college he graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Hawaii. And then? And then -- wait for it -- Mr. Obama received a Masters in Economics from… ahem… Harvard. That's right.  Harvard. Listed by Wikipedia in the Class of 1965.

In fact, it is Barack Obama's father who went to Harvard and not Mitt Romney's father.

The legacy child of the two, the one from the "old Harvard of assumed privilege" is in fact Obama -- not Romney.

So this being the case, why in the world would Mr. Heffner try to imply something that in fact is decidedly not true?

One suspects the reason boils down to the standard left-wing mind set at work.

Says Heffner of Obama:

Originally enrolled at Occidental College in Southern California before transferring to Columbia, Obama was never a shoo-in for an Ivy League degree. In fact, some 30 years before his arrival at Harvard, he would have been laughed off most elite campuses simply for the shade of his skin.

Ahhhhhhhhhh. Now we get down to it.

THE REASON FOR HEFFNER'S tall tale is the liberal world view of race and economics. The nominal reason for Heffner's column, after all, was to praise not only Obama and diss Romney but to hold high the torch of the Occupy Wall Street crowd -- in this case the Harvard affiliate which has camped out at the base of the statue of John Harvard.

But alas, that world view -- well aside from its dubious skin-color judging pedigree as the political love child of progressives with slave owners, segregationists, the Klan and racial quota enthusiasts -- needs desperately to ignore basic facts. In this case the fact that Barack Obama Sr. was getting his masters in economics from Harvard a full decade before Romney earned his Harvard MBA. Or, for that matter, the uncomfortable fact that WEB Dubois, the founder of the NAACP, was earning a Harvard history degree cum laude  -- way back in 1890. Blacks and Harvard, contrary to Heffner, are not new found companions. But hey -- race and economics is the progressive tie that binds!

And oh yes….while we are on the subject of race and liberals. After getting his Masters from Harvard, Barack Obama Sr. began work on getting his Ph.D. from Harvard. But… but…. well, in 1964, the Democrat in the White House had a whole different view of immigration issues than the administration of President Barack Obama and today's left-wing liberals. In fact, the predecessor agency of today's Department of Homeland Security -- the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- as run by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 had a specific problem with Barack Obama Sr. In fact, as seen in this story from the Boston Herald, Harvard is believed to have forced Mr. Obama Sr. out of its Ph. D. program. Why? Because, quoting here from the Boston Herald:

Harvard had asked the Immigration and Naturalization Service to delay a request by Barack Hussein Obama Sr. to extend his stay in the U.S., "until they decided what action they could take in order to get rid of him," immigration official M.F. McKeon wrote in a June 1964 memo.

Harvard administrators, the memo stated, "were having difficulty with his financial arrangements and couldn't seem to figure out how many wives he had."

The Herald went on to say:

An earlier INS memo from McKeon said that while the elder Obama had passed his exams and was entitled on academic grounds to stay and complete his thesis, the school was going to try and "cook something up to ease him out."

"They are planning on telling him that they will not give him any money, and that he had better return to Kenya and prepare his thesis at home," the memo stated.

In May 1964, David D. Henry, director of Harvard's international office, wrote to Obama to say that, while he had completed his formal course work, the economics department and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences didn't have the money to support him.

"We have, therefore, come to the conclusion that you should terminate your stay in the United States and return to Kenya to carry on your research and the writing of your thesis," Henry's letter stated.

Obama's request for an extended stay was denied by the INS. He left Harvard and -- divorced from the president's mother -- returned to his native Kenya in July 1964. He did not complete his Ph.D."

Is it any wonder Heffner would focus on Mitt Romney's father but not Barack Obama's? Not only is the Harvard tie tight as a drum, but in today's world of left-wingism Harvard would be deeply embarrassed that it kow-towed to a bullying government agency that was essentially demanding it deport a black man for reasons financial and cultural -- the reference to the "two wives."

Nor is it any wonder that when Barack Obama's son turned up as -- yow! -- the leftist President of the United States in 2011, Harvard blithely announced this very year the most interesting gap in its records since Richard Nixon's Watergate records. You guessed it. Reported the Herald:

Harvard issued a statement Friday saying that it could not find in its own records anything to support the accounts given in the INS memos.

"While we cannot verify accounts of conversations that occurred nearly 50 years ago, a review of our existing files did not find any support for either the language or the implied intent described by the U.S. government official in the government documents," the statement read.

No wonder Alexander Heffner would like to ignore the subject of Barack Obama Sr. and his son Barack Obama -- and Harvard. By the time future president Barack Obama was applying to Harvard the modern left wing was in full control of Harvard and most other notable academic precincts. Is it not at least plausible that a check of records that quite possibly would have been available at the time set off a wave of basic liberal guilt -- a guilt that told the current administrators that Harvard had been excruciatingly unfair to the original Barack Obama? And thus… admitted the son based at least in part over guilt for Harvard's mistreatment of his father?

Presumably we will never know. But that Barack Obama Sr. in fact has a strong Harvard tie plus a Master's and was later pushed out is nowhere in Mr. Heffner's tale of the two Harvards. 

THE OTHER FACT IN NEED of ignoring by Heffner is that the private sector is not just the economic backbone of the country at large, it is at the very heart of the existence of Harvard itself. Where in fact does the money for the school's $32 billion -- that's billion with a "b" -- endowment come from?

Why, from the private economy, of course.

Thus the need to divert attention from Mr. Heffner's daily activities at an institution financed from the private earnings of people like -- Mitt Romney. Or, as Heffner describes these evil beings/alumni -- perpetrators of "corporate greed."

One can only marvel at the subjective nature of this redistributionist urge at Harvard.

Let's assume that Mr. Heffner is a good student and has his requisite share of good grades. While grade inflation has been at issue at Harvard, let's assume Heffner has earned some A's and other Harvard students have not. Has Heffner announced his willingness to redistribute his good grades to those who do not have them -- out of a sense of fairness?  In spite of insisting on the need for "social responsibility" over "personal wealth"? Under Obamanomics the "share the wealth" idea has resurfaced from the political depths, and certainly "wealth" is a term that can be applied to any number of things beyond money. So is Heffner leading a campaign to share top grades out of a sense of fairness?  He doesn't say. How about girl friends?  Is he starting a "my girl is your girl" campaign? No word.

In other words, Heffner's Harvard yen for "social responsibility" rings decidedly hollow when it suits. But he certainly isn't alone in admiring the Harvard Occupiers.

Take, for example, the case of  one Timothy McCarthy, quoted here in Slate:

Timothy P. McCarthy, a Harvard Law School lecturer, explained the relevance of a school-specific Occupy protest to the Crimson: "If Harvard is going to be a place that produces people with power, then Harvard must be an institution where the public good is more important than private profit."

This is an intriguing statement, yes?

I contacted Dr. McCarthy of Harvard and asked him four questions:

1. What is your salary as a "Harvard Law School lecturer"?

2. Who pays that salary?

3. Since Harvard is a private institution, if your paycheck comes from Harvard, who supplies the money that enables Harvard to pay you your salary?

4. If you are being paid by monies gained from private profit, why are you accepting the money when, by your own definition, those funds would be better served going to the "public good"?

Perhaps not surprisingly, assuming his contact information as provided by Harvard is correct and the distinguished Lecturer does in fact receive and read his e-mail, despite saying that he welcomed media inquiries on all manner of subjects including politics and "Justice," Dr. McCarthy clammed up.

Whether he believes the fact that he must earn his bread from people who have worked for private profit is somehow not "Justice" I do not know. But it is certainly fact.

Dr. McCarthy's salary, whatever it is and from which he personally and privately profits, is paid from money earned by people engaged in real work, non-public sector work. (The public sector -- Elizabeth Warren notwithstanding -- only gets money paid by the private sector, in the form of money called "taxes.") Thus for all his sentiments -- and those of Heffner, who derides "personal wealth" unless it funds his access to Harvard -- McCarthy falls silent because it is presumably teeth-grating for him to admit that when the rubber hits the road he is dependent for his existence on those who are engaged in creating said wealth. And without those who create "private profit" he, Harvard Lecturer McCarthy, would be dependent on some taxpayer subsidy. Said subsidies, of course, coming from monies created as wealth in the private sector.

So why do this? Why would Harvard student Alexander Heffner try and make Barack Obama into something he's not -- while insisting Mitt Romney is clearly something he is not? Why the leftist urge to make heroes of Harvard's Occupiers? Why the decidedly fanciful "Tale of Two Harvards"?

Easy, if one is a lefty.

Since the reality of the left wing's historical dependence on race and redistributionist economics ranges from the horrific (slavery) to the merely abysmal (how's that Obamanomics unemployment rate working for you?), all that remains in defense is to try and make of potential GOP nominee Romney some sort of symbol of Harvard privilege.

And to hope that enough people will close their eyes to the hard fact that unless enough everyday Americans get up in the morning and work at everything from -- yes, gasp! -- financial services like those busy growing that $32 billion Harvard endowment to simply waiting tables -- there is no public sector. There is also -- gasp! -- no Harvard. There is no job for Alexander Heffner when he graduates -- and no capitalistic newspaper like the New York Daily News that provides him the chance to express his views in newsprint and cyberprint. And with no Harvard around, there goes Dr. McCarthy's nice job as a Harvard Lecturer.

It also turns out that the Romney-Obama comparison has another problem for Heffner. To cite but one example. Famously, Romney convinced Bain Capital -- that dastardly repository of greed -- to invest in Staples, the office supply store. Today, thanks to Romney's astute use of private capital, Staples has some 2,000 stores around the world and (2009 figures) some 90,000 employees. And Barack Obama's job creation record as a Chicago community organizer? Zero. That's right. Zip. Zero. Nada. Which, of course, should have perhaps set off a caution light or two in November of 2008, but what's done is done.

So what's this all about, Alfie?

What it's all about is that Mr. Heffner, in his Romney/Obama "Tale of Two Harvards" is simply recycling the same-old, same-old shtick of progressive/socialist economics seasoned yet again with race. So it has always been, so, apparently, it always shall be.

He has been disingenuous in doing so -- trying to make Romney look the part of Harvard privilege when in literal fact it is Obama whose old man went to Harvard -- with poor George Romney not even getting your basic college degree from anywhere.

Heffner tries to make of Obama a hero on race because as the head of the Harvard Law Review "he quietly but effectively helped to push for the hiring of more professors of color."  Really? Is that what he was doing? Or was Obama pushing the hiring of more liberal professors who happened to be of "color"? Call me crazy, but one suspects if Yale Law Grad Clarence Thomas had been on the Supreme Court at the time and thought of leaving to apply for a position at Harvard Law -- the last thing Barack Obama would have done would be to push for the conservative Mr. Justice Thomas's hiring. Thus Obama was most surely not involved in "pushing" the hiring of anyone remotely thought to be a black or Latino conservative.  This is a very old game of liberals and their racial double-standards -- and as Herman Cain is finding out, it also applies to presidential politics.

Last but not least, Harvard's Mr. Heffner  presents Obama as someone who could "resonate" with young people because Obama somehow exemplifies the "path of a young man who chose social responsibility over personal wealth." When in fact that "social responsibility" did nothing to create jobs for the people of Chicago when community organizer Obama was walking the streets. Anymore than he is creating jobs now, alas, for America as a whole while occupying the White House. On the other hand, he has used his political celebrity to make money from selling books. Money that makes the once middle class Mr. Obama a man of tidy personal wealth.

ALL OF WHICH LEADS to the real challenge at the heart of all this nonsense, the challenge in a very real sense that has nothing to do with personalities be they Obama, Romney or anyone else.

Capitalism, based on its record of job creation alone, is the single greatest engine of  "social responsibility" in history. Socialism -- Obamanomics, redistributionism, however you chose to call it -- is, based on its record, the greatest engine of social irresponsibility in world history.

The latter philosophy impoverishes entire populations, turns them into crippled wards of the state and has a horrifically cruel tie to some of the worst moments in human history. In its worst form, it has darkened human history in the more terrible guises of the bloody guillotine of the French Revolution, the Kristallnacht, concentration camps and Holocaust of Germany's National Socialist German Workers Party, as well as the gulags of the now defunct Soviet Union. In its most benign form, whether it appears as American law like the Great Depression-inducing Smoot-Hawley tariff or "social responsibility" like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's political manipulations to give millions credit for mortgages they could not afford -- the result of "social responsibility" has repeatedly been terrifying economic failures that are heartlessly cruel to millions led to believe the government was there to help them. 

When Heffner's  naïve idealism calls for recapturing the energy of young people for the "collective good" one does not have to have attended Harvard to understand what will happen if he -- and a re-elected President Obama -- get their way. He is calling for a society that in practical operating fact is historically neither charitable nor fair. When he chastises Romney for being "averse to all controversy or confrontation" while at Harvard and not being one given to "rocking the boats" because he has a "go-along-to-get-along attitude that borders on the sycophantic" Heffner sees not the slightest irony.

Who, in fact is unwilling to rock the boat at Harvard right this minute and stand up for anything that challenges the school's left-wing mind set?  Decidedly, not Mr. Heffner. His doe-eyes for the "populist creed"  of the Occupiers and all this "social responsibility" breathlessness is, if nothing else, most assuredly "sycophantic." One can only imagine Mr. Heffner's social fate at Harvard had he confronted the Harvard Occupiers with a sign bearing the words of capitalist and black man Herman Cain: "Get a job." He'd be lucky to graduate without police protection.

It's not simply embarrassing to see this kind of thought process emerging from the (theoretically, at least) best school in the nation -- its telling.

Because it isn't just Alexander Heffner who believes this.

It's the Harvard-trained President of the United States.

Which is precisely why this country is rapidly becoming what it can only become based on such bad ideas. A place divided between those who went to Harvard or other outposts of leftwing academia and came out thinking like Alexander Heffner and Barack Obama.

And the rest of us.

You might call it "A Tale of Two Americas."

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director, an author, and a CNN commentator. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com and @Jeffjlpa1