February 22, 2008

The Irrelevancy Of Mrs. Obama's College Thesis

I have received a lot of e-mail regarding Princeton's apparent decision to embargo Michelle Obama's college thesis. A few purported quotes have begun floating through the ether, which seems surprising if the Obamas have conspired to keep the paper buried at Princeton. The messages all seem to believe that the thesis contains something explosive, especially in terms of racial politics.

Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't. Why would anyone be surprised if it did? To paraphrase one of the great lines from South Park, there's a time and a place for radical thought, and it's called college. Mrs. Obama wrote the paper 20 years ago, while living in the cocoon of academia. I doubt that it reflects her current state of mind.

It's not quite as bad as going back to Barack's kindergarten essays, but it's just about as irrelevant. Most importantly, Michelle Obama isn't the candidate. Her speeches on behalf of her husband now are relevant and fair game for criticism, but Mrs. Obama didn't write her college thesis as an argument for her future husband's election. When people dissected Hillary Clinton's thesis, it at least had some limited relevancy because of her own candidacy -- and even then reflected the state of mind of a woman in her early 20s, and not the state of mind of the same woman over 30 years later.

So far, Michelle Obama has given critics plenty of source material in the present campaign. Better to focus on that than to go on a silly spelunking tour of the college papers of someone who isn't running for office.

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