There has been a lot of talk that Donald Trump’s calling for Obama’s college transcripts constitutes racism, since he is questioning the undergraduate data justifying Obama’s acceptance to Harvard Law School. It could in theory, but I think criteria to adjudicate that claim would rest on proving any unusual scrutiny accorded Obama not extended to others. McCain did not quite release unconditionally his full transcripts and medical records, but the real question remains, did he divulge more, or less, information about them than did Obama during the 2008 campaign? And did Obama release more or less information than what we have come to expect in modern presidential campaigns? I think any reasonable survey would show that past presidential candidates, albeit reluctantly, have released more medical and college information than has Obama, and that he was far less transparent than other candidates even as he boasted that he would be far more so.
So I don’t quite see how the allegation of unfair bias or the racism charge sticks in this case. Trump’s motives, in any sphere, are always questionable, but whether they were racist in this matter — rather than media- and ego-driven — is unproven. And given the terrible news on gas prices, Libya, the deficit, and the general economy, Trump may have done Obama a favor by diverting attention away from the administration’s record. But the issue is not really whether interested parties may have intervened to help a, say, B-student get into Harvard, but why in 2008 the media did not simply extend to Obama the same cross-examination of his past that it accorded to all others — or why to insist on it post facto constitutes racism.
And so far we have not seen anything comparable to 60 Minutes circa September 2004, when a network news organization in prime time during a critical election cycle aired forged documents about George Bush’s purported National Guard record decades earlier. I think the equivalent would be a Fox News broadcast, say around September 2012, airing forged Columbia University transcripts that reflect poorly on the president. The so-serious Dan Rather, it seems to me, far out-Trumped the buffoonish Trump in roguery, since the latter has not trafficked in forgeries under the pretense of professional journalism or timed his faux-disclosures to coincide with a presidential election in a tawdry attempt to subvert democratic politics.