Random Thursday


Jimmy Carter did graduate work in nuclear physics at Union College in 1953. The Navy man was preparing to become an engineering officer for a nuclear power plant (previously, he had helped shut down the Chalk River reactor in Canada after a partial meltdown, and then worked on a nuclear submarine at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna). With this background, it may seem ironic that he had trouble pronouncing “nuclear” correctly (like George W. Bush after him, Carter said “nuk-u-lar”), but he has been defended by people in the industry who say that the “nuk-u-lar” pronunciation is common inside the labs.

But Carter, who had graduated from the US Naval Academy, did not finish his graduate degree at Union. His father died and he inherited the peanut farm, so he, Rosalynn, and their children left Schenectady and headed back to Plains, Georgia, to become farmers.

I hope you enjoyed this little diversion from bad hombres, nasty women, and “bigly.” So much has been said about last night’s debate that I can’t possibly add anything to it.

So instead, just for fun, I prepared a little timeline of recent presidents and their postsecondary educations, followed by a few more random observations—including one at the end I haven’t seen written about anywhere else, yet.

The presidents and their degrees:

Ronald Reagan, the only US president ever to have been divorced, graduated from Eureka College in Illinois.

George H.W. Bush served in the US Navy during World War II, and then graduated from Yale University.

Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown University and Yale Law School.

George W. Bush graduated from Yale University and Harvard Business School. He is the only US president to receive an MBA.

Barack Obama attended Occidental College for two years before transferring to, and graduating from, Columbia University. He also graduated from Harvard Law School.


Next up: Hillary Clinton, graduate of Wellesley College and Yale Law School.

Notice anything? Of course you did. For at least 32 consecutive years, beginning in 1988, the academic pedigrees of US presidents will have been concentrated in Eastern, elite, Ivy League schools (Georgetown and Wellesley aren’t technically Ivy League, but they still fit the profile).

I’m not drawing any particular conclusion from this. But I do know that people already are talking about Michelle Obama as a future presidential candidate. And she graduated from …

Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

Moving on …

Donald Trump’s rhetoric on not accepting “rigged” election results is troublesome for one reason only: the possibility that he could whip his most malignant supporters into frenzied, terrorist mobs on November 9 or thereabouts. That is something Homeland Security should be watching out for.

Other than that, what’s to worry? If Hillary wins by a landslide, what’s Donald gonna do? Not call her? Try to have her arrested? Send out a storm of “loser” tweets at 3 AM?

Maybe he’ll just wait till January and try to move into the White House. Good luck.

Trump is hardly the first person to call the election process rigged. He’s not even the first one to call it rigged this year (Sanders campaign, anyone?). It’s just that Trump is using his sour grapes to potentially dangerous ends.

As for voter fraud, the kind that he (and Fox News, et al.) whines about barely exists (unregistered people voting, dead people voting, people voting three times, etc.). Voter suppression, on the other hand, is a huge problem, especially in Republican-controlled states where election laws are designed to discourage or stop certain types of people from voting.

And let’s not forget that electronic voting machines themselves can be rigged and hacked—something Republicans, who have close ties to voting-machine manufacturers, and also control the statehouses in more swing states—don’t like to talk about. Some researchers believe that machines in some Ohio counties were flipped to Bush in 2004, and that the reason it wasn’t an issue in 2008 was that Obama was too far ahead to credibly be hacked out of the presidency. It seems like a lot of people have forgotten about this issue, and I believe we forget at our peril. At least, compare the counted results to the exit polls.

(Professional exit polls are generally very accurate; funny that the movement to discredit them coincided with the advent of electronic voting machines.)

A final thought for the day:

There are 19 days until the election. Hillary Clinton will win by a landslide. To all of the passionate Clinton supporters out there:

On November 9, unless you’re busy barricading your homes against flash mobs of violent Trump supporters, you will celebrate the win, gobble up all the juicy news you can find, make lunch plans and party plans and what-not, and basically enjoy the afterglow of sweet victory.

But within a few days, your soul will be filled with a hole the size of Trump Tower. Your Facebook feed will go blank. You will have so little to do or think about that you will find yourself focusing on things like your job and the weather and what to serve for Thanksgiving dinner. You will not suddenly find Syria or Kim Kardashian fascinating. You will try to alleviate the boredom and lack of purpose by going to the movies, shopping for new clothes, or taking walks in the woods. You’ll momentarily consider whether to re-friend any of the people you unfriended. You’ll do crossword puzzles and look up new words. You’ll open Facebook again, only to find posts about workout routines, bad landlords, and adorable pets.

Your dream candidate, Hillary Clinton, will be headed for the White House, but you’ll be feeling something like empty-nest syndrome, only worse—as if all of your children had left for college at once.

Don’t worry, it will pass.

Copyright 2016 Stephen Leon


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