One of the things the press fails to do is to get together and demand facts. For example, consider the candidates' health. The leading news-gathering institutions should pool their money and make it a tradition to offer to pay for each candidate to visit during the dog days of summer the Mayo Clinic for a full check-up to be then published.
Similarly, the press should push to make it traditional to release academic records and test scores. Otherwise, we're at the mercy of campaign spin and conventional wisdom. In 2004, we heard all the time about how bright Kerry was, but then it turned out the year after that we learned he had an even lower GPA than Bush at Yale two years earlier, taking similar courses.
I suspect McCain isn't the kind of guy to remember what he got on the SAT 55 years ago. But Obama is exactly the kind of guy to remember what he got. (Joe ''I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do" Biden is the kind of guy who has been trying to forget his SAT scores for 50 years. Anybody want to guess who would score higher if they took a test today, unadjusted for age: Biden or Palin?)
Now, here's my guess about how Obama did on the verbal half of the SAT and on the LSAT:
He aced them.
I bet that's Obama's SAT score secret: standardized testing, that politically incorrect bogeyman, worked perfectly for him.
Some kind of entrance exam got him into Punahou prep school from Nowheresville in Indonesia, then a high verbal SAT score propelled this dope-smoking Hawaiian slacker with mediocre grades first to Occidental, then to Columbia. The LSAT took him to Harvard Law, where he finally buckled down and earned grades in line with his scores. (I have no guess as to how he did on the SAT Math test -- members of his family were good at math, so he might be too. He just seldom talks numbers. As one commenters say, Perhaps he is good with numbers and he knows his budget numbers don't add up.)
Sure, affirmative action helped make up for his nothing-special grades in high school and undergrad college, but test scores are what showed the world his potential. That's what got him in to the cool schools' affirmative action slots ahead of the hardworking true African-American kids with 1050 SAT scores who were valedictorians of their all-black high schools.
Of course, he can't come out and say that, in own his experience, standardized testing is reasonably accurate and that all this Bell Curve stuff makes sense. Think of what poor Michelle, who is still publicly tormented by her mediocre test scores, would do to him!
That would explain why, amidst all of Obama's petty racial complaints in Dreams from My Father (like the white girl who mentioned to him that she liked Stevie Wonder), there's none of the conventional complaints about standardized testing being how The Man is keeping blacks down.
A reader writes:
There can be almost no doubt that Obama earned exceptionally high standardized test scores. Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School – i.e., top 10% of his class. Unlike in college, there is no way to coast through law school taking gut classes. As an HLS grad, I don’t know anyone who earned magna who isn’t an exceptionally bright guy. My guess is that Obama got something in the neighborhood of a 175 on the LSAT – which I would I guess is roughly like scoring above 1500 in the old days before the mid-90s recentering. For someone officially categorized as “African American,” this makes him about as rare as a unicorn.