The video: On Wednesday, BuzzFeed posted a 1990 video of Harvard law student Barack Obama, 29, wading into the diversity fight then roiling the Ivy League campus. (Watch it below.) Obama, the Harvard Law Review's first black president, introduces Professor Derrick Bell, Harvard's first black tenured professor, at a rally supporting Bell's protest against Harvard's dearth of black and female tenured law faculty. Though PBS's Frontline first aired the video in mid-October 2008, it's getting renewed attention now. After BuzzFeed released its clip, the late Andrew Breitbart's site aired a longer, supposedly more damning version on Fox News' Hannity, claiming that Bell is the "Jeremiah Wright of academia." Obama "always gravitates towards the most radical people," Fox's Sean Hannity said.
The reaction: Treating this footage as a political scandal is "lame" and "ridiculous," says Michael Brendan Dougherty at Business Insider. But it's interesting to watch it as a historical document, seeing "Obama as a law-student involving himself in the racial politics of academia." What I find remarkable is "how the guy in this video from 20 years ago appears to be pretty much the exact same guy now sitting in the Oval Office," says Brad Friedman at The Brad Blog. Indeed, says Meenal Vamburkar at Mediaite. You'll immediately "recognize his mannerisms and tone (and tendency to make little jokes)." Check it out:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Save the world... by changing how you pee
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why does Fareed Zakaria still have a job?
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Does solar energy have a battery problem?
- 10 things you need to know today: September 22, 2014
- 7 common estate-planning mistakes
Subscribe to the Week