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How Brilliant is Obama?

leonardoHow brilliant is Obama? (H/T to dakinikat, for sharing this with me) Is he a genius or is he a beneficiary of affirmative action placement? Frankly, apart from hyperbole, there is not much information to go on. Furthermore, the ways he’s chosen to govern his life, outside of his academic endeavors, do not lend to easy associations with intelligence. For example, his sensible choice to be physically active says little about intellectual acuity. Accordingly, it is hard to judge what his high end might be. Notwithstanding, I think his low end is relatively easy to discern. It is a good place to start. (NOTE: This topic is necessarily subjective.  This post is nowhere close to being definitive. It is an attempt to come to a reasonable judgment.)  [IQ is not under consideration because its’ standards for the high end are too low.]

We do not need access to Obama’s grades at Harvard to know he has intellectual chops. It is true that he was not in the top tier of Harvard Law students as he did not graduate summa cum laude, but magna cum laude is the next highest standing, and it appears this places him in at least the top 30% of the class, if not the top 10%.

Maria_Gaetana_AgnesiIt is true that an affirmative action push, due to a heated political climate at the time, played a role in his selection as president of the Harvard Law Review, but the fact that he was not in the top tier does not alter the counterfact that many of his editorial peers also graduated magna cum laude.

Unfortunately, if Obama did write for the law review, his work was unsigned. His choice to avoid publication is odd because the purpose of the position is to “peacock” one’s chops. It is unfortunate, for the purpose of this exercise, that he left this void. If he had written, his peers would be able to tell us where he ranks. It is best to infer nothing about his intellect from this void.  Notwithstanding, academic selection committees would take the lack of publications to indicate some type of academic weakness.

What does his Harvard performance say about his base level intelligence? My sense is that a law degree is similar to a Masters Degree in one of the more rigorous social science disciplines. It certainly does not touch a Ph.D. It stands slightly lower than an M.A. in Philosophy, but it likely ranks higher than sociology, and it destroys an M.B.A., which is essentially a compilation of undergraduate courses. Continue reading