Clinton supporters, in their never ending attempts to behave exactly like Republican Clinton bashers have since the 1990′s, have been raising an endless stream of bogus attacks on Barack Obama. While many aspects of Clinton’s biography have been exposed as fiction some Clinton supporters have been claiming that it is untrue that Obama has been a Professor of Constitutional Law.
Having her claims on Bosnia exposed as fiction has harmed Hillary Clinton as it undermines her now debunked claims of greater experience on foreign policy. Gerard Baker has pointed out how Clinton has a habit of lying about even minor matters such as claiming she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary even though she was born about five years before he climbed Everest when he was unknown outside of New Zealand.
Strangely, the Clinton camp has a much higher standard for truth with regards to Barack Obama’s biography. Obama’s experience in teaching Constitutional law does provide him with an advantage in experience over Hillary Clinton, making it understandable that they would like to pretend it wasn’t so. What matters is not so much the line on the resume but the results of the experience, and Obama’s experience can be seen in comparing their views on issues such as civil liberties, limiting presidential power, and separation of church and state.
Clinton supporters and some Republicans have concentrated on a distinction which most people have no concern with between a lecturer and a full professor. The Clinton camp has been distributing this blog post but, as with most of their attacks, it simply does not hold up factually. The University of Chicago released this statement verifying that Obama has been a professor (emphasis mine):
From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School’s Senior Lecturers have high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.
Apparently the University of Chicago regarded Obama as a professor but the Clinton campaign does not. I’ll go with the statement from the University of Chicago. It is certainly true that there are differences between professors, which most voters probably do not care about at all.
It is common for universities to give titles of professor to professionals which differ from the actual full time faculty on a tenure-track. I have a title which I believe is officially labeled Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine from Michigan State University (which has no bearing on my loyalties to my alma mater, the University of Michigan, and I take no responsibility for their basketball performance last night.) While placing me about as low as one could be on the professorship totem pole, this contributes to my understanding of Obama being labeled a professor when he taught law while in private practice. I never assumed he was more than he was, and see no evidence that he made any attempts to exaggerate his position.
Obama never claimed to be anything other than what he was at the University of Chicago, and their statement verifies the validity of referring to this as being a professor. Seeing the University of Chicago write of “his 12 years as a professor in the Law School” trumps any of the distortions being distributed by the Clinton campaign when they claim he was not a professor.