The president dropped by Barnard College (my alma mater) this week to deliver the commencement address. It wasn't long planned. No, the college had lined-up a woman speaker -- Jill Abramson, editor of The New York Times. But in March, as part of the "war on women" gambit, the White House decided it needed a friendly female audience before whom the president could strut his feminist stuff. Barnard, bastion of women's rights, dumped the Times gal for him in a New York minute.
The speech got scant coverage. The main takeaway seemed to be that a member of the audience shouted out that Obama should do the "moonwalk" when he happened to mention it. Thrilling. The press is keen to remind us that Obama remains cool to the kids. Chris Matthews, call your office.
I don't care for cool. I'd prefer competent. But as someone who once sat where the graduates were (Toni Morrison was our speaker), I was curious to see what the president would do with the opportunity.
President Obama graduated from Columbia (Barnard's brother school) in 1983. Unwisely, in my judgment, the president reminisced: "For we, too, were heading out into a world at a moment when our country was still recovering from a particularly severe economic recession. It was a time of change. It was a time of uncertainty."
Yes, but in 1983, thanks to Reaganomics, the economy was adding 430,000 jobs per month. What was the job-growth figure for April again? Wasn't it 115,000? And hasn't the population grown by 25 percent since then?
Continuing down memory lane, the president recalled that when he was a student, "We had Walkmen, not iPods. Some of the streets around here were not quite so inviting. Times Square was not a family destination."