Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why I Won't Be Going Negative During the Presidential Campaign

If only Barack Obama had skipped a grade somewhere in elementary school, I'd be set.

I didn't skip a grade, but since my birthday is late in the fall, I was always younger than most of my classmates. That means I was all of 17 (a dopey, suburban 17) when I entered college. Not just any college. Twas the hallowed halls of Harvard. And I was in more hallowed halls than most, since during all four years I was there, I worked part time at the Harvard Law Review, the most prestigious legal publication in the country (crap, I just know someone at the Columbia Law Review is going to sue me for saying that).

It's not like I was an editor of the Law Review, of course. I was just working in the business office, giving administrative support to the circulation director. Still, it was a bit intimidating. I once took a phone message from a subscriber who was irate about an issue that wasn't delivered on time. I wrote his name down on the pink While You Were Out message pad as George McBundy. For all I knew, the former National Security Advisor could double as a goofy uncle on Married With Children.

McGeorge Bundy: Advised American President during Bay of Pigs.

Al Bundy: Amused American TV audiences by acting like a pig.

The only real skill I brought to my job at the Law Review was my patience for dealing with the rather bitter and difficult circulation director. That and my penchant for practical jokes, which amused the rest of the staff, often at the expense of the circulation director. By far the most notorious of these jokes was a pin-up calendar I photographed entitled The Men of the Harvard Law Review, which was presented to the circulation director at the annual winter banquet. She was mortified and refused to speak to me or any of the rest of the staff for about three months. Boy were we sorry when those three months ended.

The most fun was taking the photographs of the selected male editors. True works of genius in the days before digital photography, Photoshop, and desktop publishing. They were tasteful skin shots, with props covering the "genital region" . . . and thus hiding the fact that all the guys were actually wearing shorts. There was Mr. February, who had his bag of golf clubs slung across his waist. Mr. April, who twirled an umbrella over his lower torso.

And Mr. Didn't-Make-It-Into-The-Calendar-After-All. That was the best shot of the lot. Editor seated sideways to the camera in an official Harvard captain's chair. A stack of bound Law Reviews piled strategically in front of his mid-section, from which protruded at a suggestive 45 degree angle the Presidential scepter. It was a truly memorable pose. So memorable that after the posing editor saw the prints, he freaked out that one day it might come back to haunt him professionally. After all, he was the first person of color to be president of the Law Review, surely he was going places.

But not as far as the second person of color to be president of the Law Review, who was elected the next year. Barack Obama.

If only Barack had skipped a grade, maybe he would have been the first person of color to be president of the Law Review. And those negatives I've hung onto all these years would really be worth something. Alas, the first person of color to be president of the Law Review was born in India, which means that until we repeal Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, the incriminating photos of him wearing next to nothing will continue to be worth next to nothing.

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