As Daniel points out, Barack Obama left no trail as a law professor. But if you weren’t surprised that Barack Obama got through his stint as head of Harvard’s Law Review without writing anything , weren’t surprised that he didn’t accomplish much as a community organizer and know he has no legislative achievement from his brief tenure in the Senate, you won’t be shocked to learn that he left no footprints as a lecturer at University of Chicago’s Law School. Sure, the students loved him and became “groupies” ( you couldn’t make this up, really), but the other adults noticed that he did not engage intellectually and never put his own views to the test of vigorous debate with his peers.
Why this recurrent pattern of non-achievement and invisibility? For one thing, Obama never stayed in one spot very long. If you are continually looking ahead, plotting your next move you don’t have much time or incentive to devote yourself and your full energies to mastering your current job. For another, if you take a position you are likely not to please everyone. And we know that more than anything else Obama craves and thrives on adoration and has searched much of his life for acceptance. Once you voice a view, people will disagree. You won’t be a uniter and you won’t be universally loved. And finally, if you put out your views, whether in writing or verbally, you will be subject to scrutiny. People may find your logic wanting or your ideas outmoded. And then (and years later) you will be held to account for the positions you took.
So it should hardly come as a surprise that Obama has left no trail. (And you can understand why he is a bit sensitive about the topic of his own accomplishments.) But with that comes a host of questions. Is he capable or just glib? Can he put words in action or stand up to hostile forces? And is he out to improve and better those around him or just self-promote? We have never had a major candidate so close to the presidency who not only lacked a record of any note, but who seemed to have made an art form of not having one. It is extraordinary and deeply troubling.