Jonathan Chait

The Donald's Bizarre Obsession with College Admissions

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[Guest post by James Downie]

Clearly in need of a new way to make headlines and send his TV ratings further into the tank, Donald Trump has now shifted his aim to Obama's college credentials:

Real estate mogul Donald Trump suggested in an interview Monday that President Barack Obama had been a poor student who did not deserve to be admitted to the Ivy League universities he attended. Trump, who is mulling a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, offered no proof for his claim but said he would continue to press the matter as he has the legitimacy of the president's birth certificate.

"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?" Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."

Gawker has already gleefully pointed out that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had no business getting into Harvard, but surely the weirdness of this claim hits Trump closer to home than in-laws. His oldest son, Donald, Jr., went to Penn's Wharton school, the Donald's alma mater, and his oldest daughter, Ivanka, transferred to Wharton after attending Georgetown for two years. Would anybody believe for a moment that their applications didn't benefit from having a father who was not only famous and fabulously wealthy (at least, according to himself), but also an alum?

One could object that Trump's children aren't running for president, though, so consider the case of The Trumpster himself. From his 1997 book The Art of the Deal:

After I graduated from the New York Military Academy in 1964 I flirted briefly with the idea of attending film school at the University of Southern California...But in the end I decided real estate was a better business.

I began by attending Fordham University in the Bronx, mostly because I wanted to be close to home...but after two years, I decided that as long as I had to be in college, I might as well test myself against the best. I applied to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and I got in. At the time, if you were going to make a career in business, Wharton was the place to go.

When young Donald was applying to Wharton, his father was just a few years removed from building a "3,800-apartment Trump Village in Coney Island." (The penchant for self-memorializing, it seems, was also genetic.) Again, it's hard to believe that didn't help Trump in his applications, and given his pre-college interests, it seems unlikely he had a strong business school application. Whether any journalists will bring this up the next time he spouts off, though, remains to be seen.

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