In 2008, Harvard Law classmate, law review colleague remembered Obama as ‘a pretty cold fish’

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
Font Size:

While details from President Barack Obama’s college years are scant, with the exception of a few acquaintances’ recollections, in 2008 one of his Harvard Law classmates offered a few seldom-heard remembrances of the president’s time at Harvard.

Conservative commentator Carol Platt Liebau, author of “Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!),” guest hosted Hugh Hewitt’s February 22, 2008 radio show and described her relationship with Obama during her law school years. Despite his liberal slant, she said Obama was respectful of the conservative perspective when he was president of the Harvard Law Review.

“I knew him reasonably well — as well as most people knew him, if not better — because quite in contrast to this image that Barack tries to project, as someone who is warm and all-embracing and all that kind of stuff,” Liebau said.

“I mean, I will tell you I’ve written a piece that has praised Barack for certain things and I stand by that piece: He was color-blind in the way he chose, staffed the law review when he was president. He did give both sides a fair hearing. He always went with the far-left side, but he did give both sides a respectful hearing, which was fairly atypical at Harvard Law School at that time.”

The essay she referred to was published by Townhall.com in 2007. It described President Obama as a listener but “a liberal’s liberal.”

At the time of Liebau’s radio broadcast, Obama was being portrayed as a great unifier, which inspired bizarre reactions from the likes of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. But Liebau said that was hardly the way he was viewed at Harvard.

“Quite in contrast to this all-embracing kind of ‘earth father’ image — this sort of messianic blaze of glory with which he’s deemed to envelope our television screens — he was a pretty cold fish,” she said.

“He was not a warm person. He was not the type of person that gave you a warm and fuzzy [feeling]. And you got the sense that he even wasn’t even terribly fixated or focused on what he was doing.”

Liebau also describe Obama as a guy “whose eyes were always looking over your shoulder to see if anyone more important is in the room” and that he was always looking for “bigger and better things.”

Her longest one-on-one communication with Obama, she said, came when she was managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.

“So I guess it caused a lot of rumbling that I didn’t know about, and so we were all impressed with a return visit by our retired president, the former president, Barack Obama, who took me out on the back steps of Gannett House, which is where the review was housed and wanted to have a little one-on-one with me,” she said.

Liebau said his advice started off sound, but ultimately came off as disappointing.

“He said, ‘Look, what do you care who does the work?’” Liebau recalled Obama saying in reference to her management of the law review. “’It is the same amount of work for you to hand out the work no matter who it goes to, so why fight it? Do what’s easiest for you. Give the work to the people who will do the work, and just don’t worry about the people who don’t want to pull their weight.’”

Liebau wasn’t impressed.

“I guess I was young and naïve: I was like, ‘Ah but that wouldn’t be fair,’” she said.

“And what surprised me is apparently that didn’t bother Barack at all. It was just kind of like — take the easy way out. Why bother yourself with all these silly notions about justice and fairness? Do what works. Revealing? I don’t know. Good advice? I didn’t particularly think so.”

Follow Jeff on Twitter