In the old days, it used to be said in Oxford and Cambridge that those young men who take Firsts become Dons, and those who take Seconds run the government. Academic distinction has not, by and large, been a plus in American politics. Barack Obama is the most academically successful president in quite some time, having graduated Magna cum laude from Harvard Law school [I believe the Harvard Law School almost never awards the degree Summa cum laude.] Bill Clinton did quite well at Yale Law School, though not that well. The assorted Bushes were hardly stand-out scholars, nor was Gerald Ford or Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter had a very strong record at the Naval Academy, I believe, but Johnson, Nixon, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy were not by any stretch of the imagination scholars. The only president of whom I am aware who earned a doctorate was Woodrow Wilson, who was awarded that degree in History and Political Science by the Johns Hopkins University.
And now comes Newton Leroy Gingrich, who, as recent readers of this blog know, earned a doctorate in Modern European History with a dissertation on Belgian Educational Policy in the Congo. With Gingrich's current standing in the polls and today's endorsement by the Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire, I think we must contemplate the possibility that once again, one of our own, a certified fellow intellectual, will inhabit the White House.
Let's see. The last President with a Ph. D. scheduled a special showing of Birth of a Nation in the White House, a building, as we all know, that was built by slaves. Perhaps President Newt Gingrich will arrange for a special screening of Mel Gibson's magnum opus, The Passion of the Christ. It is so exciting when real intellectuals pop up in politics.