David French has posted a blog at NRO about the Derrick Bell story that seems to me so exactly right that it spares me the job of writing my own memories of that period in Harvard Law history.
Read it all, but here are what seem to me the key conclusions:
My reading of Barack Obama’s political biography is pretty simple: He’s not so much a liberal radical as a member of the liberal mainstream of whatever community he inhabits. In that video, he was doing no more and no less than what most politically engaged leftist law students were doing — supporting the radical race and gender politics that dominated campus. When he went to Chicago and met Bill Ayers, he was fitting within a second, and slightly different, liberal culture. He shifted again in Washington and then again in the White House. But radical, “conviction” politicians don’t decry Gitmo then keep it open, promise to end the wars then reinforce the troops, express outrage at Bush war tactics then maintain rendition and triple the number of drone strikes.
I would imagine that law school Barack Obama would never imagine ordering drone strikes on American citizens on foreign soil or Navy SEAL raids deep into Pakistan. Law school Barack Obama would likely think Obamacare was a thoroughly unsatisfactory half-measure and oppose it bitterly. Law school Obama is not our president, and I’m not sure that the videos tell us much at all about the man who sits in the oval office.