Membership in the exclusive collegiate honor society Phi Beta Kappa has been a merit badge of exceptional scholarship, and integrity for over 200 years, withJohn Marshall (William and Mary) Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, admitted in 1780.
Seventeen US presidents have been Phi Beta Kappa.
John Quincy Adams (Harvard), and Rutherford B Hayes (Kenyon) were members, so too were Martin Van Buren (Union), and Teddy Roosevelt (Harvard).
Barack Obama is not a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
But Obama’s two most significant spokespersons, and aides -- Susan Rice (Stanford), Obama’s UN Ambassador, National Security Advisor, and Ben Rhodes (Rice), her deputy-- are both Phi Beta Kappa members.
Historians will not define Obama’s legacy. Instead his mouthpieces, Rice and Rhodes, have already framed his presidency. Rice and Rhodes symbolize the corrosion in meritocracy, and betrayal of common trust and intellectual high ideals.
Of course Susan Rice’s pattern of incontinent conniving started with her notorious Sunday press show quintet of appearances where her hysterically incompetent testimonial, about how some internet video provoked the Benghazi attack, was demonstrably false.
Susan Rice then lied about Syria’s Assad abandoning chemical weapons, just confirmed by president Trump tossing a few cruise missiles on Assad’s WMD airstrip, responding in kind to Assad’s sarin gas assault on his own people last week.
Susan Rice will forever carry the stigma of having slobbered over US Army deserter, and traitor Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, gushing that he “served the United States with honor and distinction.”
Close in tow, Ben Rhodes has bragged about being the architect of disinformation, and outright lying about negotiations for, and provisions in the defective Iran nuclear deal to convince a skeptical public, and deter quashing from a dubious Congress.
Both Rice and Rhodes are now embroiled by Rice admitting to abusing covert intelligence in spying on political opponents, including members of Congress, apparently well-oiled tradecraft in the Obama White House, most likely abetted by accomplice Rhodes.
Whether Susan Rice will admit to being a congenital liar, or she just repeats her boss’s deliberately deceptive talking points having no moral compass, simply proves that Phi Beta Kappa ain’t what it used to be. Or what’s good for Phi Beta Kappa peer Bill Clinton (Georgetown) is good enough for Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes.
Well, perhaps Phi Beta Kappa was an occasional arbiter of exceptionalism. After all, Calvin Coolidge (Amherst) was a member. But so was Alger Hiss (Johns Hopkins).