Because I live in Chicago, one of the questions I get asked a lot via email or comments on this site is if I know why the Obamas both lost their licenses to practice law in Illinois (not that a lack of license can really stop a Democrat from practicing law…just ask Elizabeth Warren about that). I think I know why they lost their licenses, but the answer may surprise (or disappoint) you.
According to people I know who worked with Michelle Obama when she was employed by the City of Chicago, Michelle hated being a lawyer. The work was too hard and she was not very good at it. The reason Michelle went to work for the City is because she was hired via a recommendation from Jesse Jackson which then qualified her as a “Jesse Hire”; this is slang here in Chicago for an “untouchable hire”, meaning this is someone on the City payroll who can never be fired or even disciplined in any way because their employment was a political favor to someone. In Michelle’s case, that someone was Jesse Jackson and Michelle was thus one of the many black people working for the City at Jackson’s insistence who were not expected to actually do their jobs and instead could read newspapers, shop in catalogs, play Minesweeper on their computers, or just spin aimlessly around in their swivel chairs all day. Michelle reportedly took two or even three lunch breaks a day, would disappear for hours, went on constant “personal appointments” and treated her work space at the City like it was an airport lounge: a place to go for a while to kill time where she could snack, peruse magazines, gossip, and talk loudly on the phone with girlfriends and laugh and laugh and laugh.
No one could say boo to her and a LOT of resentment developed, of course, but this is how Chicago operates and even Mayor Daley (who ruled the city as a king) was terrified of angering Jesse Jackson because Jesse’s big threat was always to find some excuse to dispatch the Rainbow Push Coalition to the streets to rant, rave, scream, and protest that Daley was…wait for it…bet you can’t guess…RACIST!
So, “Jesse Hires” were a form of extortion of the City that required people Jesse personally recommended for jobs be essentially given paid positions to read newspapers and talk about babies for as long as they wanted. It’s not just Jesse who gets these “hires’ though. A lot of Aldermen have them, too…and as long as the Aldermen are in power and have votes the Mayor needs for certain things, then friends and family of the Aldermen get to work for the City in positions similar to the one that Michelle Obama held after she left Sidley Austin. This is all pretty common knowledge in Chicago. Before I was identified as a political writer and my cover was blown (I used to write this site anonymously until Fran Eaton of the Illinois Review outed me for personal reasons because she wanted to help an ex-boyfriend get back at me), I used to work freelance gigs for the City doing event planning or coordinating special projects…which was ridiculously lucrative and a lot of fun. I will never, ever be able to land one of those freelancing assignments again because I’m clearly no fan of Rahm Emanuel but back in the Daley days when I was doing these gigs I saw a lot of these “untouchable hires” just taking up space in the various offices I’d visit in my day. These people were always kept in the very back, in cubicles, and some of them would even sleep during the day. Once, I saw a group of them playing cards…in a work area, not a break room. Some of these positions require driving around town but it’s not really with any particular goal in mind. They might be listed as delivery people, but they don’t deliver much and spend about 7 hours just cruising around, stopping for snacks, maybe going to a movie. Whatever they want.
Michelle Obama “worked” in this capacity for a few years, until Valerie Jarrett (whom she became friends with during her stint as a “Jesse Hire”) took her with her when she went over to the University of Chicago Medical Center. I believe at that time that Barack Obama was already a state senator and it was clear he was being pushed for bigger things…so it was natural for the Medical Center to want the senator’s wife on the payroll so that they could funnel money to him through her as rewards for steering legislation towards passage that would benefit University of Chicago. This is how Chicago works, folks. Michelle didn’t do any more work at the Medical Center than she did for the City and her job duties involved trying to keep black people from going to the emergency room at the hospital for treatment without insurance and instead go to these sub-par “medical clinics” that the Medical Center wanted them steered towards instead. At one point, Michelle received a ridiculously large raise right around the time that the University of Chicago received a massive funding infusion for the Medical Center from Springfield, where Barack Obama was on his way to becoming a United States Senator. Surely this was just a coincidence and was not a way for University of Chicago to buy favor from the next US Senator representing Illinois by dramatically increasing his wife’s pay to over $300,000/year for doing relatively nothing all day.
After Michelle vacated her position in 2007 to join the Obama presidential campaign full-time the Medical Center did not bother replacing her and eventually eliminated her old job…since there was no need for this position or the expenditure as it was only there in the first place to buy influence from Michelle’s husband.
Barack Obama passed the bar exam in Illinois but never worked in a big firm because no firm would hire him. He wanted to work for Sidley Austin (where Michelle worked) and he performed a summer internship there, but he was not offered a job there when he graduated from Harvard. That is EXTREMELY unusual because Sidley Austin tries to snatch up as many black Ivy League graduates as it can get to constantly up its “diversity” profile. It’s bizarre that they didn’t offer Obama a job…unless you remember that law firms have access to more than just a student’s transcripts when decided on which graduates they want to pursue for positions in the firm. Sidley Austin knew Barack was lazy and benefitted from constant affirmative action preferential treatment…and they didn’t want to carry him along like that here in Chicago at their firm. So, very briefly Obama worked for a smaller Chicago firm and then did the community organizing bit…and got into politics.
He, much like Michelle, had no interest in making a living as a lawyer. The work was too hard, the hours too long, and it was too much time in front of computers writing and reading and not enough time in the spotlight.
I told you all of this so that you’d understand the reason that both Michelle and Barack Obama “lost” their law licenses is because they didn’t want or need their law licenses ever again; these two had no intention of ever working as lawyers again, so there was no reason to keep the law licenses or go through the expense and continual education requirements that would entail.
I don’t know what the annual fee is for the licenses, but it’s money wasted if you know you are never going to practice again. The continual education requirements would clearly not appeal to two people who are intellectually incurious and have shown zero interest in hard work…so why would they subject themselves to this if they knew they’d never need to practice law? Obama’s book sold and he made a lot of money off that and more money was promised to him via his political career. Michelle knew she’d never have to work a day in her life again once Obama became a US Senator…and now as a (soon to be former) First Lady of the United States she’ll live like a queen for the rest of her days.
I remember during the Clinton impeachment in 1998 that a big sticking point for Big Dawg was that he kept refusing to surrender his law license even though he knew he’d never practice law again. That’s because he was so proud of earning his law degree and passing the bar. It was a big deal to Bill because he worked so hard for that and no one helped him.
Since both Michelle and Barack Obama were handed Ivy League degrees via affirmative action and they didn’t need to work hard for anything they got, those law licenses were as worthless as toilet paper to them and carried no emotional value whatsoever.
Just like a lot of things in the Obamas’ lives…once the law licenses weren’t useful any more, they were thrown away.
THAT is the real reason these two “lost” their law licenses. I know it’s disappointing there’s not some secret scandal or conspiracy with this but it really boils down to the fact that the two of them would never practice law again and they both knew it so it was easier and so much less work to just surrender the licenses and close that chapter of their lives as they prepared for more fabulous things on the national stage.
© 2012, Kevin DuJan. All rights reserved.
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