Envy and credibility


    The latest sorry chapter in the Christine O’Donnell Chronicles is particularly fascinating
    – not merely because it’s further proof that she routinely ignores the advice imparted unto her by the man upstairs (“During the primary, I heard the audible voice of God. He said, ‘Credibility'”), but because it confirms something I have suspected all along:

    The tea-party darling in the Delaware Senate race suffers from a serious case of Academia Envy.

    We already knew, of course, that she had long lied about her student tenure at Farleigh Dickinson University, listing herself as a “graduate” on a 2006 campaign website, claiming a bachelor’s degree – despite the fact that she didn’t actually receive this degree until last month, 21 years after she entered as a freshman. And we already knew that she referred to herself, in a lawsuit, as a master’s degree candidate at Princeton University, despite the fact that she never was.

    But now we have the lie about Oxford University – or, more precisely, the multiple lie that surely warrants the Sir Walter Scott Award (Oh what a tangled web we weave/ when we first practice to deceive).

    The eagle-eyed Greg Sargent, a Washington Post blogger, checked out O’Donnell’s LinkedIn profile earlier this week, and discovered, under the education listings, that she had attended “University of Oxford.” Pretty impressive – until an O’Donnell spokesman explained that the listing really referred to a 2001 summer seminar taught by the Phoenix Institute, an education outfit that “runs summer seminar programs at universities around the world.” Meanwhile, a Phoenix official emphasized that Oxford had nothing to do with the seminar in question, aside from the fact that it rented out the room.

    But there’s so much more. After ‘fessing up about Oxford, O’Donnell subsequently claimed that she had never listed Oxford on her LinkedIn profile (“I never established a LinkedIn profile, or authorized anyone to do so on my behalf”). In other words, some unnamed enemy had surely entered her profile on the popular networking website, and created a fictitious “Oxford University” entry, just to make trouble.

    Her spin seemed a tad suspicious. It brought to mind her initial explanation about why she had been threatened with foreclosure on her home (it was the bank’s fault, not hers; the bank made a “technical error”). It also brought to mind her recent comments about how unseen enemies were lurking in bushes outside her condo.

    Hang on, it gets better. Long before an unnamed enemy supposedly came up with the idea of typing “Oxford University” into her supposedly unauthorized LinkedIn profile, O’Donnell herself sent an application to a California school, the Claremont Institute…and guess what she listed as one of her academic assets, way back in 2002:

    “Oxford University, Oxford.”

    So perhaps it’s sheer coincidence that the LinkedIn conspirator could’ve picked any school – and somehow hit upon Oxford.

    Meanwhile, it turns out that yet another O’Donnell profile, this time on the networking site ZoomInfo, features a mention of Oxford as well. The O’Donnell team hasn’t yet claimed that another conspirator must’ve faked the ZoomInfo profile – and that’s just as well, because the ZoomInfo entry was accompanied by the words “user-verified.”

    It’s important to judge a candidate’s character; that’s what the Delaware Republican party tried to do during the primary, when it raised serious questions about O’Donnell’s credibility and urged tea-party voters not to go off their meds. But O’Donnell’s hostile relationship with the truth is actually symptomatic of a broader flaw:

    She is seriously insecure about her (lack of) achievement. She assails her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, for what she derides as his “Yale values,” but deep down she pines for those kind of credentials. Which is why she concocts nonexistent Oxford and Princeton connections.

    O’Donnell has been widely tagged as Sarah Palin’s Mini-Me, but not all mama grizzlies are alike. Palin is content to sneer at the “elite Ivy League” that supposedly oppresses the common folk; rather than aspire to join the club, she embraces her anti-intellectualism. O’Donnell, by contrast, is so stricken with Academia Envy that she has long sought to lie her way in.

    I wonder which attitude is worse.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.