Unlike his successor, Obama recognizes his good luck

first_imgI sometimes think of luck as a secular way of thinking of God.Whatever it is, it accounts for the bizarre course a life can take.Good luck has been my constant companion.It was my great good luck to be born in America and to have grandparents who had the gumption to leave Europe, where most of my extended family was murdered in the Holocaust It was my great luck to have loving parents It was my good luck to have some marvelous teachers, a few of whom managed to brush aside my defenses and teach me a thing or two about writing.It was sheer luck that took me to Washington to do some graduate school research — and to leave town with a job offer from the Washington Post. He had been lucky.Letterman, absurdly bearded, agreed.He, too, had been lucky. Not only that, he had been clueless.When others of his generation were putting their lives on the line for civil rights, he and his friends had cruised to the Bahamas so they could spend what sounded like their spring break falling down drunk.Letterman was sorry for that.He admitted to guilt as he admitted to being lucky.Some of the reviews of Letterman’s Netflix interview noted that Obama did not directly discuss Donald Trump. Nonetheless, Trump loomed over the entire hour.Not only did Obama remind you that a president could be articulate, even eloquent, and come into and out of office with not whiff of scandal, but his obeisance to luck was so totally un-Trump that it was almost shocking.Here was a man who, by acknowledging the role of luck, was acknowledging his own limitations:He could not do everything on his own. He needed the coin to come up heads.I can’t imagine Trump saying anything even close.I cannot imagine him saying that it was not his self-proclaimed genius nor his well-advertised negotiating skills that made him the billionaire he asserts he is or the president he’s become.To do that would confess humility, which Trump sees as weakness, and would bring him down to the level of a more or less ordinary guy — one who, as luck would have it, had a millionaire for a father and the birthright of good looks and excellent health.  Categories: Editorial, OpinionToward the end of David Letterman’s recent interview with Barack Obama, the subject turned to the matter of luck.The former president acknowledged the role it has played in his life.Yes, he had talent, he said, and he had worked hard, but neither of those could fully account for how a mixed-race kid who had known his father for only one month of his childhood had wound up president of the United States.center_img I stood once on a pier at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba as desperate Haitians, having been scooped out of the ocean by the Coast Guard, were brought to safety.I looked at those people — their skin baked from the sun, their eyes uncomprehending, their entire wealth consisting of the shirt on their back — and praised my astounding good luck. I turned to the fellow next to me and remarked how smart we had been to be born in the U.S.A.Otherwise, it could have been me floating in the ocean. Obama understands what I mean. He would never have disparaged Haiti as Trump so recently did — or, for that matter, black African countries such as Kenya, where Obama’s own father was born.Few people would call Obama humble, but he knows the importance of chance and that he did not blaze his own path.He had mentors, heroes from the civil rights era who made his own presidency possible. One of them is Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., beaten bloody in 1965 by Alabama state troopers in a march for voting rights.Last year, Trump responded to Lewis’ criticism of him by tweeting about the congressman:  A friend recently asked me why I had often been critical of Obama during his presidency.It would take at least another whole column to explain.But the hour with Letterman reminded me of how decent a man he is — how effortlessly presidential. All former presidents, once they get detached from their policies, take on a certain charm — even the hapless George W. Bush.But Obama is enormously helped by his successor in that regard.He is lucky in that, too. Richard Cohen is a nationally syndicated columnist.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homeslast_img read more

Men’s basketball preps for road challenge after loss to Cal

first_imgAfter their gut-wrenching loss to Cal, USC men’s basketball travels to the Pac-12 mountain schools to play Utah on Thursday night and Colorado on Sunday.The Utes (11-4, 2-1) are 8-1 this season at the Huntsman Center, taking their only loss to the University of San Francisco on Dec. 22. Despite the loss of incumbent Pac-12 Player of the Year Jakob Poeltl, who was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors, Utah returns an immensely deep roster. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s arsenal includes nine players earning at least seven minutes per game, including six players averaging double digits on the season.Yet again, Utah is led by experienced forwards. Junior Kyle Kuzma averages 14.8 points and leads the team with 9.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Six-foot-10-inch junior David Collette starts in the frontcourt alongside Kuzma. The Utah State transfer debuted as a Ute less than a month ago and scored in double figures in every game this season. He leads the Utes offense in scoring (15.4 points per game) and shooting percentage (.662).In the past, Krystkowiak’s teams have been known for their half-court prowess but slow pace of play. This year, however, the Utes average as many possessions per 40 minutes as the Trojans. This is one reason why the Utes average 80 points per game. Another is that they shoot 58.3 percent from inside the arc — the sixth best in the nation. The Trojans must protect the rim or else Kuzma, Collette and company will have a field day. With sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright out until at least February with a knee sprain, USC will continue to expect large contributions from the forwards — freshman Nick Rakocevic and redshirt senior Charles Buggs. Both alternate in and out of the rotation whenever the other picks up a foul, and each has struggled enormously with foul trouble. Rakocevic averages 6.75 fouls per 40 minutes and Buggs an even worse 7.3. Utah’s bigs will undoubtedly challenge the duo, and they cannot afford to foul cheaply. Sunday’s challenger Colorado (10-6, 0-3) also defends its home court well, going 7-1 thus far this season. The Buffaloes play their Pac-12 home opener Thursday night against UCLA. Colorado plays slower than Utah, and they average six fewer points. The team features a talented backcourt but one that has a meager 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Senior guard Derrick White leads the team in scoring with 15.8 and with 4.1 assists, but he also turns the ball over 2.8 times per game. Fellow senior Xavier Johnson averages 14.7 points per game, and he lit up Arizona’s defense with 26 points on Saturday. Like Utah, Colorado fields a deep roster. Coach Tad Boyle rotates five bench players, and he starts five upperclassmen, including four seniors. USC is a much younger team and will have to play smarter than the experienced Buffs and win the turnover battle.Junior guard Jordan McLaughlin looks forward to the challenge of achieving bounceback victories. “We will prepare like we did this week for the Bay games,” McLaughlin said. “Since the Oregon loss, we’ve had some of our hardest practices of the year. Next week should be fun.”last_img read more