FENNO WAS TWELVE deep in the thirty-six person long café line when a lingering 3L sent him over the edge. “A triple soy, nonfat, double-shot latte,” the be-sweatshirted senior ordered, nonchalantly. Not only did he have nowhere important to go that day, Fenno thought: as he witnessed the sangfroid specimen hand over an obscene tip, it was clear that the kid had his firm job in the bag, and class was no longer on his calendar. The rest of the line seethed.
A quick cost-benefit analysis was enough to drive Fenno from the foam-hungry horde: he was at least 20 minutes late for Con Law, probably more (although, admittedly, he’d never really been sure when that class started anyway). But just as he was about to duck into the tunnels – the more circuitous route, not to mention all the colorful posters to look at, would surely help him kill more time – Fenno’s eyes caught a far more alluring prospect for a half hour’s productive procrastination.
The limply-leaning hipsters made no effort to reach out to him, but that was no matter. Fenno strode up to them all the same. “Who are you and what have you done with the BarBri table?” he demanded.”Umm, this is like, the Obama campaign?” snarled a girl in a knitted cap and pink Converses, gesturing to the signs surrounding her. “Can I help you?”
“I’m undecided,” Fenno announced, playing devil’s advocate, “and I live in a vital swing state. I was wondering if you could give me your spiel.”
The girl shot him back a look that simultaneously communicated messages ranging from “are you serious? Barack’s got this in the bag” to “Christ, I’m as late for my cross registered Kennedy School class as this asshat probably is for something like Con Law, and it would be such a great excuse to get him out of my face if I actually gave a shit”. Taking a deep breath and smiling as authentically as she possibly could, though, the girl calmly and placidly wondered out loud: “what do you want to know?”
“Obama sounds like he’s going to raise my taxes,” Fenno charged. “That sounds like socialism.”
The girl shot him another look that said something like “god, if only he were a real socialist, then maybe he’d have proposed actual universal health care like Hillary had, or truly had the guts to speak out against Israel”. Instead, she gritted her teeth and told him he didn’t have to worry: although she could tell from the way he was idling there that he had a job, she knew that, even as a first-year associate on Wall Street, he wasn’t going to make more than $200,000 and wasn’t going to be taxed any more than the current rate. “Honestly,” she said, “Obama is a lawyer at heart, just like you. He basically just wants to make the country bill the greedy i-bankers at the same hourly rate we do.”
And that’s when it hit Fenno: despite shaking at least three hundred hands that flyout week, and despite having collected enough business cards to fill a room full of Rolodexes, he did not, in fact, have a job. In fact, at that moment he was less worried about taxes than whether Harvard would make good on its promise to fund a stint as a Northern Mariana Islands public defender, his last possible hope in the face of the festering financial crisis. Admitting all this to himself, he tried another line of attack.
“I heard Barack Obama was paling around with some pretty crazy characters,” he asserted, “like, you know, Larry Tribe. That guy wrote that book about how he could see ‘invisible’ parts of the Constitution! That doesn’t sound like the kind of rational advice that should be given to the president.”
“Look,” the girl replied, a model of restraint. “Larry Tribe may have done things in his youth that he’s come to regret. But Barack only met with him once a day when he was a law student, and when he was Larry Tribe’s research assistant, he didn’t even get most of the grunt work Tribe assigned – Tribe thought he was too good for it. So he barely even knew Tribe at all. Don’t believe the lies and misrepresentations of the McCain campaign.”
At that point, Fenno could have moved on, could have demanded to know if Obama was planning to hold direct negotiations with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without ever having taken International Negotiation Workshop, could have asked why Obama was being so reckless in his plans to attack Pakistan but so insistent on pronouncing its name correctly (that sounded like a flip-flop to Fenno) or so intent on surrender in Iraq (where Fenno thought it was ingenious that the U.S. had decided to create jobs so that it wouldn’t have to hunt for them at home).
Instead, this droopy-eyed girl with bad posture put the nail in the coffin of his procrastination plans. “Okay,” she said. “This goes against basically everything I stand for, but I’ve become much more realistic since giving my vote to Nader in the last four elections. You vote Obama and we all” – her gesture embraced all of HLS, from the mulleted Mormon missionary members of the Federalist society to the infinitely-imitating idle army of Apple owning editors of JOLT – “we all win. It’s all about the resume. We vote in Obama, and we own DC – you, me, Cass Sunstein – even Duncan Kennedy might have his moment in the sun, I mean, he’s probably crossed paths with William Ayers a few times. Er, oops, um, look, I gotta jet – I’ve got class way down at the Kennedy School” – Fenno could tell from the look in her eyes that she was actually planning to idle for an hour at that all-hemp clothing store on JFK Street – “but keep that in mind. It’s all about power. We’re gonna paint the capital crimson.”
The girl bounded off, doped on hope. But some of it, at least, may have rubbed off on Fenno. Sure, he thought, OCS might believe that the Harvard at the top of his resume might get him somewhere, but nowhere near where he’d wind up sharing the credentials of the president. Like Obama himself, he would be able to leave the Pacific islands behind, and work hard to bring needed change to Washington. But first, he thought, he’d jump back in that latte line. He still had about twenty minutes to waste before his Con Law class.