Is there something in the water fountains at Niles West High School in Skokie? In the dead of night, does an engineer spritz a PR spray into the air in the classrooms or sprinkle magical media dust on the text books?
I'm pretty sure none of the above is happening, but it is getting more and more curious. In the last few years, the mugs of Niles West graduates have dominated TV news--locally and nationally--as well as other media outlets.
And not always for positive reasons either. I'm talking about Merrick Garland, George Papadopoulos and William Rick Singer.
You couldn't get put together more divergent people if you tried. Yet their faces, each for a time, were plastered 24/7 all over CNN, MSNBC and FOX NEWS. Here's a brief synopsis of each individual.
Merrick Garland, Harvard-educated and highly-qualified, was named by President Obama in 2016 to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia died.
Garland had served as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was widely regarded as a moderate, praised by both Democrats and Republicans.
But the Republican Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, refused to hold a vote for an Obama nominee. Garland was passed over for Trump's pick, Neil Gorsuch.
Described as an "overachiever," Garland was valedictorian of the 1970 class at Niles West.
Papadopoulos is the 31-year-old former foreign policy adviser in the Trump campaign. While the White House downplayed his role, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty for lying to FBI agents working for special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation.
The 2005 Niles West graduate with the perpetual 5 o'clock shadow is now a convicted felon sentenced to 14 days in prison (although he actually served 12, getting two days credit for the two days he spent in jail during the indictment process).
William Rick Singer
Perhaps, the most cringe-worthy of the trio, William Rick Singer, 58, is the latest Niles West graduate to be featured in the news. He was reported to be the mastermind behind the recent college admissions cheating scandal.
Singer was indicted along with actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and dozens of other well-heeled scammers in a scheme to get their kids into top universities--even if they weren't qualified.
I asked a couple of Niles West alumni what they thought about the NW media grab. They would only comment anonymously.
One, now a college student, said (with an obvious eye-roll), "Maybe they put something in the burritos in the school cafeteria."
But she also mentioned another connection between the three of them: All were from Lincolnwood, a mostly upscale community, from which it's high school students feed into Niles West along with students from Skokie, Morton Grove and Niles.
Another NW graduate, in his late 20s, made this observation, "There were people at Niles West who had a lot of confidence that wasn't necessarily earned. They weren't the smartest people in the room, but they sure acted like they were."
Ouch. That might explain Singer and Papadopoulos but surely not the brilliant Merrick.
In any case, you have to wonder whose Niles West kisser we'll see on the news next?
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