24. February 2006 · Comments Off on No Tears For Larry · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, Politics

Many on “the right” seem to be considering former Harvard President Larry Summers as some sort of conservative martyr. This is a bit amazing, as he is hardly a “conservative” – more of a left-of-center sort of guy, really. They are lamenting that he is some sort of victim of a Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) “political machine.” The fact of the matter is, if there is a “machine” there, he enabled it.

Some think that Summers simply didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand-up to the FAS. I tend to subscribe to the opinion of Ruth R. Wisse1 (herself a Harvard professor):

In my opinion, the truly ghastly aspect of this whole affair is that the accused man actually believed he had committed an offense. Summers apologized not because, like Nikolai Bukharin, he was forced to, but because he was convinced he had done something wrong.

And what was that? “I deeply regret the impact of my comments and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully,” the president wrote in a letter to his faculty:

I have learned a great deal from all that I have heard in the last few days. The many compelling e-mails and calls that I have received have made vivid the very real barriers faced by women in pursuing scientific and other academic careers. They have also powerfully underscored the imperative of providing strong and unequivocal encouragement to girls and young women interested in science. . . . I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women.

I see no reason to doubt Summers’ sincerity; he usually says what he means and means what he says. Taking him at his word, then, I conclude that he was not sorry for having offended liberal orthodoxy; he was sorry, genuinely so, for having given some sort of offense to women, for sending them “an unintended signal of discouragement.” Having first done our sex the courtesy of treating us as peers, he was now determined to treat us as a victimized species. Henceforth, he would tailor his thoughts to the ability of women to bear the hearing of them.

If Prof. Wisse is to be believed, Larry Summers is hardly the champion of free inquiry that some might make him out to be. James D. Miller thinks Harvard should hire him as President2. I don’t know about Jim, but I think a good model would be John Bolton, who is kicking ass and taking names at the UN. (BTW, with Bush looking rather “soft” now on international affairs, it might be a good time to renominate Bolton as permanent UN ambassador.)

And, for more from Wisse on the Summers ousting, check Coup d’Ecole: Harvard professors oust Larry Summers. Now they must face their students, in Thursday’s Opinion Journal. She seems to think that the student body, who broadly support Summers, will have some sway over the FAS. I’m skeptical. After all, Harvard is so rich, it’s been called “a hedge fund with a medium-sized university attached.”

1. This excerpt from her article “Dear Ellen”; or, Sexual Correctness at Harvard in Commentary, April 2005 (subscribers only), via Steve Burton at Right Reason. If anyone can forward me a copy of the full article, it would be appreciated.)

2. Hat Tip: InstaPundit

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