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George Will's "Harvard President Pays High Price"

The best part of Will's recent column on Harvard president Larry Summers is, not unusually, his sarcasm:

"Is this the fruit of feminism? A woman at the peak of the academic pyramid becomes theatrically flurried by an unwelcome idea and, like a Victorian maiden exposed to male coarseness, suffers the vapors and collapses on the drawing room carpet in a heap of crinolines until revived by smelling salts and the offending brute's contrition."

In his attempt to generalize a single episode, though, Will misses his intended target (feminism) completely. The real "fruit of feminism" is simply the mundanity of a female Ivy-League science professor; the incongruity is her response to Summers' opinion. It's amusing to note that Will's "Khmer Rouge-style re-education camp" quip is an overreaction nearly as hysterical (although not in the physical sense) as that of Professor Hopkins. (At any rate, her being at "the peak of the academic pyramid" would put her in Summers' office, but that's another topic.)

As far as Will's complaints about criticism of Bush's inaugural address, I'm not sure what point he's trying to make. Maybe he's bothered by the fact that Bush's continual repetition of the words "freedom" (33 times) and "liberty" (16 times) in a 2,000-word address is inconsistent with the administration’s well-documented abridgement of civil liberties, disdain for the rule of law, and tacit approval of torture.

Will writes about "rejection of the philosophy…of natural right," but, instead of providing an example, he repeated the accusation (which I've addressed before, from his column of 9 September 2004) that the "political left recoil[s] from" the idea of natural right. Unfortunately for Will, liberals such as John Locke have both endorsed the tabula rasa theorem and been proponents of "the consent of the governed" - which Will should know, having mentioned that phrase in the previous paragraph.

Finally, the notion of "governing elites," far from being supported by progressives, is derived from Plato's Republic by way of neo-conservative mentor Leo Strauss (whose protégés from the University of Chicago include John Ashcroft, Paul Wolfowitz, Ahmad Chalabi, and Abram Shulsky, among others).

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