Harvard’s Larry Summers: What Was He Thinking?

University presidents should be intellectual leaders, not just fund-raisers, cheerleaders and greeters, and Harvard University president Lawrence Summers has been a fine example during the three and a half years he’s held his post. But a speech he gave recently at a conference of economists, in which he questioned the “intrinsic aptitude” of women when it came to the sciences, and then offered some truly bizarre remarks about various religions and ethnicities, leaves one somewhat shaken about Mr. Summer’s grasp of reality and sensitivity to just about everyone.

Mr. Summers told the conference attendees that he wished to discuss “the issue of women’s representation in tenured positions in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions.” His most widely reported gaffe was suggesting that women don’t have the intellectual candlepower needed to compete with men in the sciences, and that they probably weren’t willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary for a “high-powered” job. He’d prefaced his speech by saying that he might very well be wrong in his theories, and that he was going to try to “provoke” his audience-and indeed he did, as the ensuing public firestorm has shown. While his statements about women are troubling, they were within the realm of reasoned debate; after all, innate brain differences between men and women are hardly an esoteric field of study. But he went on: “It is, after all, not the case that the role of women in science is the only example of a group that is significantly underrepresented in an important activity … Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking … white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association … Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and in agriculture.” The most bizarre is “Jews in farming.”

The Harvard president had ventured into some weird Dr. Strangelove territory, revealing a mind which has spent a bit too much time concocting wacky theories which are best kept between oneself and one’s analyst.

Mr. Summer’s strange remarks are all the more regrettable in light of his record of speaking out for academic rigor at a time when many, if not most, college campuses are hostage to whatever fad happens to be embraced by the mind-dulling devotees of political correctness. In 2002, Mr. Summers made news by standing alone in addressing the growing problem of anti-Semitism among American university students and faculty. Several Harvard professors and students had been demanding that the university withdraw all of its investments from Israel, a demand that was mirrored at 40 other U.S. universities. Meanwhile, students across the country had been raising money for organizations linked to Islamic terrorists. Mr. Summers’ speech was a much-needed bromide against bigotry.

He’s also shown himself to be a true ally of Harvard students who are there to learn. He dared to suggest to black studies “scholar” and author Cornel West that he spend more time on scholarship and less on salesmanship. Mr. Summers, who himself had been Harvard’s youngest tenured professor at age 28, met with Mr. West after it had become clear that Mr. West had abandoned serious scholarship to become a self-promoting propagandist, not to mention a friend to dangerous anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan. Mr. West reacted by going public, calling Mr. Summers “the Ariel Sharon of American higher education” and calling in Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to attack Mr. Summers’ effrontery. He then decamped for Princeton, where his dubious charms and credentials had won him some deluded fans in the administration. Harvard’s gain was Princeton’s loss.

Nevertheless, Mr. Summers needs to realize that as president of one of the nation’s leading universities, whatever he says travels far and wide. For the moment, the governing Harvard Corporation, which has the final word on Mr. Summers’ employment, has come out strongly supporting him. And while several professors are calling for his head, over 150 full professors have signed a letter staunchly defending him. Meanwhile, one trusts Mr. Summers will avoid giving his enemies such ample ammunition in the future.

Ognibene, the Queens Cronies’ Candidate

In his 10-year career as a City Councilman from Queens, Thomas Ognibene was distinguished mainly for winning the coveted office of Minority Leader. In this capacity, Mr. Ognibene presided over the Council’s vast array of Republican members-vast, that is, if your capacity for calculation is limited by the number of fingers on one hand.

Mr. Ognibene was forced out of office in 2002 because of the city’s term-limits law. Now, he is looking to make a political comeback as a Mayoral candidate. He has announced that he will challenge the incumbent, Michael Bloomberg, in a Republican primary later this year.

On the face of it, Mr. Ognibene’s challenge is quixotic at best, pointless at worst. He seems really annoyed that Mr. Bloomberg had better things to do than attend President Bush’s inauguration last month. Mr. Ognibene thinks Mr. Bloomberg is ashamed of being a Republican. What any of this has to do with municipal governance remains a mystery. He’s also unhappy with the Mayor’s support of gay rights, gun control and women’s right to choose.

Mr. Ognibene is entitled to his opinions, and he has every right to challenge the Mayor. Most of the city’s establishment Republicans are siding with Mr. Bloomberg-except for Mr. Ognibene’s cronies in Queens. The Republican county committee there has endorsed Mr. Ognibene’s insurgent campaign, spurning Mr. Bloomberg and his solid record of achievement.

Nobody, of course, will ever confuse county committee members with the membership of Mensa. They are neither the best nor the brightest; they generally get to their station in life through unswerving loyalty and back-slapping flattery. But even by these low standards, the Queens county committee looks foolish in endorsing a hack whose only recommendation is his place of residence.

Mr. Ognibene, after all, isn’t running for Queens Borough President, although he seems supremely qualified for that non-job. He is running for Mayor of the city of New York, a demanding position that requires abilities and talents Mr. Ognibene has yet to demonstrate. But for Queens Republicans, what matters most is that Thomas Ognibene is one of them.

And so this unremarkable former Councilman can bank on the not-insignificant support of his loyalists. While Mr. Bloomberg would seem to have little to fear from Mr. Ognibene and his friends, remember that many people didn’t think John Lindsay had much to fear from Staten Island’s John Marchi in the Republican Mayoral primary in 1969. Surprise! The remarkably able Mr. Marchi defeated Mr. Lindsay.

Mr. Ognibene very likely will not be as successful as Mr. Marchi was in 1969. But if he manages to wound Mr. Bloomberg and then runs as the Conservative Party candidate, Mr. Ognibene could prove to be a spoiler in the general election. And that could lead to Mr. Bloomberg’s ouster and the election of a Democrat.

Then Mr. Ognibene and his friends from Queens will really be upset. After all, if they think Michael Bloomberg isn’t an authentic Republican, what will they make of Fernando Ferrer, Gifford Miller or Anthony Weiner?

Angry Wives Get Their Say

Angry at your husband? Then let him have it. That is, if you want to live a long and healthy life.

So says a new 10-year study of 3,000 women and men between 18 and 77 years of age that was presented at the recent Second International Conference on Women, Heart Disease and Stroke. The topic was marital discord, and the researchers found that wives who kept their feelings bottled up during conflicts with their husbands were four times as likely to die early as those women who expressed their anger bluntly. The leading causes of death were cancer and heart disease. The study’s author, an epidemiologist in Wisconsin named Elaine Eaker, said that many women tend to self-suppression because they think it will help sustain their marriage, but keeping the peace carries a heavy price. Not only do women who stifle themselves die earlier, they also suffer more from depression, studies have shown.

What about the fellows? The study revealed that men who bottle up anger at their wives suffer no ill effects. So, guys, keep the lid on.