Thou shalt not steal. You got a problem with that?
The campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton apparently does. That is, the First Lady and her allies think it’s just awful that anybody would wish to see the Ten Commandments posted in public schools. (A review of the proscribed activities handed down to Moses would suggest a reason for the Clinton campaign’s discomfort. We leave the specific citations to your imagination.) Because Mayor Rudolph Giuliani supports the idea, the First Lady and her toadies claim, with characteristic shrillness, that the Mayor is mixing religion and politics.
What nonsense. Religious people of many faiths may, in fact, wish to see a copy of the commandments placed on a classroom wall, but that hardly means that the issue is one of church and state. Jewish New Yorkers share with their Christian neighbors a belief that the Old Testament laws are the foundation not of a particular religious denomination, but of a moral and ethical society. Even atheists could not object to the idea of teaching children that they shouldn’t kill people, cheat on their spouses or take what doesn’t belong to them. If, in fact, these ideas are not being taught in the public schools, we have a bigger education problem than we thought.
The controversy over the commandments came about when the Clinton campaign seized on a fund-raising letter from the Giuliani campaign that criticized judges who “have banned the posting of even the Ten Commandments in our public schools.” The Giuliani position is a perfectly acceptable critique of modern American jurisprudence. To the Clinton campaign, however, those who espouse such views are little more than hayseed religious fundamentalists. In publicizing the Giuliani letter, the Clinton camp hoped to yoke the Mayor to the far-right wing of the Republican Party.
The tactic backfired, however, when the Mayor stood by his position. No doubt the Clinton camp figured that he would try to disown the letter or perhaps even apologize to those who may be offended. That, of course, would be the standard Clinton method of operation: For example, Mrs. Clinton herself apologized after she described the shooting of Amadou Diallo as a murder.
If the Clinton camp believed the Mayor would do likewise when confronted with the Ten Commandments issue, they know even less about New York and the Mayor than most people think. Rather than back away or hide behind lawyerly evasions, Mr. Giuliani stuck by his position. Not only should teachers have the right to post the commandments, he said, but adults should give them a read from time to time. He didn’t mention any names. We won’t, either.
Mr. Gee Climbs the Money Tree
Like many other world-class capitals of the new economy, New York has a vested interest in the integrity and competence of educators. Knowledge and information are transforming the city in the way that muscle and sweat made a great metropolis out of a collection of islands in the 19th century. We depend on educators to do their jobs, to serve as role models and to infuse young people with idealism and values.
By that standard, the outgoing president of Brown University, E. Gordon Gee, has failed. He has failed his colleagues, his students, their families and, indeed, a world that desperately wishes for integrity and commitment from its leaders in public and private life.
After fewer than three years at Brown’s helm, Mr. Gee has announced his resignation, even though he gave his word in a contract that he would stay for at least five years. It’s not as though the 56-year-old scholar decided to retire. No, he is taking a job as chancellor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. He is earning about $300,000 a year at Brown. While Vanderbilt officials would not say how much Mr. Gee will be paid, his predecessor as chancellor was paid $527,000–the fifth-highest-paid administrator among the nation’s private universities. It is clear to us that Mr. Gee is going for the big bucks.
The lesson Mr. Gee will leave to Brown’s students is hardly uplifting. It is, indeed, a sordid chronicle of greed and opportunism, of loyalty only to oneself (and one’s bank account). In announcing that he will leave by April 15, he gives the university no adequate notice, hardly the hallmark of a professional.
Perhaps that’s the key–Mr. Gee is not a true professional in the best sense of the word. Rather, he is an academic mercenary, ready to sell his services to the highest bidder. Brown University will be better off without him. It is hard to understand why Vanderbilt would welcome him.
Farrakhan Likes Some Jewish People
Louis Farrakhan, best known to New Yorkers for his assertion that Judaism is a “gutter religion” and that Jewish people are “bloodsuckers,” now tells us that he actually doesn’t hate all Jewish people. In fact, he says, “There are Jews I can … love.” He hasn’t given us any names. But he hints at the kind of Jewish-American he doesn’t like–those who “have said that I have a romance with Hitler.”
Actually, Jewish people don’t particularly care about Mr. Farrakhan’s private fantasies. But when he uses phrases like “gutter religion” and “bloodsuckers,” he tells us all we need to know about his views. He is the man who mentored the likes of Khallid Muhammad, whose malicious vocabulary of hate includes a reference to “hooked-nose, bagel-eating, lox-eating so-called Jews.” Mr. Muhammad once served as Mr. Farrakhan’s right-hand man in the tiny Nation of Islam organization. He learned his lessons well.