McCain Makes It Here

At long last, democracy has prevailed in New York. For the time being, anyway.

Faced with increasingly bitter criticism and, worse yet, public ridicule, the campaign of Gov. George W. Bush of Texas gave up its effort to block Senator John McCain from contesting the New York Republican Presidential primary on March 7. The Bush campaign not only managed to make itself look silly (this is not the most difficult of assignments), but also stained the reputation of its New York allies, chief among them Gov. George Pataki. The Governor and other state Republican Party leaders felt duty-bound to do the Bush campaign’s dirty work, using the state’s scandalously arcane election law in an effort to have Mr. McCain’s nominating petitions voided.

If the Bush campaign had succeeded, Mr. McCain-a war hero, a man who endured five and a half years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese-would have found it impossible to compete in the state. New York’s Republican Party has done this sort of thing before. Forces aligned with then-Vice President George Bush tried a similar stunt in 1988 in seeking to block another war hero, Bob Dole, from the ballot.

This nonsense has come to an end thanks to Judge Edward Korman, in whose courtroom the dispute was being argued before the Bush forces gave up. But not before the faltering Republican scion managed to give Mr. McCain an issue around which to rally the public. The question now is simple: What comes next? Has democracy been given a temporary lease on life in New York, or has it taken up residence? There are indications from the Republican-Bush camp that some party leaders expect to be back in the business of denying democracy during the next Presidential election cycle. Some people will never learn.

New York’s election laws are an everyday scandal that get noticed once every four years, when the laws are applied to Presidential candidates. Insurgents and mavericks get bounced from the ballot every year, but nobody is looking. It is incumbent on Governor Pataki, who no doubt will want to restore his reputation, to see to it that New York’s election laws are completely overturned. That’s the only way to ensure democracy in this misgoverned state.

Our Intel Intelligentsia

The finalists in the annual Intel Science Talent Search have been announced, and once again New York’s public schools left the rest of the nation in the dust. Of the 40 high school seniors who will compete for the top prize of a $100,000 scholarship, 17, or 42.5 percent, were from our state. Next in line was California, with just four finalists. For all of California’s supposed reputation as America’s high-tech capital, New York’s students perennially trounce their West Coast peers, making it clear that the nation’s future science geniuses are firmly anchored right here.

Once again, Manhattan’s expensive private schools, the places which cause otherwise sane parents to have breakdowns at admissions time, lagged far behind public schools: The private schools boasted only one finalist, Alexandra Neuhaus-Follini from the Chapin School, which happened to be the only Manhattan private school with a finalist in last year’s competition as well. It seems that when it comes to science smarts in city private schools, the young ladies have it. Meanwhile, the public schools cleaned up: Three finalists hail from Paul Schreiber Senior High School in Port Washington, L.I., more than from any other school in the country. And two each come from Byram Hills High School in Westchester; Half Hollow Hills High School in Long Island, and Midwood High School at Brooklyn College. Stuyvesant High School, the selective public school in TriBeCa, has one finalist in the race.

Several of the students’ projects were intriguing. Ms. Neuhaus-Follini’s biochemistry project found that certain proteins thought to nurture the brains of victims of Parkinson’s disease may actually worsen their condition. Lucas Maccabee Hanft of Paul D. Schreiber High School dropped 1,600 self-addressed, stamped envelopes on the ground in Manhattan and Nassau County, including letters to fictitious conservative and liberal organizations, and found that Manhattanites were more likely to drop the liberal letters into a nearby mailbox than they were to mail the conservative letters.

The winner will be announced on March 13. Past winners, back when the contest was sponsored by the Westinghouse Corporation, went on to receive nine MacArthur Foundation grants, three National Medals of Science and five Nobel Prizes. All we can say is: “Go, New York, go!”

Bush, Bradley and the S.A.T.’s

Everyone knows it takes some pretty high scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test to get into an Ivy League school such as Yale or Princeton. For instance, the current average S.A.T. score among incoming freshmen at Yale or Princeton is in the low 700’s (out of a possible 800). But family connections and athletic prowess don’t hurt, and those two “attributes” made it possible for current Presidential hopefuls George W. Bush and Bill Bradley to attend those two schools back in the 1960’s. As was recently reported in Slate magazine, the Republican front-runner Mr. Bush received only a 566 on the verbal portion of the S.A.T.’s, while Democratic insurgent Bill Bradley fell short of even that lowly mark, with a 485.

If Mr. Bush were not the son and grandson of distinguished Yale alumni, chances are slim to none that he would have been admitted to that university. And if Mr. Bradley were not a star high school hoops player, it’s unlikely he would have a Princeton degree hanging on his wall today.

As for Al Gore, the Senator’s son who attended Harvard University, his campaign won’t release his S.A.T. scores. But perhaps it is telling that Harvard’s student-run Crimson newspaper has endorsed Mr. Bradley-a Princeton man!-for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

McCain Makes It Here