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September 16, 2007

Harvard loves itself (and hates Bush)

My boss is a graduate of Harvard Law School. In our reception area, we occasionally see a copy of a magazine called "02138," which, not coincidentally, is Harvard's zip code. In my boss's defense, this magazine has been sending out free issues in an effort to drum up subscribers.

The magazine is not an official university publication. It's a publication of the VHC, the Vast Harvard Conspiracy, which trades in the university's name in order to shower itself in self-love and show others how wonderful and accomplished the members are.

If you clicked on the link at the top, and it's fall 2007, you probably saw a photo of the enormous head that once belonged to Al Gore, from whom the 2000 presidential election was stolen when the courts refused to order the precise, limited Florida recount that Gore asked for -- the one that would have counted anyone who conceivably could have voted for Gore as a Gore voter and would have excluded from the recount anyone who voted for Bush.

But let's let bygones be bygones. Gore has spent the past seven years campaigning for everyone to reduce his carbon footprint in an effort to fight global warming.

I mean that statement literally. Gore wants "everyone to reduce his carbon footprint," that is, Gore's own footprint, which, as you may have heard, is humongous, very much like his head.

Notice the title "Master of the Universe." This is the description of an article in the current issue that's actually entitled "The Harvard 100," who are the top 100 Harvard alums, according to this magazine. Gore is ranked number 1, which somehow makes him master of the "universe," and not just the top Harvard alum. This is the way people at Harvard think.

In ranking Gore number 1, the article emphasizes he's above the president, who is number 2. (Are they making an Austin Powers joke here? Probably not, but it would fit their approach nicely.)

Here's an excerpt from the entry for George W. Bush:

His legacy will be a quagmire in Iraq; faith-based ideology permeating the civil service; regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the EPA, serving business interests first; less-progressive tax rates; environmental policies dictated by energy companies; executive branch power trumping constitutional rights; a Justice Department seen as politically compromised; a conservative Supreme Court; and an American reputation sorely in need of rehabilitation in every corner of the globe.
Notice, if you will, the standard left-wing bill of particulars, the use of the word "quagmire," the concern for how the world thinks of America, and in the middle of this list a "conservative" Supreme Court, as if that, without more, were evil.

Gore, in contrast, is the subject of a separate, fawning interview called "Man on a Mission." You can read the whole interview at that link, but not the intro, which is too bad, because the intro says it all. Since that intro isn't online, I'll quote it here:
While the man who may or may not have beaten him in 2000 seems to lose influence every day, Al Gore is, literally, trying to save the world. Thanks to Gore, mentions of the climate crisis no longer require scare quotes. His Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth altered the consensus: No one credible argues that global warming does not exist. This year, Gore has testified before both houses of Congress; piloted his cable network, Current TV; promoted his anti-Bush manifesto The Assault on Reason; and presided over Live Earth, a benefit concert held simultaneously in eight cities around the world. He deflects rumors of a presidential run -- perhaps because he might actually lose influence if he ran.
As for the remaining 98 people in the Harvard 100, I'm sorry to report that the list of names at the link is not completely in order, so I'm going to have to straighten that out a little for you now. [UPDATE: The link now seems to work better.] Number 100 is Alberto Gonzales, now the former Attorney General, who left office on Friday. To give you a flavor of this whole article, I need to quote the "précis" for Gonzales: "Using twists of legal logic, Gonzales has reinterpreted everything from the Geneva Conventions to warrantless eavesdropping."

Number 98 is Michael Chertoff, described as "poster boy for bureaucratic bungling," a description in which many on the right would concur. But just in case you could have any agreement on this, the article feels compelled to state that Chertoff earned his nickname The Vulture "[f]or being an especially aggressive Republican special counsel to the Whitewater investigation."

Some of the rankings are just plain odd: Why is Richard Posner 73 and Matt Damon 70? Why is Barney Frank 62 and Andrew Sullivan 57? Why, for that matter, is Michelle Obama 58? Why is Deval Patrick 52 and Carl Levin 51?

Why is David Souter 49 and Stephen Breyer 46? Why is Antonin Scalia 30 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg 22? Why is Anthony Kennedy number 3? (OK, I know the answer to that one. He's number three because right now the Constitution means whatever Justice Kennedy's gall bladder says it means.)

Maybe I'm asking too much of a magazine by and for the VHC, a magazine that premiered with a cover of some chick wearing a blouseless suit jacket open to her pupik (tag line "She's Harvard. So Are You. (Discuss.)") This is also the magazine that later had a loving cover shot of the corrupt Democratic governor of New York and his wife, followed by a wholly different type of cover shot of Mitt Romney as a Ken doll (which is highly original, I might add).

Having had my own connection with the place, I find none of this really surprising. Whoever thinks of Harvard as a bastion of conservatism hasn't been reading the newspapers lately. Just ask President Larry Summers.