April 3 2013
Columbia's Latest Star Professor: Not Exactly Mr. Chips
If you want to know the extent to which conservatives are not the Establishment, you need look no further than two recent news items.
First, there is the Rev. Luis Leon, rector of the venerable St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square from the White House, who preached an interesting Easter sermon with the Obamas ensconced in one of the church’s historic pews.
I want to make a point other than that Leon’s sermon was vile, but first, here is some of what silver-tongued clergyman, who has given benedictions at inaugural ceremonies both of President Obama and former president George W. Bush, said on Easter Sunday:
We often want things to go back to the way things used to be, before “work got difficult and faith got confused, and life got more confusing,” but when we dwell on the “if only” of life we forget that “God addresses us in the now.”
As Jesus told Mary not to hold on to the past, “You cannot go back.”
“It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back … for blacks to be back in the back of the bus … for women to be back in the kitchen … for immigrants to be back on their side of the border.”
It drives me crazy when somebody uses Easter Sunday to promote some crackpot views about the religious right and, by extension, all conservatives.
Do you really know any members, much less “captains” of the religious right, who would like to bring back segregation? Are they really vicious people who’d like blacks to sit in the back of the bus? Also, is that a direct quote from Jesus?
President Obama has been criticized for not walking out on Leon's homily. That would have been rude, and it was right of him to remain seated.
But we have every right to wonder if the president—who’s heard worse from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright—was even offended by the sermon. Jay Carney dodged the question at a press briefing.
It would be interesting to know what the ghost of James Madison, the first president to attend services at St. John’s and now undoubtedly rattling around in the balcony, made of the sermon. St. John’s, as the press repeatedly noted, is the “Church of presidents.” Everything about St. John’s—from the Neoclassical exterior to the embroidered kneelers—breathes the word “Establishment.”
And that is what is so revealing about the Rev. Leon’s sermon—St. John’s is the quintessence of an establishment institution. So is Columbia University, founded by royal charter in 1754, and now ranking as one of the world's revered institutions of higher learning. We have just learned that the historic university has hired Kathy Boudin, a terrorist involved in an attack that left a Brinks guard and two policemen dead, as an adjunct professor.
Now, I am all for rehabilitation. But this still says quite a lot about Columbia in particular and our Establishment in general.
John Podhoretz points out today in the New York Post that institutions such as Columbia a century ago were homes to dry scholarship:
What a difference a century makes. While tedious scholarship still flourishes on campus — one glimpse at the book catalogues issued by university presses indicates you still get ahead in the academy by focusing on pointless minutiae — universities are destroying their reputations these days not due to an excess of pedantry but because of their acceptance of or advancement of genuinely noxious ideas and people.
Take the news yesterday that Columbia University’s School of Social Work had made the terrorist cop-killer Kathy Boudin an adjunct professor.
Boudin served 22 years in prison (after being a fugitive for more than a decade before that) for her role as the getaway driver in a botched Brinks truck robbery in 1981 in which a Brinks guard and two police officers were gunned down in cold blood….
If your goal at a school of social work is to show how to lie to a parole board to get out of prison, Boudin has exactly the right credentials. Whatever other credentials she might possess surely match those of hundreds of other PhDs in this city who also could have used a Columbia adjunct post.
But those other candidates didn’t have the glamor — there’s no other word for it — that attaches in some quarters to Boudin’s red-diaper-baby-to-radical-revolutionary, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is psychopathology.
My fellow conservatives, what the placid acceptance of the Rev. Leon’s horrible homily and Columbia’s hiring of my least favorite parolee tells me is that people who hold our views are outsiders.
My friends, the Establishment's barricades, are now manned, if one can still use that word, by Kathy Boudin.