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Tom Nichols: Claudine Gay Had to Go

January 5, 2024
Notes
Transcript
Harvard was justified in protecting its academic standards and the institution itself. But people are taking the DEI bait over Gay, instead of seeing that Project Trump is about discrediting institutions that stand for integrity and standards.Tom Nichols joins Charlie Sykes for the weekend pod.
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:26
    Welcome to the Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. It is January fifth two thousand twenty four. We are five days into January one day short of the third anniversary of the insurrection. Boy, that that is a weird thing, isn’t it?
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:39
    We’re joined, of course, by Tom Nichols. Professor Tom Nichols from the Atlantic. So, I mean, three years ago, you remember where you were, which we’re thinking was gonna happen three years ago?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:49
    Yeah. And I remember this kind of, feeling of unreality that this could not be my country. These are not my fellow citizens doing this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:59
    No. I remember I I was actually looking at at my newsletter from January fifth, and it was like, people, stuff’s coming. This is gonna be really, really bad. I mean, they’re every single light is blinking here. And yet even with all the warnings, even with all of the, hey, we should be really alarmed about this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:13
    The reality was so much worse. And, of course, Here we are. Three years later. So, hey, listen. I wanna talk about a lot of things, you know, that that are not involving trump necessarily, if that’s okay with you, Tom.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:24
    How is that possible?
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:25
    We will get to it, but I do wanna talk about some others. Can we just start off by just going through some headlines that kinda were sticking with me this morning? I mean
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:33
    It’s Friday. It’s the day for it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:35
    And it’s it’s it’s the weekend. So, you know, we start off the day with this report that the US economy created two hundred and sixteen thousand jobs, which blew past expectations. Unexpectedly wages up. So pretty good news for people wondering whether, you know, how the economy would play out in twenty twenty four It’s hard to see this as bad news. We also got the, Griffin plain sight story, the least surprising story of the day Trump received millions of dollars from foreign governments as president, report fines.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:05
    Like, wow.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:06
    Because, of course, he did. Of course, he did.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:08
    My shocked face We knew this. This is one of those times when you feel like you’re taking your crazy pills. So you have Republicans running around pretending that they’re going to impeached Joe Biden because of the money that he got from China, which they can’t actually connect the dots. And here’s here’s Donald Trump all over there. You know, pocketing money from the Chinese government.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:30
    Okay. So hypocrisy, none of this matters. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:34
    I wonder, though, there’s a part of me that says, did the Republicans really were they clever enough to say, you know, at some point? Because, I mean, the Trump taking money from foreign governments was like the worst kept secret in Washington all those years. Right? I mean, everybody knew it was happening.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:49
    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:49
    All that risk reported was simply kind of toed up you know, the bill. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:55
    Here’s the receipts.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:56
    Yeah. The receipts. Exactly. It’s just kind of adding up the receipts. I don’t think anybody knew this was happening.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:00
    You almost have to wonder were the Republicans clever enough to say Hey, let’s clooge up some kind of Bulwark. Joe Biden takes money from China’s story so that when it breaks about how much money Donald Trump took from China, we can either say, you know
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:18
    What about is it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:18
    What about? Yeah. Well, your guy did it too. Or everybody does it, or that’s not the real story. I mean, you don’t wanna think that somebody like Jim Comer is actually clever.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:28
    But there almost seems like a kind of beautifully planned sort of we know this is coming. Let’s accuse Biden of it. Let’s set up that whole hearing. That when it does come out, everybody shrugs and goes, what are you gonna do? Everybody does it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:41
    I think anytime you attribute, you know, deeply laid plans, any of these guys is probably a little bit, That’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:46
    my problem with the theory.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:48
    But no. No. No. But I think that theory is is valid in the sense that this is part of the the playbook of projection. That whatever you have done, you accuse the other guy of doing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:57
    So, yeah, there was a certain inevitability about all of this. Okay. So that that story, which I think it should be a very, very big deal. I think that everybody should be talking about it. You know, go into your swing voter blue collar areas and say, you know, you know, who actually got money from China?
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:10
    Listen to this. Okay. I don’t know what makes it One of my New Year’s resolutions. Do you make New Year’s resolutions, by the way, Tom?
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:17
    You know, as we were talking, just before we went on, Charlie, I’m too old for any of that now. My new year’s resolution is to see another new year’s.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:24
    Well, okay. See, I’m actually older than you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:26
    I don’t make them anymore. I just can’t I’m Other than the general, you know, I go to church at Christmas, and I make the general Christian pledge to be a better person next year. But, no, I didn’t make any sense.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:39
    Are you doing dry January or anything like that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:41
    Oh, don’t talk crazy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:43
    One of my New Year’s resolutions was to Use the word gormless more. Okay. Gormless.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:50
    It’s a great one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:51
    An intelligence
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:51
    It’s a perfectly cromulent word.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:53
    It is. It’s a wonderful word. In morning shots this morning, I have an update on the gormless g o p, how they’re all falling into line. The gormless GOP leadership, all falling in the line behind Donald Trump. And again, this is one of those stories where you go.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:07
    Yeah. Of course. But you go, wait. No. No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:09
    No. This is the third anniversary of when Donald Trump put those people, you know, their lives at risk under attack. And every one of them, So what I linked to was the the headline from business insider. Trump gloated about Tom Emma’s endorsement after he derail the top Republican speakership bid They always bend the knee. There’s the craveness, and then there’s the humiliation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:33
    And Trump doesn’t even pretend it’s like, yeah, Tom, Emma, You could have been speaker. I kneecap you a month ago. And here you are on your knees. Kissing the rain.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:46
    I think the one thing people always have to bear in mind is that when guys like Tom Emmer kiss the ring or any warmer parts of Donald Trump, they’re not really sucking up to Trump. They’re sucking up to a very small number of their own primary voters. And saying, please, please, please don’t kick me out of my job.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:05
    Yeah. Don’t don’t hurt me. Please just don’t hurt me again. Okay. There’s a lot of other things.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:09
    Here’s the My head is gonna explode story of the day. You saw this out of Utah, the Desert News, did a survey about, who was a person of faith, and they found that
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:19
    knew you were going there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:20
    You had to do it. I mean, you know, and again, I I’m not sure that the word means what people think it means, but, you know, most Republicans think that Donald Trump is a person of faith they went into it. But you look at these numbers. Republicans, who is a person of faith? Sixty four percent say Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:37
    Thirteen percent, say Joe Biden. Thirty four percent, only thirty four percent say Mitt Romney.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:44
    That’s mass psychosis. I’m sorry. That’s just, you know, that is head explodingly ridiculous. I mean, first of all, you know, whatever your other criticisms with Joe Biden The guy is probably one of the most church going presidents we’ve had since maybe Jimmy Carter Yeah. Or Bush forty three anyway.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:02
    But to say that Donald Trump is somehow more a man of faith than Mitt freaking Romney. With these polls, I just wonder if sometimes people answer these polls, and they say, this is basically a proxy for asking me whether or not I like Donald Trump and I’ll vote for.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:20
    Yeah. I think so. It is mass psychosis.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:23
    Otherwise, you’re required to believe that a lot of very sensible people in you know, across the country, let’s say otherwise sensible people genuinely are, you know, so detached from reality that they need to have, like, you know, be put into guardianship or something.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:39
    Again, the the whole, what is faith? And, you know, this is part of the look, I’m we’re not breaking any new ground to say there’s a little bit of a, you know, cult here. Have you seen this video, you know, god created Trump, god brought trump But, I mean, part of this is when you look at Mitt Romney and you look at Donald Trump and realize that far more Republicans think that Donald Trump is a man of faith in Mitt Romney, I mean, that it may be a stand in for. I like this guy. I don’t like this guy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:03
    There’s obviously also a little bit of an an element that I think I underestimated back in twenty twelve. The antipathy to Mormonism. So, I mean, there is that element there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:11
    So Even if there were nobody to compare him to this, you know, thrice married letcherous, adulterous serial liar guy who doesn’t, you know, pay his debts, doesn’t pay his workers. Yeah. The idea that anybody would say this is I mean, I get the people who I get. I don’t agree with, but I get the people say, well, he’s our Cyrus. He’s this evil guy that is somehow going to be the vessel of things that are, you know, that the Bulwark works in mysterious ways.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:41
    And this creepy guy is nonetheless somehow an instrument of god. But to say that he is a man of faith, I really think that’s almost like
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:50
    who turns the other cheek, a man of mercy, and forgiveness. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:56
    It’s just too much. But I wonder too if it’s not just a proxy for I like Donald Trump, but I screw you to pollsters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:02
    Yeah. I think there’s a lot of
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:02
    I know what you’re really asking me. So screw you. Yeah. It’s fine. He’s a man of faith.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:07
    I don’t underestimate that. As a factor. Okay. So I wanna talk about one of our big culture war issues of the week. I don’t know if it’s culture war, but, let’s talk about, what happened at Harvard, Claudine Gay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:17
    You had a ease about this. You know, this is one of those things that has assumed a role in American politics and culture, you know, way out of proportion to the significance of the job of president of Harvard. I’m not saying it’s not important, but this has become kind of a proxy fight. Now I come to this as somebody that’s been writing about higher education for more than thirty years. And it does feel as if, you know, this is a continuation of fights that we’ve had for many decades.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:45
    However, And I wanna get your take on this as a as a recovering academic. It feels like there is a crisis in higher education that’s coming to a head right now. I mean, just in the last month, you’ve had the resignation of the president of University of Pennsylvania, the president of Harvard. The president of Stanford was forced out. You have the activism among the donors you have activism on the on the boards.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:07
    A lot of pressure from conservative activists. So let’s talk about the definistration of Claudine Gaye because as you know, there are a lot of folks who believe that this was part of a right wing antiDEI plot by racist who targeted her because she is a black woman So, Tom, give me your take on the, force resignation of Claudine Gay from Harvard.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:36
    This was part of a targeted campaign by the right wing against a hated sort of, you know, icon of deI issues. But that doesn’t change the reality that what those guys discovered was actual academic misconduct And it shows you how much we’ve all been overtaken by the brain worms that we can’t seem to hold those two realities in our head at same time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:05
    There’s a social media meme, like, when the worst person in the world is right. Yes. This is one of these moments. The worst person in the world was behind this, But they were right. And that’s hard.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:17
    I think sometimes to swallow. It’s very hard.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:20
    It’s very hard because you feel like you’re giving a really terrible personal win.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:24
    We’re talking about Christopher Rufo here. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:26
    And the release to panic and all the other part of the the bad faith involved here is that the Rufos and Stefanics of the world. They don’t have any issue with elitism and Ivy League schools. Ruffo constantly says, hey, I went to Harvard, but he didn’t. He actually went to the Harvard extension school where I taught for eighteen years, by the way. I love extension.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:48
    I always made it a point. I when I wear my Harvard swag, it says extension on it. It does not say, you know, harv because extension for those folks, and I Charlie, I hope you’ll forgive me for ten seconds on but Harvard extension is the open enrollment continuing education branch of Harvard. It the oldest, of course, like everything in Harvard. It’s the oldest and best.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:10
    Right? And I taught there, and I was deeply proud of teaching there. People will go to extension and say, I went to extension because they’re very proud of that. They usually don’t say, oh, I went to Harvard. You know, you want you didn’t go through the admission process.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:21
    You weren’t a day student. It wasn’t the same It’s a part of Harvard University, but it’s not the part of Harvard that most people understand to sing. I went to Harvard. So with all that said, you know, Guys like Ruffo have no problem with Harvard being Harvard. They just don’t happen to like the current elites who are in charge.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:37
    I think they should be the new elites in charge. So there’s this kind of ugly resentment and status envy and yes racism and sexism and all that. None of that changes the reality that when they dredged up gays’ work, there were things in it that by any standard and certain by Harvard’s standards would have qualified as academic misconduct and likely plagiarism.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:03
    Well, this is what you wrote. You you wrote the know, Gays resignation was overdue because she had in fact engaged in academic misconduct, and you wrote everything else about her case is irrelevant, including the silly claims of her right wing of opponents,
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:15
    when they said, well, she was kicked out because of what she said about Israel, they mentioned, you know, put her head, as a trophy on their wall because of deI, you know, her scalp. Right. None of that is true. The thing that I think, you know, was that finally got to that point is he said, you know, This is enough of a problem with your academic record that you cannot continue as the public face of the most prestigious university in the world. I mean, this is, I think, very different from the Liz McGill resignation where donors just said, listen, you screwed the pooch.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:44
    That was a stupid thing to say. Don’t want you as president anymore. Fine. Universities are self governing institutions and should be. Stanford, and I wrote about this look out book plug coming and the new addition of the death of expertise, I wrote about Tessier Levin in the the president of Stanford.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:01
    Again, a serious, you know, record after a long investigation. Now people said, why did test your Levin get a long this long and gay got, you know, the boot. Tesla Levin with his stuff was science, and that takes a lot of kind of specialized digging about the data, and which things were properly cited and which site because he had fourteen coauthors and all that stuff. But in the end, he had to step down. Because you can’t lead Stanford University after piling up a record of academic misconduct.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:33
    And I think the inability, you know, you and I were joking to for the show that, you know, apparently, I’ve been reblued as a conservative in the eyes of many people on the left because I’ve seen this. But what what I’m really saying is that I spent thirty five years teaching eighteen of those at Harvard Extension, a school for which I have immense affection. You know, in the end, Yeah. May it may be that the worst person in the world that you know discovered this, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a there there. Doesn’t change the fact that there’s a real issue here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:06
    And also the stakes for Harvard were, I think, high and and for academia. I mean, you you’ve written about the death of expertise. If these institutions decide that they’re gonna die on this hill, then they are putting their own reputations on the line. They’re putting their credibility on the line. Are they willing to towards their credibility?
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:23
    You know, on the altar of either identity politics or I we’re never gonna concede that Rightwing news outlets or people like Krista Faruffo might have come up with something.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:33
    Well, and and what are you saying to your students? There was a guy, one of the people that she lifted stuff from or borrowed or cited without attribution, you know, depending on what camp you’re in, however you wanna use it. He said, well, I don’t think this plagiarism. I don’t have any problem with it. And, you know, the first thing I thought was Is that what you’re gonna say to your students?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:53
    Hey, prof. Here’s a couple of paragraphs, no attribution, no question mark, no quotation marks, no footnote, You know, I’m not in trouble. Am I? Because, you know, you said this is okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:01
    This is a key point. And and you made it in in in your piece that, you know, you had been a professor for thirty five years and you would have referred students for similar misconduct and for varying punishment. So there’s no doubt in your mind as an academic. And I think it’s pretty clear even from some of her defenders at Harvard, that if a Harvard student had done what she did, they would be in trouble. That becomes kind of a bright line.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:22
    I have been involved in cases. At least twice where I referred behavior like this on a student was expelled from two different institutions. So you know, maybe I’m just, you know, old and cranky and hard line, but someone asked me on social media. Oh, so she should be fired now from Harvard entirely. My answer to that is that’s an internal departmental decision that will take a lot longer to figure out.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:48
    But as the public face of a major teaching and research institution. One of my colleagues made in the Atlantic made the point that college presidents have to be either in the best case both, but either politicians or scholars of serious note. They have to be excellent politicians or major scholars. And the point was, you know, gay right now is neither, you know, not able to make the case for being either of those. And as you said, that’s an institutional problem for Harvard.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:19
    And I think it was the right decision all around for her, for Harvard, for everybody. But we have become so tribal and so unwilling to think about, again, that the worst person you can think of could say something that could actually be true. I actually think that people like Stefanic and Rufo when it comes to all this DI stuff. They’ve peaked. I mean, maybe I’m being overly optimistic about this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:41
    But You know, Ruffo’s big thing was to hit his star, Ron DeSantis. So, you know, how’s that going? Let’s, you know, They’ve managed to ruin some institutions in Florida, but they’re still gonna be a Harvard, and it’s still gonna be one of the greatest universities on the planet. You know, long after people have forgotten who at least the fanuc or Chris Rufar.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:02
    Well, I think that’s true, but I don’t think that this tide has has in fact peaked because there’s a larger problem. I mean, you you do have the politicization of higher education. It’s not a myth. It is true. It has been accelerating.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:13
    The illiberalism in academia is a real problem. And I think it’s increasingly it intention with where the country is
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:21
    Let me make one point about the deI thing, Crest thing. You know, in a way, I think what happened to Gay is almost a lagging indicator. Because it seems to me, you know, following this stuff. And remember, I only retired from teaching a year and a half ago. It seemed to me like a lot of the the universities themselves had realized that things were out of control.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:42
    I thought I think back all the way to the to the incident back. It’s gotta be seven or eight years now. You know, with a bunch of kids screaming at Nicholas Christakis. Remember that? You know?
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:53
    Oh, I remember that. Yeah. Road about that, Marcus.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:55
    This is supposed to be a safe home for me, you know, not a place. And, of course, worker stock is, you know, is saying, no, I don’t agree with that. Mhmm. I almost feel like that was the high watermark of the insanity. About a lot of this stuff and that a lot of the programs and a lot of the, kind of the gobbledy Goook around this had started to recede back then because I think or a lot of adults saying, Hey, this is not a good idea.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:21
    This is not the environment we try to create. So in a in a sense, I almost feel like what you know, the the fair gay, I could be wrong, and maybe I am just wishcasting here. But it seems to me like all this is kind of tail ending a lot of stuff that to me seemed a lot worse. But one place where I do think I’m wrong is when it comes to this sudden outpouring of completely lunatic anti Semitism on campuses. That reignited a lot of this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:49
    But I also think it’s a different thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:51
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  • Speaker 1
    0:22:19
    There were not the kinds of consequences that we’re seeing now, and I think you’re gonna see more consequences here. You know, let’s go back to that with lit the bonfire, the immediate bonfire. I mean, two things. You know, obviously, this explosion of anti Semitism, this the shock that I think a lot of liberals felt, you know, when they saw some of the things happening on university campuses and how, you know, after years of saying, we need to make these safe spaces that nobody’s feeling should be hurt suddenly, we have these assaults on Jewish students, and it was, like, kind of shrugged off a little bit. So it was the inconsistency.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:49
    So Claudine gay and the other presidents go in and they are politically tone deaf at the hearing. What I think this really turned the spotlight on was the inconsistency. And our friends at Fire, the free speech organization, rank Harvard. I believe, what is it? Two hundred and thirty eight out of major universities and to get last.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:11
    And it’s because people like Claudine Gay have a I mean, let’s be honest about a terrible track record of defending diversity of thought. They have canceled scholars who said and did things that were politically unpalatable. There have been, you know, instances of intolerance and illiberalism. So when suddenly they tried to posed for holy pictures about tolerance of, you know, anti Jewish any any Semitism, it rang hollow. I don’t know if you had I see the the Washington Post editorial on all of this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:43
    They make some good points. I wanna get you reacting to it. They write the resignation of Harvard’s president chance for schools to learn. And the and they point out this inconsistency. Harvard’s failing and that of its pure institutions can be summarized in a single word inconsistency.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:57
    Miss Gay assumed leadership of Harvard in a post George Floyd climate of racial reckoning as its first Bulwark president, a champion of diversity equity and inclusion she made racial justice on campus a cornerstone of her efforts at Harvard. The institution’s leaders spoke clearly and passionately against Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine, and police abuse after Floyd’s death. But when Hamas launched its horrific October seventh massacre of Jews and others in Israel, Ms. Gaye and other university presidents did not immediately enforce the league condemn it to outrage alumni and other critics. Herbert had no explanation because if you’re going to weigh in on all of these issues, why the silence there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:35
    And they come to the conclusion. The lesson here for Harvard and further universities. Is that it’s a mistake to create the expectation that university presidents have to weigh in on all the great issues of the day. If administrators as a matter of principle avoided pandering to left wing activists on campus, they would be on firmer ground resisting activists right wing or otherwise voices off campus, and their claims respect all speech within uniformly applied time, manner in place limitations, would have more credibility. The business of a great university is not to take sides in America’s culture wars.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:11
    Now I I imagine people say, well, there’s some parts of the culture where you should take sides. The reason why I I I think this is not the tail end, is that there has not really been a reckoning of the fact about how illiberal some of these institutions have been, how thoroughly politicized they have been, and how really kind of hermetically sealed the university politics has been to the rest of the world. You step on a university campus. And he I’m talking to a veteran professor, but you were at the war college, which would be a little bit different. And you’re in a completely different intellectual environment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:47
    And I think they’re paying a price for the fact that centrist conservative scholars have opted out. And don’t feel that that is a safe space. So you had that uniformity of thought, and I think that’s being challenged. I mean, there was going to be a reckoning at some point. And I feel it’s hitting now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:07
    Maybe at the behest of the worst people in the world, but it’s not because it’s without some reality underlying it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:16
    You’ve piled up a a bunch of issues. And one of them is, let me go back before we leave aside the extra old Chris Rufo, the one thing that they did that was very clever, I don’t really think they care that much about Claudine Gay or her academic record. What they were trying to do with this whole business because this goes back to your point about hypocrisy, Charlie. They were trying to bait the institution into openly defending a double standard. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:44
    Instead of being able to kind of align that, they were trying to bait the school into being openly hypocritical and saying, yes, yes. We defend all of these issues of academic rigor, but not if it’s a problem with our people because our people get a pass. And I hate to say that, you know, for a time, they succeeded. That Harvard, you know, they played I I said this last night on on PBS. They played rope a dope.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:09
    With Harvard because they put a little bit out there and got Harvard to defend it as just a nothing burger. Then they put a little more out there, and they got you know, the academic community to start yelling about this as racism. And then they really drop the big tranche of Here’s the stuff, you know, unattributed, unintributed plagiarism, etcetera, etcetera. And then everybody had to go quiet and say, oh, crap. But the damage was done.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:34
    With that said, let me say something about kind of the bubble nature. Yes. I I was at Bulwark college for a lot of years. Remember, I I was at Harvard every week, and I taught at Georgetown and Dartmouth in my career, and I gave lectures. I’ve for past seven, eight years, I’ve been lecturing campuses all across the country.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:51
    When you say you walk into a bubble when you walk onto a campus, that’s true if you say when you walk into a campus department. Or faculty meeting. Because, you know, one of the things that’s always striking. Most of the kids I mean, obviously, not the ones you see, you know, chanting from the river to the sea, But, you know, most of the kids in my experience in thirty five years, they’re pretty sensible
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:14
    there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:14
    They’re a lot more sensible than some of their faculty. I’m gonna tell this story from the nineties because I just love it so much. I had a student really bright kid, one of my advisees at a certain Ivy League school that I I won’t name. But it rhymes with Smartmouth. Alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:29
    Fine. So it was at when I was at DARmouth. And this this advisee said to me, you know, came in. She was doing it really poorly in a particular class. I said, I don’t understand this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:37
    You know, you’re a good student. You’re a good one. So she went back comes back to me, you know, for her check-in a few months later. All her grades are fine. And she said, I’m doing great in the class.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:47
    And I said, good. What happened? Did you talk to Professor so and so did you get? She said, no. I just came I just realized on every quiz or exam, I had to say something bad about Reagan and I would get an And, you know, I laughed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:00
    I mean, that’s kind of a sad story, but I laughed because she was a sensible young woman who figured it out. And she got a perfectly good education and kinda worked her way around this very radical member of the faculty. And sort of she learned stuff, you know, this this faculty member taught decent classes, but just had this particular pueblan issue. The kids are like that. They figure stuff out.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:23
    And they’re actually, I would say again, mostly mostly, pretty sensible. I think where the Claude Gaye business comes from was this kind of bubble sensibility. And I think you’re absolutely right about the post George Floyd environment. But again, I would say the George Floyd thing, the George Floyd environment, not the George Floyd thing. The murder was a ghastly national sin that we’re gonna talk about for years.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:47
    But you notice that how quickly things fizzled out there, you know, police reform, gone, to fund the police movements dead. You know, police violence, not curbed. And and I think in that environment, there were nonetheless people in the bubble who said Hey, let’s do this thing. And nobody will question, you know, that this president of Harvard has this track record that you talked about. That, you know, there there might be problems in our CV.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:13
    They just said, of course, we can do this and nobody will question it. And that led to this attack. And I it was a bad faith, nasty. You know, yes. Everything she she said, and I think she wrote a really unfortunate op ed after she stepped down.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:30
    Playing the victim card, basically making it all about, diversity and race, which which certainly did not
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:36
    and being a woman and then
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:37
    knowledge the scope of of her academic misconduct. What are the double standards or what it would have meant for Harvard if they would have stuck with her? Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:45
    Chris Ruffo could not have hoped for a better op ed because it played right into every trap laid for her.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:51
    The reason why I don’t think this issue is gonna go away is because I could think that this is, you know, just one aspect of the crisis of higher education. I think that, you know, it’s not just political. It’s also about the cost the, you know, all of the questions about it. This had been bubbling for a very, very long time. I should remind people that William F.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:10
    I believe was William Fuckley’s first book ever was god and man at Yale. So the conservative critique of higher education is going on for a long time. And even before, you know, in the in the before times, people were raising questions about higher education and about universities here. And, in case anybody wants this is actually still in print fail you the false promise of higher education from the author of proscam and dumbing down our kids. So there’s a lot going on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:47
    Some of us have been writing about it for a very, very long time. And so when I look at this going like, wow, this fire has been smoldering, and somebody just came and they threw kerosene on it, and then somebody threw a stick of dynamite on it. So we’re not done yet.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:02
    I wish there was as much debate about those issues as there are, you know, this is where I think the right wing has completely stumbled for short term tactical gains rather than, you know, making the country a better place because as a conservative professor in the Liberal Academy. I was very concerned about the fact that, for example, standards in general, everywhere have fallen. I mean, it is just easier to get through college now than even in in my, you know, I went in the seventies and the eighties, And I could tell you that in the forty years, you know, what now? Oh, crap. I don’t even wanna say this out loud, forty five years since I started college.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:45
    I know. Students can’t read as much. They just won’t. They don’t have the patience for it. Great inflation is rampant.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:53
    I talk about this since we’re plugging books again. I, you know, I talk about this in the death of expertise that students graduate from college saying, well, I had an a minus average at a university. Well, which may not mean very much. Anymore. And I think, you know, this obsession with DEA, which is a tiny corner of what happens at most universities, has really let the universities off the hook for the fact, for example, the foreign language training has collapsed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:21
    I would argue this is one of the most gigantic stories, one of the most gigantic unreported stories. I guess now that I write for a magazine, I should probably write about it, but I’ve been busy. But the collapse of language training is a huge part of what’s happened at universities.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:35
    You’re triggering me here because for thirty years, it has struck me as one of the great ironies is that at the very moment when we decided is as as a country that we were, you know, needed to embrace multiculturalism. And it was important that multi culturalism, be part of education. We stopped requiring kids to learn foreign languages. You wanna talk about multiculturalism. How about teaching people about not just about other cultures, but how to speak the language and everything.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:01
    I mean, it just seemed bizarre, but, of course, you know, that would be true of so many different fields.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:07
    But there is one other thing that you raised about the Washington Post editorial where they said, you know, universities and their presidents, you know, they don’t need to take big stance on the the day. But, Charlie, you’re you made the point that they do need to take some sides in the culture war. And I go back to thinking when I was in college, when you and I were in school, back when, you know, Tarana Sauruses roamed the earth, there was no place in America that was really, like, neutral on the cold war. Right? You didn’t have schools saying, hey, a Soviet communism, a democracy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:37
    Yeah. We don’t really take positions on these things. There was this sense that you educate people for citizenship and duty and a democracy to be educated, participants in the democratic, you know, And I think this is one of the reasons why the October seventh, you know, the Hamas outpouring on some of these campuses is really upsetting because these are not students that, you know, it’s bad enough that the universities just stood back and said, well, you know, Jew hatred is just one of many things we tolerate, but that these students are are not equipped to be participants at a deliberative tolerant, secular, liberal democracy. They’re just not. Now maybe they’ll grow out of it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:20
    That’s the other thing I will just while I we can move on from this, but I will say having taught for thirty five years. One of the things I think I’ve come to realize about America is that young people grow out of their radicalism, old people grow into their radicalism.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:33
    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:33
    And, you know, the way America is structured now, there’s a kind of a big, sensible middle of people that they kind of grow out of this juvenile. I when I wrote about the semitism. I called it the juvenile viciousness of campus anti Semitism. And a lot of those kids will outgrow it, and they may even feel some shame or god willing, they will. But I think they’re mostly the kids are gonna be alright, but some of them are not going to be equipped for participation in a global democracy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:01
    They’re just not.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:02
    I have one one last comment on all of this, because I have written, you know, several books about higher education. And each one of them, and I am at pains to make this case, each one of them is a defense of liberal education. Small. The humanities and academic freedom, which is not a conservative position. And I think that that’s one of the key points here is that liberal education means that people should come to campus going, hey, there are all these ideas I need to keep my mind open.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:32
    I’m gonna be exposed to ideas that I’ve never seen before that challenge my priors that make me think the moment you begin to say, no, wait. I am triggered by ideas that I don’t like, that I’ve never heard before that make me feel unsafe. You have attacked the fundamental foundations of liberal education. You know, if you want a place where you will never hear anything you disagree with, university campus should be the last place. You should stay home or go into a monastery or something.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:01
    You should avoid public transportation. And higher education. Because higher education should be about reading books to go, wow. I never thought that, or here’s a completely different point of view. You know, when you begin create a culture in which you say, you cannot say that, or I’m going to judge you by your identity rather than by your ideas, Then again, that is illiberal.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:24
    I have to fight you on this about being conservative because I think one of the things that came after the nineteen sixty. That’s why when you say liberal education, I I say small l because I think
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:34
    that Right. Definitely.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:35
    That’s three sixties. Liberals and conservatives were just two siblings in the same family of western enlightenment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:44
    Correct.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:44
    And what happened, I think, on a lot of campuses and and what we’ve been to get our arms around now. When I think of the conservative approach education, the small c, virtuous conservatives that used to exist or the ruffos and the activists and all these other nitwits. Philosophy, right? Lovers of truth. What is true?
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:03
    You go to college and what you’re trying to sort out is what do people believe? What does the world look like? And what are things that are true or not true? And how do I think about great truth? How do I engage in moral reasoning?
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:13
    How do I you know, square the circles of what I believe with what other people believe. It’s fun. I think where the progressives went off the rails was to say first of all, truth is whatever you think it is, there’s this kind of post modern derailing of truth. Right? That says, well, you know, the text is what you bring to the text everything’s about you, but more importantly more importantly, what’s true is less important than what serves causes You know, there are things that are just true, whether you like them or not.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:46
    And I think for a lot of people, after the sixties or or early seventies was, yeah, there are things that are true. But remember, we have a duty here to progress to history. To the cause to move in on. I think conservatives are the ones who said, listen. I don’t at least this was my experience as a younger person.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:05
    Like, look at I don’t care what’s serves history or your cause or this or that. I just care about what’s empirically true. And of course, that became known as I remember somebody one of my colleagues, one of my younger colleagues say, well, you’re you’re a total positiveness. Like, it was an insult, you know, like, to be somebody who kind of, you know, believes in in empirical reality and so on. But again, ninety percent of that stuff In the end, ends up not touching the kids.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:33
    I think the bigger problem with the for the students, and then, you know, we can both get off our pedestal here because we’re we’re in heated agreement. Is that, they’re just not challenged enough. They’re not made to think. They’re not made to work. When I taught all those years at Dartmouth, and realized that Wow.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:47
    You can graduate from an IVH school and never read the Constitution. Never read Shakespeare. You know? I mean, it was insane.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:55
    It is insane. And I was saying that back in the nineteen eighties. What I don’t think that we all anticipated was the degree to which, you know, many of those attitudes would seep out and dominate the rest of the culture, the the wider culture. So we were having this debate about what was happening on university campuses. And now those same debates are taking place in businesses and boardrooms throughout society.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:15
    This idea that you shouldn’t be challenged or that you are looking for safe spaces has, in fact, seeped out into the culture. I’m gonna take a beat here because I think there’s another sort of big orange elephant in the room here that some of my colleagues some of our colleagues at the bulwark have made. And I think it is an important point. We’re talking about Harvard saying at some point, look, even if this allegation comes from the worst people in the world, the academic contact is real. We have standards, and we are going to enforce those standards because otherwise, what are we?
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:45
    If we don’t have high standards, And I keep coming back to the fact. Now we’re gonna make a complete political switch, even though I said we weren’t gonna do this. You know, it is interesting that once again, this does serve to highlight the fact that in our culture, every institution has a standard that it enforces with the exception of the presidency of the United States. Millions of Americans, including many of the people who are crowing over the definistration of Claudine Gay, have no problem taking someone like Donald Trump with Donald Trump’s character in misconduct and making him not the president of Harvard. But the president of the United States.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:25
    And I keep coming back to this. Donald Trump, you know, no branch of the military would trust him with a position of power and trust. No university would hire him. No corporation would put him on the board. Nobody would hire him to teach your schools, you wouldn’t hire him to I mean, this disconnect here, and I wrote for your publication about this, how you try to put Donald Trump into any other part of life.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:52
    Would people even conservatives in red states? Would they want Donald Trump to be the coach of their kids socrates. Would they want them? People would not trust Donald Trump with their car keys if he were the valet in front of a restaurant. So this is this is part of the problem, and it’s sort of that double standard.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:11
    And JBL made this point, you know, that you can’t take someone seriously who says, yes, this is great that Claudine Gay, you know, has been removed because of her misconduct. And if those same people then turn around and say, but I’m supporting Donald Trump to be president of the United States, then don’t talk to me about standards or morality or right and wrong or virtue. None of that really matters to you. Right? None of it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:33
    This is why I was so hard over because I think people like stephanic, like at least stephanic. We’re desperate to get the academy, to get the elites, right, to get the beyond pants, to get the editorial pages of the papers to double and triple and quadruple down on Claudine Gay so that then she could say, uh-huh. What about ism is a real thing, and none of you have the moral standing to ever criticize Donald Trump again? Because nothing really matters, and because everybody is corrupt, and we’re all, you know, terrible people, you, me and everybody else. And I think that was why I was kinda banging the desk here about don’t take this bait.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:17
    The way that you defend standards is to defend standards The way that you defend the rule of law is to observe the rule of law. The way that you defend the constitution is to observe the constitution. And our friends on the left, you’ve taken these base shots before. Why do we always have to be the good ones? Why do we have to be the people who obey the rules?
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:37
    Because that’s how it works. That’s why. Because that’s how it it happens.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:42
    Did otherwise the nihilists win?
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:44
    Win. Exactly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:46
    Once you basically invested in Donald Trump, it’s not just Trump. You have to destroy. You have to have this long march through all of the standards, all of the norms, all of the institutions to say that, well, everyone is corrupt. Nothing matters. Everyone’s a liar.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:03
    Everybody is a corrupt. Everybody violates the espionage act. Everybody engages in racketeering. Right? Because once it’s everybody does it, then you can rash realize your support for Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:13
    So the support for Donald Trump has had this incredible impact on the culture and character not just of presidential politics, but everywhere. What does at least Defonic want to do? At least Defonic wants to discredit any pocket that might say we actually represent integrity or standards. You have to burn them all down.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:35
    Elise Defanek wants to stay in Washington. She wants to live in the Emerald City. And if that means that saying everybody in America is basically a liar and a cheat and a double dealer then so be it. If the way to do that is to say that America’s culture is one big sewer, and I’m no worse than any other loading piece of garbage in that sewer, then so be it. And Americans should absolutely reject that kind of nihilist lowest common denominator leveling, but that is what’s behind a lot of this stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:08
    People are getting sucked into in main arguments about deI and about is what gay did worse than what so and so did. You know, it’s like if I can prove that you didn’t stand on principle. I can prove that no one stands on principle. And therefore, nothing matters. I’m not such a bad guy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:26
    And if Donald Trump wins, that’s just the way it goes. And I think people need to be aggressive in rejecting that and saying, look, none of us are completely consistent in our views. We are human beings. We think we reconsider. We change our minds.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:40
    But in the end, I will not defend the behavior of someone like Trump in one of my guys just because it’s my guy, you know, no matter what politician it is. Bob Menendez, right? I mean, you know, like, I haven’t written my Bob Menendez must stay piece. You know what I mean? Bob Menendez, anybody else would have quit by now?
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:01
    And this is, you know, an ongoing tragedy. For the Democrats, I mean, I shouldn’t even call it a tragedy. It’s not going embarrassment, but, you know, again, to get baited into, well, what about Trump? What about what they did? What about The whole point of standards is that they are not amenable to what aboutest arguments, which is why trumpists make the what about arguments every ten second.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:22
    See, you know, I’m I’m glad you brought up the Menendez case because, you know, Menendez and others, and he’s not this is not personal about him. But you can tell that there’s an entire political class now. That is sort of testing testing the winds, you know, have all of the rules of politics, have all of the rules of moral gravity been repealed. Now because of Trump, can I get away with things that would have been disqualifying a few years ago? And you can just see this with with, you know, people like, you know, Matt Gates and others.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:51
    And they’re
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:52
    right. Well, we’re going to find out because, you know, sometimes we find out that the rules only apply to Donald Trump. They don’t apply to anybody else, but You can just tell that there is a class of politicians that just thinks first of all, you know, in the old days, if the local newspaper, you know, exposed my corruption, I would be done. Now, I can simply attack the newspaper, figure that people will never hear this information, and brazen. And I can I can play the victim card?
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:15
    So one of the things that we are testing now is what is the blast radius of this nothing matters? It’s Trump and other people. And you know there’s one of the reasons why the worst people in the world try to shelter under the wings of Donald Trump’s immorality because they think this also gives them a lifetime hall pass from accountability. And it’s kind of exciting for many of them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:38
    They’ve learned from Trump that it won’t always work, but it’s at least worth a shot to tough it out. Right. Because what’s the worst that could happen? Ben, that’s the kind of reasoning that you can only engage in if you don’t feel shame. Was watching an episode of, Madman the other day.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:58
    I’ve been re binging Madman. You know, like, I’ve been height taking refuge in the past. From our unpleasant present right now. They made reference to the profumo scandal. And for you Youngans out there, the minister of defense, got caught
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:13
    Great Brit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:14
    Sleeping with a call girl
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:16
    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:16
    Who was also shall we say blinking? Somebody at the Soviet embassy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:22
    Will it shock you that I know her name? Christine Keeler?
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:25
    Christine Keeler, they made a movie about
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:27
    Which, by the way, dates both of us here? Yes. But, okay. Go on. Yes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:30
    And with the lovely Joanne Wally in it, but we digress. Profumo, when he was discovered, said this was a terrible error in judgment. I resign. And then he spent the rest of his life in charitable work. You know, he was a peer and, but when he died, People spoke incredibly well of him because he had spent fifty years basically doing good in part as a penance for this gigantic screw up that embarrassed his country and, you know, hurt his family and all of this other stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:01
    Nobody does that anymore. You know, it’s like, so, you know, so I got caught doing bad things. I’ll just say, so what? And what about what about the other people who did
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:11
    maybe I’ll end up as a as an anchor on Newsemax or one American now if there’s if that’s still a thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:17
    I alright. You know, or maybe as a maybe as a member of Congress or
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:21
    a member of the cabinet. Because
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:23
    president of the United States.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:25
    Oh, so on that note, our first podcast of the first weekend of twenty twenty four, Tom. Wow. With all of that hope and good cheer.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:35
    Too much of a bum out Charlie Sykes go back to the good economic news. At least there’s that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:41
    Well, that is extraordinary because, you know, among the you know, all the doomcasting of twenty twenty three. The center of that was always, you know, how terrible the economy was and how we were headed into a recession. And how low the chances of a soft landing were.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:55
    Oh, yeah. Soft recovery. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t do it. The experts can’t pull that off.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:01
    Well, is this a reason to come to be skeptical of experts?
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:06
    I think that the problem was that, you know, the experts said with enough discipline at the fed and, you know, stay the course. Right? This whole last period has been very you know, you’ll appreciate this because I kept thinking, this is a kind of a Reaganite moment. Stay the course. Stay the course.
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:23
    You know, they’re hurting the market, but they’re keeping the interest rates low. And there were experts who said this is possible. It’s unlikely, and the cards all have to kind of fall into the right place. And for political reasons, there were a lot of people who said, no. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:38
    The economy is, you know, gonna be horrible forever. Look, there are still problems. Right? The housing market hasn’t cooled off. There’s still that kind of lock with people that don’t wanna sell houses.
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:47
    There’s not enough housing stock, but by and large, the things that we would have once called the misery index. How many people aren’t employed? How higher interest rates, how bad is inflation. This is as good an economy. You know, I keep wanting to say, and therefore, Biden’s doomed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:04
    You know, like the New York Times might say, but it is great economic news. I’m sorry. When did we start thinking that, you know, three percent inflation and three and a half, four percent unemployment because anything lower, we got a labor shortage. Six and a half, seven percent mortgages, and, you know, the stock market crashing through new highs. When did that become bad news?
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:28
    And I think it’s just this kind of I wrote a piece. I called it political and economic hypochondria.
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:34
    Well, I mean, there’s people concerned about the interest rates, but I I know I I agree with you. And I I think that’s why today’s numbers were so significant because I think there’s a lag. There’s a lag time from the economic numbers to when the public actually begins to, you know, internalize it. And it doesn’t take one month or two months. You know, it takes it takes a period I think it was Josh Crashhauer who said, you know, there’s a very good numbers going into the first quarter of twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:59
    And the first quarter is when people’s attitudes towards the economy get baked in. They’re not baked in yet. Mhmm. But if you have more months like this, people go, yeah. This is pretty remarkable that we have this kind of because in my lifetime, it’s hard to imagine thinking that this low unemployment rate is bad.
  • Speaker 1
    0:52:18
    Inflation is a huge problem, but it appears to be moderating. The fact that we’re doing this this at the same time is rather extraordinary. Okay. So we did end on a positive note after all time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:28
    We had to say something positive. It’s the beginning of the
  • Speaker 1
    0:52:30
    rolling into the weekend. So, Tom, thank you for, coming back on the podcast. And welcome to twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:35
    Thanks, Charlie. Happy New Year.
  • Speaker 1
    0:52:37
    Thank you all for listening to this weekend’s Bulwark podcast on Charlie six. We will be back on Monday, and we will do this all over again. Bohlberg podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
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