Excellence at Harvard
Jude Wanniski
January 9, 2002


Memo To: Larry Summers, President of Harvard
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Beating up the Black Guys

You know, Larry, how much I hate to give advice, but I see you have gotten into difficulties with the professors in the Afro-American studies department by picking on Cornel West, one of its luminaries. As the reports go, you hauled him into your office and lectured him on his behavior, suggesting he spend more time as a teacher and less time making hip-hop CDs and flouncing around supporting various politicians of dubious distinction, like Ralph Nader and Al Sharpton. The fact that Professor West is one of 16 so-called “University Professors” of the 2000 or so in the pool of Harvard’s “College Professors” makes him a perfect target for you as you establish your authority as President. Yes, I know you have had to apologize to Dr. West and the other offended black folks, but I do think in the long run you will find the other 2000 profs will love you to bits and pieces for having opened the question of Cornel’s competence. They really could care less about his hip-hop CDs, any more than they would if one of their own sang in a barbershop quartet, and from what I understand the CD is of the kind that Mother Theresa might have enjoyed. Indeed, my black pals tell me it is exactly the kind of hip-hop message the Afro department at Harvard should be sending out to bridge the black-white gulf among our young folk.

And how many of the 2000 profs were not flagrantly open in their support of Al Gore in 2000? C’mon, Larry. You know you played the race card, dragging Cornel into your office and whacking him around. Everyone knows you have an 180 IQ, more or less, so you would know he would go public, and you would be seen as Harvard’s White Hope. Your old boss, Bill Clinton, showed how this could be done to perfection when he hosed Jesse Jackson in 1992 for inviting Sister Souljah to his Rainbow Coalition and then denounced her nasty rap lyrics. It was so obvious that The New York Times ran a headline: “Clinton Plays Race Card.” Cornel West and Skip Gates and the other black guys at Harvard have been put in their place!

You must feel a special satisfaction today, Larry, having read Shelby Steele’s masterful op-ed on Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial page. Shelby, a conservative black guy, has been writing the same stuff for almost a decade, about how “white guilt creates black power.” I don’t know about that. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. But Shelby does go to great lengths to praise you for putting Cornel in his place. Well I have to say Cornel is something of a showboat, but he’s not a bad fellow. I met him several months ago at the New York Hilton when I came in to have dinner with Louis Farrakhan, who was addressing the same hip-hop convention that Professor West was participating in. My only wonder is how he could be so palsy-walsy with Minister Farrakhan in private and so distant in public. I guess if he did show his face with Farrakhan you would have brought that up when you hauled him on the carpet, huh?

What occurs to me, Larry, is that you got to be president of Harvard by being a showboat, although I don’t think you ever cut a CD. I do recall your pals in the first Bush administration got you the job of chief economist of the World Bank. And you got the job of Treasury Secretary even though you had once wrote that you “always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly underpolluted” and “shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Third World]?” Remember that? I also remember how you played palsy walsy with the big banks in December 1994, when Mexico devalued the peso, and the currency speculators at the banks made a quick several billion at the expense of Mexico’s poorest people. And gosh darn, you took credit for bailing out Mexico with a huge pile of cash, which they paid back with interest. I said it was the equivalent of you making a big doo-doo in living room and then asking for a medal for cleaning it up. Ha ha. Funny, no?

This leads me to inquire, Larry, when are you going to start hauling Harvard’s economics professors onto the carpet and asking them to step up to Excellence? Why start with the black guys? Yes, I know the economics departments of Princeton and Yale and Stanford have been cranking out PhDs who do their share of wrecking everything they touch. And Princeton even allows your good buddy Paul Krugman to write a twice-a-week column for The New York Times, instead of keeping his nose to the academic grindstone. But if I dare say, Harvard’s econ department has done its fair share of visiting poverty, death and destruction on mankind. Here is Larry Lindsey, for goodness sakes, a Harvard PhD, one of the gang that helped you get the World Bank job, now advising President Bush on how to get us out of the recession you and Alan Greenspan helped us get into.

In other words, people who live in glass houses should not throw bricks at other people who live in glass houses. Don’t they teach that at Harvard?