Monday, November 05, 2012


For his latest New York Times column, Bill Keller went to Miami University in Ohio, Paul Ryan's alma mater, to talk to William R. (Rich) Hart, a libertarian economics professor who was an early mentor of Paul Ryan. Hart's ideas, not surprisingly, sound more like Rush Limbaugh talking points than economic ideas derived from academic study:
"Not green energy," he said with disgust. "Fossil fuel energy." ...

"My view of the N.A.A.C.P. is, you can't represent a group of downtrodden if you don't have a permanent group of downtrodden to represent." ...

"I don't know how I would have handled the 47 percent comment ... I would have stressed from the outset the need for policies to end long-term dependency by so many on government handouts, policies that wean them off the taxpayer dole and make them productive elements of society -- make them givers rather than takers."
But this, to me, is what's truly revealing about Professor Hart (emphasis added):
"Do we want to become a sort of European socialist welfare state?" he asked when we chatted in his office, decorated with Elvis and Nascar memorabilia, with Paul Krugman's economics textbook demoted to a doorstop.
Isn't that charming? Prior to greeting someone from The New York Times at his office, the professor either neglects to remove a Times writer's book from a place of contempt or pointedly positions it in that place of contempt. I'm sure he regards this as a brave, defiant act, a gob in the eye of what he sees as liberal orthodoxy, but it's just rude. It's small-minded. It's infantile.

The professor, by the way, is 65 years old; he's not some young hothead.

I know right-wingers would shout "Jeremiah Wright!" in response. Yes, Reverend Wright was a spiritual mentor to Barack Obama, and yes, his language has at times been intemperate. But Wright's anger is a response to a life in which he's seen rampant racism, much of it violent; maybe he has trouble acknowledging that the present is not as bad as the past, but the past he's responding to was pretty awful. What's upsetting Professor Hart? A lifetime of marginal tax rates he's found a tad too high?

And yes, I'm sure there are rude items in the office of Bill Ayers, but he was never actually an Obama mentor, except in the Fox-induced hallucinations of wingnuts.


Victor said...

This jackoff of a professor obviously is miffed at thousands and THOUSANDS of years of oppression of the poor white people!

How DARE Mesopotamia and Egypt be peopled by browns?

How DARE China be peopled by yellows?

Central and South America had NO culture until the Spanish showed up - and NOW, those people must NOT be allowed to come here - let alone, VOTE!!!

Oh, if only the poor oppressed white people can overcome the suppression of their votes, Mitt Romney, will be the President!

Mitt Romney, the man that Edgar and Johnny Winter look at, and say, "DAMN! Why can't I be as WHITE as that!!!"

Anonymous said...

"Jeremiah Wright" is like "Democrat Party": it marks the speaker as at best ill-informed and at worst a complete jackhole.

RAM said...

He seemed to be really proud that he was such a bad teacher that half his students failed his most recent test. Sounded like grounds for firing to me.

Unknown said...

An interesting post. I typically don't take the time to read Bill Keller because he is part of the reason that the New York Times editorial page includes intellectual nerf balls and idiots like Brooks, Douthat, Dowd, and Bruni. (God, I miss Tom Wicker.) But the Miami Univ. professor reminds me of a number of colleagues I have worked with in academia who somehow manage to have potent influence on a number of bright students but who are, in so many important other respects, total jackasses. The first rule seems to be: be strangely idiosyncratic. Have decidedly NON-academic memorabilia in your office (the Nascar stuff is a perfect touch). The second rule is to make unapologetic, strong polemical statements. Sometimes professors do this most effectively "off the record," when they are having a cup of coffee or, better, having a slice of pizza and a beer with students. Students feel the sublime mystery of academia has been, suddenly, decoded when a professor lets loose with this sort of ideological venom. (This, I think, was a part of the performative formula of Rush Limbaugh when he made his initial impression on his American audience in the early 1990s. If he came across as Larry the Cable Guy, he was easily dismissed. But he spoke with the precision of a charismatic teacher, the kind of teacher that white men stuck in traffic with their radios on had hoped to hear from during their wasted years in school. It wasn't just that he "made sense" to them, it was the elocutionary STYLE with which he made sense to them. It was so potent that, when they heard that he was a dropout from a middling state university, they didn't care. He sounded way smarter than Bill Clinton, who was a Rhodes Scholar and a Yale Law School graduate. So there.

But the Rev. Wright response should be, at least comparatively, a non-starter. Obama had already graduated Harvard Law as editor of the law review. He had already had his developmental mentors.

: smintheus :: said...

Lars is right. Btw, I've taught at 10 universities/colleges and I've never seen an academic's office door that required a door stop. We have a rule of thumb: always keep your door open when you're meeting with a student. Always. And never let a student close the door, no matter how much privacy they say they'd like to have. It's basic survival in a world where false allegations are so easy to make and so damaging potentially. Keller should have kicked the book away and observed whether the door swung shut.