Posts Tagged ‘First Lady’

There Will be a Dr. in the White House

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

By Bob Gaydos   

Dr Jill Biden, a working teacher and soon to be First Lady.

Dr. Jill Biden, a working teacher and soon to be First Lady.

  Where to begin?

     With the sophomoric hit job by someone who obviously considers himself to be a man of letters?

     With the preening joy in gratuitously insulting the future First Lady of the United States by calling her “kiddo”?

     With the utterly unconvincing “argument” offered in defense of his “point”?

     With the clear anti-elitist snobbery of the author?

     With the decision by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor to print the column?

     With the subsequent decision by that editor, Paul Gigot, to defend his decision by insulting those who objected to it?

     With Gigot’s belittling of the criticism — of which there was plenty — by dismissing it as political and “playing the race or gender card”?

     With the obvious problem many conservatives in this country have with intelligent, accomplished women?

     With the problem many conservatives have with higher education in general?

     With The Wall Street Journal perhaps confusing itself with its neighbor and sister Murdoch paper, The New York Post?

     With the egotistical “old fart” attitude of the author who obviously feels he can say whatever he pleases as.long as he drops a name and mentions a fact or two about himself that he thinks will establish him as a modest, if brilliant, regular guy?

       Yes, I’m talking about the opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal encouraging soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden to drop the “Dr.” in front of her name. The author, Joseph Epstein, wrote: “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.” He also called the title of Biden’s dissertation that led to a doctor of education degree from the University of Delaware “unpromising.”

        A real charmer, this Epstein. So let’s start with the old fart, who has apparently made a career of insulting women, gays and anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his narrow, exclusionary, view of the world. I feel qualified to toss the “old fart” label around since, at 79, I am a mere four years younger than Epstein and have been called the same. Takes one to know one.

      His basic argument about the use of the Doctor title by Biden is that today it doesn’t mean anything, unless you’re a medical doctor. He says. He says the honorific has been cheapened by relaxed requirements. He just says these things with only anecdotal comments to support them while also noting “modestly” that he didn’t have what it took to attain a doctorate back in the day. Since Epstein is 83, the day was, well, way back.  

     There’s a lot of “just one of the guys” shtick in the column as he tries to justify the rudeness and crudeness of his approach. (Kind of reminds one of a certain orange-haired president.) For example, Epstein writes: “I taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree. I have only a B.A. in absentia from the University of Chicago—in absentia because I took my final examination on a pool table at Headquarters Company, Fort Hood, Texas, while serving in the peacetime Army in the late 1950s.”

      Swell. Well, I was a reporter and editor on daily newspapers for more than 40 years, including 23 years of writing daily editorials and I have only a B.A. in English, from Adelphi University, which I received six months before reporting in December of 1963 for basic training to Fort Dix, N.J., where I drank 3.2 beer. It was a stint that was delayed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy during the Vietnam War era. So what?

      Epstein again: “I do have an honorary doctorate, though I have to report that the president of the school that awarded it was fired the year after I received it, not, I hope, for allowing my honorary doctorate.” (That doctorate was from, I believe,  none other than my Adelphi University, which fired Peter Diamandopoulos in 1997 for conflicts of interest and lavish. lifestyle.) Epstein then goes on at length to ridicule the excesses of schools awarding honorary doctorates, which is a valid point, but has nothing to do with Dr. Biden’s doctorate, which was more than honorable. 

       Epstein also “casually” drops the name of his “friend,” the late Sol Linowitz, as an example of someone who had a huge collection of honorary doctorates, dismissing the possibility that perhaps Linowitz, a man of many accomplishments, deserved all the honors. I can’t match that super friend connection, but, like Epstein, apropos of nothing, I once shook hands with Jackie Robinson and Jesse Jackson (different times and places) and they had major impacts on society, too. Maybe even honorary doctorates.

       Just a brief research on Epstein (Wikipedia) revealed that he was eventually fired from his job as editor of The American Scholar, the magazine for Phi Beta Kappas, for his unrelenting anti-feminist views and refusal to allow any counter arguments to the arch-conservative writers he welcomed to his editorial page. He once called feminist scholars “dykes on bikes.” He was editor of the magazine for 21 years and, if anything, one might wonder how such smart people put up with him for so long. 

        Epstein also wrote a piece in 1970 for Harpers Magazine in which he called homosexuality “a curse, in a literal sense.” If he could, he said, “I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth.”

        So this is the expert Gigot chose to attack Jill Biden in The Wall Street Journal, maybe feeling the Fox News loudmouths we’re getting too much love from the uber-conservative audience. But then Gigot, criticized mercilessly on social media, inexplicably feels he must defend his decision to publish Epstein’s hit job and to use Epstein’s favorite weapon — claiming “identity politics” — in dismissing comments from the Biden campaign critical of the piece. Gigot: “My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism.”

        Nonsense. First of all, if Gigot thought Epstein made a legitimate point and decided to run the column, then he should simply have stood by his decision. Period. That’s why he’s the editor. The column may have been insulting, but it wasn’t libelous. (I have a little experience in this regard. Once upon a time, Rupert Murdoch also owned the paper for which I worked. He left us pretty much alone because we made money. As editor of the editorial page, I was called a left-wing, pinko more times than I can remember, but people still managed to find their way to the opinion section.)

        Of course, Gigot also had the option to simply say, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I had a brain freeze. The guy is a jerk. I’ll try not to do that again.“

        But he didn’t. Instead, he chose to go along with the currently popular Republican position that higher education is something to be mocked and accomplished people, including a future First Lady, are to be subjects of ridicule. How he feels this plays to the resumes and prejudices of readers of The Wall Street Journal is beyond me. 

       In the fallout from the article, Northwestern University and its English Department have apparently condemned Mr. non-PhD Epstein and the university removed him from its page of emeritus professors. Gigot called called it an example of “cancel culture,” another phrase conservatives like to throw around these days. But since Epstein doesn’t think much of titles, he shouldn’t mind.

        Of Biden, Epstein wrote, “A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.”

        Well, Joe, another wise man (an uncharacteristically unhumble me) once said, “There’s nothing so unappealing and unconvincing as a whiny, old, misogynistic homophobe full of regret that he didn’t achieve a distinction that he might have and envious of a classy woman who did.” Think about it, kiddo, and drop the act.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

16 years … Still Waiting for Hillary

Monday, April 18th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Back in 2000, I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record, a daily newspaper based in Middletown, N.Y., Daniel Patrick Moynihan was getting ready to retire from an illustrious career in the United States Senate and Hillary Clinton was packing her bags to move out of the White House.

My activity was part of a well-established routine. Moynihan’s was the logical culmination of a long career in public service to the state of New York. Clinton’s, in a way, was both. Her bag-packing was part of a well-established career plan and the culmination of eight adventurous  years as First Lady. And, the story goes, it had nothing to do with any questionable behavior on her husband’s part.

It turned out the Clintons, in looking for a place to live when Bill’s final term as president ended, had found a cozy, little 11-room château in Westchester County, in New York. It was perfect for the ex-prez and the soon-to-be-junior senator from the state of New York. That was the next step in the well-established plan. Fulfilling the residency requirement.

The fact that neither Clinton had ever lived in New York was never a major problem in Hillary’s senate campaign since New Yorkers had famously welcomed that carpetbagger Bobby Kennedy when he decided he would like to be United States senator from New York before running for president. Now, I saw and heard Bobby Kennedy and trust me, Hillary Clinton never was and never will be a Bobby Kennedy. Nevertheless, the Clintons were warmly welcomed in New York and Hillary was accepted as a candidate for the United States Senate. Her credentials as soon-to-be-former First Lady were enough.

Funny, in many ways that hasn’t changed in 16 years. Her campaign for president today relies to a large extent on a hurry-up resume that sounds a whole lot better than it really is. It’s not for nothing that the words “entitled” and “inevitability” are frequently attached to Clinton’s name.

In any event, there I was, pounding out editorials on a daily basis, there went Pat, as he was called, holding farewell audiences with newspaper editorial boards, and here came Hillary. Except that she never came. If you think elephants have long memories, beware of editorial writers who feel snubbed.

As part of her introduction to New York, Clinton conducted what was called a listening tour. She would travel across the state, she said, to find out what was important to people in the state she knew next-to-nothing about, but which she longed to represent in the United States Senate.

A routine element of most political campaigns is meeting with editorial boards of newspapers, to hear what’s on their minds, to get out the candidate’s message and maybe get an endorsement. In 2000, I had numerous telephone conversations with a woman in Clinton’s campaign who politely assured me, every single time, that “Mrs. Clinton definitely wants to meet with The Record. We’re just figuring out the scheduling.” Or words to that effect.

They’re apparently still figuring it out.

In a major break from the paper’s liberal tradition, The Record wound up endorsing Clinton’s Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, whom she soundly trounced in the election. (Lazio replaced Rudy Giuliani, who withdrew because of marital problems and prostate cancer.) The editorial board’s thinking was that: 1.) Lazio took the time show up; 2.) he answered all our questions apparently as honestly as possible and; 3.) as a member of Congress already, he knew he state’s issues and was capable of handling the job.

Then there was 4.) If Hillary was too important to meet with The Record, how could we be sure she would have the best interests of the residents of the Hudson Valley and Catskills in her consciousness. After all, we were the largest circulation newspaper in the region.

I can already hear the cries of “sour grapes” and that’s OK, because this is not about 2000. It’s about 2016 and the still overwhelming impression in much of the news media that Hillary Clinton regards having to answer questions and explain herself as a major insult, never mind inconvenience. You can be sure her meeting with our editorial board, had it occurred, would have been respectful, but not fawning. Indeed, if her crack staff was as good as advertised in doing its homework, I would not be surprised if they discovered a piece in the New York Post in 1990, in which a former gubernatorial candidate, Pierre Rinfret, called us the “most rude, obnoxious” group he had ever encountered. Or words to that effect.

That’s because Rinfret had no idea what he was talking about and was constantly asked to explain or clarify his remarks.

Hillary Clinton, in my experience, does not like being asked to explain herself. She appears to want to be accepted as is simply because she is. Has she changed sides on an issue? Don’t ask.

A major talking point among her supporters in this presidential campaign is that she knows how to get things done. (The implication being that Bernie Sanders, with a lifetime in government and public service, does not.)

Well, as First Lady, she totally blew Bill’s attempt at universal health care. She supported his tough anti-crime bill, which she now take pains to point out was signed by him, not her. Welfare reform? Same thing. As secretary of state, she helped Barack Obama make Libya a mess, but again, he made the decisions, she reminds us, not she. That Pacific trade bill, Madame Secretary? Barack’s baby.

Which brings me back to New York state, where I still live and write, though not on a daily basis any more. Hillary Clinton served one six-year-term as senator and two years of a second term. Then she quit to run for president because, well, there was a timetable to honor. (Obama messed it up. Now Bernie’s trying to do the same.) But, unless I was in a blackout for eight years, I cannot think of a single major “thing” she “got done” for New Yorkers in that time.

And to this date, I’m not aware that she has ever set foot in Middletown.

 rjgaydos@gmail.com