Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

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.