Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Okay, I'm just going to start writing about some randomly-disconnected stuff, and I'm not sure where it's going to end up, or if I can tie it all together. This is going to ramble for a bit, but I'm playing with some thoughts in my head, and trying just to see where it goes. The New York Times has an unusual article today about Harvard president Larry Summers and his personality. "He is reading tomes about leadership. He also recently took his children to see 'Hitch,' a new movie, as it happens, about men who are trying to improve their social skills." It's interesting. I feel like usually someone's personal battle to keep his jobs isn't something that's in the news so specifically. We read about people doing bad things, people being fired, people dealing with consequences... but this is much more of a Process article, not an Outcome article. I'm making up article categories that may not make sense. Apologies if I don't make sense. But this, to me, makes the article -- and even just the fact that the article exists -- really interesting. Even when we read about problems at the highest levels of government, with Presidents and Cabinet secretaries, I feel like we read about external uncertainties -- what will happen if X happens, what has led to Y. We don't read about President Bush's crisis of faith while it's happening and we don't know the answer yet. There was a great Newsweek series on after the election about Kerry's campaign and what went wrong. But that was once we knew what had happened. News tends to do that. We don't find out that Kerry's top advisor was struggling with choice A and choice B until after the fact, and after we know which choice he made and how it worked out. But this Summers thing is very much uncertain, right now, as the news is happening. From the article: "'To some extent, this controversy has put Harvard in a lose-lose situation,' said Sidney Verba, a senior professor of government and director of the university library, who is sympathetic to Dr. Summers. 'I think it would be a bad idea, and we would lose a lot, if Larry were to resign now or forced out. On the other hand, there are clear downsides right now, because he is damaged, and people are so upset, and the way forward is unclear. I think everyone is really concerned about that.'"

I think part of why we can have an article like this is because university politics moves at a slower pace that presidential politics, and with fewer implications for national security, and those two factors combined mean that we can know what's going on behind the scenes, and there's time for things to play out, at a pace that can be covered by the news media.

Raffi Melkonian wrote in this week's Record, the newspaper here (Articles not Online yet, so no link), a piece that posits that maybe President Summers is a little bit autistic. There happens to be another article in the Times today about autism, not related to the President Summers piece. If he is autistic, he's highly-functioning, clearly. Maybe he lacks social skills. Maybe he lacks empathy and understanding of the people he's dealing with. Maybe that's an idea for the next piece in the Times' series on Summers, as they get closer and closer to becoming his public therapist. That sounds like a snarky comment, but I don't mean it that way. I think reading about people's internal monologues is cool, and probably more interesting than reading about plot, and stuff they're actually doing. Thoughts are sometimes more interesting than actions. Sometimes.