The Breakfast Table


Dear Stuart:

Now we have found something we can fight against together: The silliness of the academic left, the stupidity of political correctness, and the number of unbelievably sad stories that will get no one’s attention at all today. I am lucky to be teaching in a “conservative” institution, so I miss it all; at Harvard, I was considered practically a right-winger, but at USC, I’m a liberal again. The irony, of course, is that USC educates more black kids from Los Angeles than UCLA, and more graduates of the public schools. We just do it without the politics. I have always believed that you should do your politics outside the classroom; inside, I cross-examine my own thinking. But maybe I should stop teaching the cases I do, since most of them were also written by old white men….

Speaking of which, the list in the New York Times was as stunning as it is familiar. Where is the outrage? I’ve been working with Fred Wertheimer and Common Cause on the campaign finance issue for a decade; it’s back before the Court this year; the Brennan Center has done terrific work trying to lay the groundwork for a change in Buckley. But my confidence in the ability of any law or constitutional construction to change the way things are done, the role of money, the clout of lobbyists, is decreasing. Do we have to get radical? Is the only solution political? How do you stop a nuclear war that has already broken out?

Or one that is about to. The big story here today is that Governor Pete Wilson signed a bill moving the state’s primary up to March 7th. Conventional wisdom is that no one but a well-entrenched establishment candidate–how do you spell Al Gore–will ever be able to afford to compete. Unconventional wisdom: the state is too expensive for even a rich candidate to compete in, and quirky enough to send a message. By the way, what do you think of your fellow Princeton man, Bill Bradley? I think he could do really well out here…Poor Al.

But don’t worry too much. He has a new best friend in Mayor Dick Riordan, according to another front page LA Times story….

I just got home from a funeral for a man who lived a wonderful life. His wife of 51 years was there, along with his three daughters and grandchildren. Their grief was so stunning, so real, that it almost made me jealous. I wanted to have been part of that family, loved by such a wonderful man. I think there is in this country a sort of yearning for all that is good and true, and what we get is a testosterone-boosted home run king and a corrupt Capitol. So I’m ready to sign up and do something good, but when it comes to the state of the world, what it is that one can do seems increasingly hard to figure out.

I’m off to teach. Until cocktails, Susan

PS. I’m glad to hear about the cricket club. In a survey Peter Hart did last year for NBC, women think that sports is the area where the most change been made to equalize things between boys and girls and men and women. The workplace lags far behind. Sort of tells you we’re still a bit short of the equality mark.