"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bob Kerrey and The New School Commencement

Bob Kerrey defends (sort of) his rowdy students' rude treatment of Sen. McCain at The New School's commencement:

I now speak in defense of the behavior of my students – the minority who protested and the majority who did not. On the surface, some of the tactics of the protest were rude, noisy, and disrespectful. Less obvious, however, was the self-restraint that prevented the protestors from behaving in a fashion that would have shut down the commencement or made it impossible for Senator McCain or me to continue. Though many in the audience – including Senator McCain and I – were offended by the heckling, at no time were we in danger of not being able to proceed. By the end of the program, we had awarded five honorary degrees and graduated 2,630 students in The New School’s 70th Commencement ceremony.

More importantly -- and also lost in the charges and counter-charges -- is this fact: student protests are a necessary and essential part of democratic free expression. Did we not love the brave and disrespectful students at Tiananmen? Did we not applaud the determination of the student led movements that helped bring down the dictators that ruled Eastern Europe in 1991? Have we forgotten the critical difference students made in reversing an unlawful election in Ukraine or in driving the Syrians from Lebanon or who still seethe in discontent under the religious law of Iran’s mullahs?


So, let's see. The students are to be commended because they didn't upend the ceremonies or prevent McCain from speaking. Talk about low expectations. Then, we should embrace student rowdiness because....well, because students have been important in the overthrow of noxious dictatorships. So Sen. McCain is comparable to noxious dictatorships? And what's so special about students anyway? Sometimes they're on the side of liberty and sometimes they're on the side of the dictators (as they were in the 1979 Iranian Revolution).

Better to say that they just acted immaturely.

10 comments:

Tlaloc said...

Is it immature to exercise your free speach rights now? I keep getting lost on which american traditions the right still feigns respect for and which they've already heaved overboard.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Its immature to act immature.

OTOH, anarchists think its OK to throw bricks through the windows of Starbucks and McDonalds.

Maybe thats why you don't get it Tlaloc.

Tlaloc said...

"OTOH, anarchists think its OK to throw bricks through the windows of Starbucks and McDonalds."

Just so we are clear that is a very different form of anarchism than mine. I have never thrown a brick through any window, nor do I find the practice particularly effective.

However calling a slimey politician on his record when he passes himself off as a human being seems pretty cool. YMMV.

James Elliott said...

My cousin, who is obtaining her PhD in Philosophy at The New School, was at the commencement. She has a very different story. Most of the students she spoke to were offended by McCain giving a practice stump speech on what was supposed to be their day.

Graduations (such as mine, last weekend) are rowdy, boisterous events. Students aren't inclined to be quiet, especially when someone is stealing their thunder.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's more likely that the students were moved to their boorishness not by the content of Sen. McCain's speech but by the (R) after his name. If Al Gore had blathered on about climate change, they'd have been rapt and respectful.

I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Even pseudo-centrists like Hillary Clinton are getting the treatment lately, unless that's a clever calculation.

McCain's speech touched on the grave issues of the day, but his primary theme was respect and tolerance for other viewpoints. A lesson lost on his audience. A lesson that any liberalism, classical or modern, should place at its forefront. Civilization, by definition and even its etymology, stands against brutishness.

But Da Nu Skool has either educated its graduates in Jacobinism, or failed to educate them out of it. Either way, the graduates, and more to the point, their parents, have wasted their money.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And may I add that former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NB), whom I once fancied as an honest broker and a future President of the United States (as George Will did, citing Kerrey's un-afeardedness in serving on a Social Security reform committee, the "3rd rail of American politics"), has disappointed me to my heart, both in his apology for his rude students and for his performance on the 9-11 commission, where he was more demagogue than statesman.

John McCain is disappointing in his statesmanship, that's to say his centrist mushiness, but without fail he stands his mushy ground. Bob Kerrey, in contrast, cannot stand up for what he believes in, even when it's basically nothing.

It would have been elemental to stand up for John McCain's right to speak without harrassment, regardless of content. Even the ACLU stood up for the Nazis in Skokie.

Bob Kerrey would be hapless and helpless as president in the face of this modern media democracy of polls and sentiments, of attempted mob rule.

That does not make Bob Kerrey a bad person. Just unfit to lead---a nation or even a Nu Skool. Feh.

Matt Huisman said...

She has a very different story. Most of the students she spoke to were offended by McCain giving a practice stump speech on what was supposed to be their day.

If Tlaloc is correct in saying that the Right feigns respect for free speech, then maybe its fair to say that the Left does the same for 'dialogue'. Surely McCain expected a few boos with his transition to the war, but to miss out on his message and refer to it as a stump speech is - as Mr Simpson points out - immature.

Free speech is wonderful, and we all marvel at the courage shown by the student movements cited by Mr Kerrey. But I have a hard time believing that those students would associate their efforts with those heckling a commencement speaker.

tbmbuzz said...

Free speech is wonderful, and we all marvel at the courage shown by the student movements cited by Mr Kerrey. But I have a hard time believing that those students would associate their efforts with those heckling a commencement speaker.


Precisely! The free speech issue was settled in this country 220 years ago, thus this has nothing to do with free speech. It is more about the insistence on the "right" to be heard by a spoiled, sheltered brat toadying to other spoiled, sheltered brats. No one cares about her political opinions (not "issues") and no one cares if she and her fellow toadies are "offended" by the presence of a Republican at their commencement ceremony. The students involved in Tiananmen Square, in the revolutions of Communist East Europe, in Lebanon's Cedar Rebellion are the brave ones, fighting for a noble cause. The New School students demonstrated neither bravery nor nobility, merely pampered self indulgence. Bob Kerrey is wrong - there is NO comparison.

Tlaloc said...

Tom: "McCain's speech touched on the grave issues of the day, but his primary theme was respect and tolerance for other viewpoints. A lesson lost on his audience."

Maybe the lesson was lost because it has been so poorly practiced by his side. After calling everyone who disagrees with you a terrorist loving traitor its not like the GOP has many stones to throw at the uncivil, now do they?



"It would have been elemental to stand up for John McCain's right to speak without harrassment, regardless of content. Even the ACLU stood up for the Nazis in Skokie."

Oh, no you didn't! I can't believe you went there. The ACLU has NEVER stood up for Nazis to have the right to speak without being heckled. They have the right to speak without being jailed. Without being denied permits to march. But those watching are absolutely free to heckle them in return. They are not free, of course, to assault them. The ACLU is crystal clear on that topic.



Matt: "If Tlaloc is correct in saying that the Right feigns respect for free speech, then maybe its fair to say that the Left does the same for 'dialogue'."

Matt how do you call expecting the kids to sit quietly and listen to a speech a 'dialogue'? Dialogue involves both sides getting a say which is what happened and the fact of it has annoyed certain people tellingly.

Evanston said...

Y'know, after listening to professors pontificate for hour upon hour, day after day, for years on end, you'd think the students could have listened quietly and "protested" by sitting on their hands at the end of the speech. Or take a sip from the flask they smuggled in, like I did when Ted Kennedy spoke at my UVA graduation in 1984 (and he was technically a guest speaker -- we ended up listening to 2 LONG speeches). Hey, I looked at McCain's speech and it was pretty darn innocuous and definitely short.
But I guess that's asking too much of these supposedly tolerant, progressive, wonderfully educated future-of-our-country egotists. Their real education will start after their commencement, when what they will have to deal with people with whom they disagree (sometimes very strongly) in a civil manner or be fired. Welcome to the real world, New Schoolers, you'll soon find out that your B.A. in Heckling was a rip-off.