Politics & Policy

Thank God For Women’s Schools; The Electric Election

THANK GOD FOR WOMEN’S SCHOOLS“Can a frog hear? Prove it.”

Well, of course he can. How else will he know when to serve the Germans their breakfast in bed?

This is probably not the answer college-admissions people were looking for. Still, according to the Washington Post yesterday, the fad these days is for wackier and wackier college essays. (Full disclosure: The original essay question cited in the Post used the word “toad.” But I didn’t feel like making jokes about Clinton administration officials today). According to the Post, colleges are “jazzing up their essay questions to plumb and stretch students’ psyches.” College officials offer other explanations as well, such as: They are trying to send a signal to prospective students that they are hip institutions. Also, they want to make the admission process less dull for the people who have to read thousands of Hillary Clinton “what-I-did-to-help-the-poor” essays.

All I can say is, it’s about time. As devoted readers know, and my vindictive friends like to point out, I was rejected from every college I applied to. Indeed, my safety school, American University, did not waste any time before it informed me that I did not have the potential to be an AU “man.” Apparently that year’s crop of Long Island princesses, offspring of third-world kleptocratic diplomats, and other proud “interns of tomorrow” simply outshone my own meager academic accomplishments.

Still, my application was dodged by admissions people like a subpoena at the White House. I was, literally, the only person in my Manhattan 90210 prep school to be thoroughly rejected from every college his father didn’t purchase a library for. There’s nothing like having high-school freshmen sing “Be All You Can Be in the Army” to you in the hallways. At the end of the year, the senior class turned into an urban reenactment of Lord of the Flies because “your permanent record” didn’t matter anymore. The senior-class adviser called a meeting to instill some order. “Look,” she said, “you’re all going to college next year …” At this moment about a third of the class, including all of my closest friends, leapt to their feet and yelled, “except Jonah!”

Still, I eventually did find a college that wanted me. They were looking for someone with good SAT scores and a transcript that left room for a favorable interpretation. But, like the Spice Girls, the CATO Institute, and my neighbor with fifty cats, they were really looking for men — and they weren’t that picky.

Yes, perhaps I would not have been consigned to the bizarro-world of an all-women’s college (See GFile, 2/26/99) if admissions officials back then were as enlightened as they are today. Instead, my essay, “The Moral and Ethical Ramifications of Saran Wrap,” fell with a thud comparable only to the sound of Alec Baldwin’s head hitting a book.

So, I for one applaud the new fad.

THE ELECTRIC ELECTIONSo tonight is the next debate and I am very excited. I must say I am warming to McCain. Perhaps this is because he is downplaying his gobbledygook about campaign finance. Perhaps its because every time Bush answers a question without using his fingers to count, he smiles like he just got a free coupon for the Hemporium. Maybe it’s because Steve Forbes, despite everyone’s hopes and expectations, has steadfastly remained Steve Forbes. And maybe it’s because, I am sorry to say, Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer are not viable candidates to be president. Bauer, as I have written for the print version of National Review online should be the chief of staff in the next administration. And Keyes should be like Kayless the Klingon Emperor. Okay. He should be like the king of England, or the president of some parliamentary country. He should be a moral figurehead with little actual power. Which brings us to the fact that we’ve received a vast amount of mail here at NRO about Alan Keyes. More shockingly, I’ve received dozens of e-mails about my comment that Keyes seems like he would bring back the guillotine. It’s not so much that people thought this an unfair characterization so much as they wanted to know what was so bad about the guillotine.

And you know, that’s a really good question. So, coming this Friday, I will answer it.

But back to Keyes. A great deal has been made about the fact that he won the Fox Online Poll — run by Dick Morris’s vote.com. The Bushies were furious that anyone even mentioned Keyes’s victory. Keyes’s fans were furious that much more wasn’t made of it. But there are few things to keep in mind.

Yes, Alan Keyes is the best debater. But it is not written anywhere in the text of the Constitution that the best debater is the man most qualified to be president. If that were the case, the fight would be between Stanley Fish, Christopher Hitchens, Pat Buchanan, and Alan Keyes (for want of some better examples of debaters). Indeed, inspiring orators are fairly evenly distributed across the moral spectrum.

These debates are useful gauges for several things and one of them is oratory. There’s also credibility, intelligence, and — if I were running the debates — handiness with a pike and fish net for some really cool gladiator-type fights (Red Brain: “I bet 10,000 quatlooms the bespectacled one dies of blunt force trauma in the second round.” Blue Brain: “I’ll wager 100,000 quatlooms the one called “McCain” eats the one called ‘Bauer’…”).

But the one thing even the Gamesters of Triskelion know is that online polls are totally bogus. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush wins the online poll tonight — even if he starts speaking in tongues — because the Bushies will get their herds of AU grad interns to work the phones.

More important, “vote.com” is a greasy banana peel on the stairway to hell. For an explanation of this wildly exaggerated statement, see my piece in the print edition of National Review Online.


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