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Bruce Bialosky

How The Left Thinks

This column addresses the issue of Claudine Gay, the now-former president of Harvard, but is not really about her. This is about how we who are not on the Left are addressed by those on the Left. And why they are constantly attacking, and their lack of tolerance as opposed to discussing. Many of you may have experienced this, but not necessarily the level of rhetoric frequently experienced by this column’s author.

As regular readers know I prioritize reading opinions from the other side of the political spectrum. My belief is that seeking out opposing thoughts is of the utmost importance. A column by a Rabbi in a prominent Jewish publication looked interesting, so I started reading.

The column starts:

In a few years, no one will remember ex-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s plagiarism kerfuffle.

All we’ll remember is that that she angered some rich pro-Israel donors, as well as opportunistic activists and politicians, and they got her fired. That should be chilling.

Finding that vexing I decided to locate the author and ask some questions. I wrote an email:

Working on a column on this subject. Have a couple questions for you:

Do you believe that her significant lack of scholarly work becoming public had anything to do with her departure?

Do you believe that in her meager number of publications that her significant number of plagiarisms identified had anything to do with her departure?

Thank you.

While my personal policy is to promptly respond to anyone taking the time to respond to my columns, it is unusual for most of the columnists to whom I write to send a prompt response. Not in this case. I give the author credit for responding. This is the response I received:

Hi Bruce –

As I say in the piece, I think that was pretext. I say it (I hope?) pretty clearly that while the plagiarism issues are real, in ordinary circumstances would scarcely warrant a reprimand, let alone a demand to resign. It was an unforced error on her part, exploited by people who wanted her out for their own reasons.

As to the volume of her work, it’s quality not quantity, and in any case a dozen articles isn’t unusually light for a president position — I dimly recall Columbia’s president around my time having fewer.

But we both know the only reason we’re talking about this is the confluence of the concern about Israel and the MAGA anti-woke stuff. Makes me pine for the days of normal RJC-style Republicans…

(Note: Gay has been unwilling to release the underlying data supporting her analysis in her papers. You make your own determination why she would not take that normal step.)

I found that to be a fascinating response. The author obviously researched me although my active involvement in the RJC (Republican Jewish Coalition) ended twenty years ago. Here is what I wrote back:

Thank you for your timely response.

May I give you another perspective:

The only reason we are talking about this is because 1,200 Jews were massacred in a sneak attack on a Jewish holiday. The only reason we are talking about this is that a group of organizations at Harvard took the side of Hamas and called for a ceasefire immediately after that massacre, shocking Jews and Gentiles alike. The only reason we are talking about this is because three college presidents from some of our most prestigious universities answered a question that an eight-year-old who attends Sunday school could answer without hesitation in such a manner that they again shocked the world with their lack of moral clarity.

This has nothing to do with MAGA anything. My Jewish Republican friends hoped for another candidate other than Mr. Trump and I wrote two columns last year suggesting he should not be the candidate.

Thank you again for your timely response.

I thought about the interchange for a day and was flummoxed by the Rabbi’s apparent lack of concern about the plagiarism. A friend suggested that plagiarism is stealing, and I agree. I decided to send another email to the author.

As a Rabbi, I am surprised that you are not strongly condemning someone’s immoral actions — Gay’s plagiarism. Are you not supposed to be a beacon for behavior that is right and wrong?

That elicited this response:

Bruce, I responded to you because of your stature and career. Now you’re sending me angry, vituperative emails like a troll. That’s not befitting of your work and legacy.

What I would suggest is, take a look at how angry you are. That anger — that’s exactly what’s being exploited by people who are destroying your party. You know as well as I do that Stefanik, Rufo, etc. spell electoral suicide for the GOP. For heaven’s sake, you’re about to lose an election to the weakest Democrat incumbent in a generation. These guys are exploiting that anger that you feel, so that instead of a moderate-conservative, pro-Israel but reasonable hawkish position, people in the center are driven rightward into crazy land, where now you’re aligning with, again, the people wrecking the GOP.

Believe me, I feel similar rage and grief. I had a friend murdered on Oct 7, and I have relatives in Tzahal. I lived in Israel for three years and have strong emotional ties there. But I’m not going to let a bunch of culture-war nuts hijack that grief for their own purposes. You shouldn’t either. Use your brain and not just your heart.

I thought this was a little unhinged. Really, is that civil or Rabbinical?

I responded:

That was not angry, and I am not trolling you.

I asked a question. It seemed to me you were minimizing cheating and as Rabbi I asked if it is ok morally. Is a little cheating ok?

No anger, just trying to understand your position.

There you have it folks. Draw your own conclusions.