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Harvard’s Truth Problem

by LAWRENCE VELVEL

Question: What do John Roberts, Bernie Madoff, Elena Kagan, Richard Blumenthal, Allen Stanford, George W. Bush and Adam Wheeler have in common?

Answer: All of them have shown lack of respect for truth and honesty.

John Roberts told senators and the country that as a Justice he would merely call balls and strikes, not make the rules. Like in the Citizens United case where he ruled that corporations have first amendment rights! That’s strike three, John. Imagine: holding that corporations have first amendment rights is supposedly not making the rules! That’s not only strike three; it’s also a foul ball.

Madoff and Stanford were two of the all time liars of the financial world. Nothing more need be said about them.

Adam Wheeler is the young man who attended Harvard and lied about almost every aspect of his record, both to get into Harvard and in applying for other schools and honors.

Richard the Lyinghearted, who is running for Senator from Connecticut, lied about serving in Viet Nam. He also lied about being the captain of the Harvard swim team.

George W. Bush — enough said; his name, like Lyndon Johnson’s, is synonymous with the word lie.

Elena Kagan, as far as I know, didn’t lie herself, but she also didn’t see fit to significantly punish two famous liberal Harvard law professors who lied about writing their own books. Claiming all the credit for writing their own books, they either plagiarized parts of those books themselves, or had the offending parts secretly written by students who did the plagiarizing. Either way their claiming of full credit for writing the books was a lie. But this did not much move Kagan, who appeared not to care enough about the lie to strongly punish it, just as she seemed not to care much that a leading conservative professor she hired, and whom she lauded to the skies, is thought by many to be a war criminal and certainly helped pave the way for war crimes.

Of course, Kagan is a careerist, and punishing leading liberal professors at Harvard is not good for one’s career, while hiring leading conservative law professors is. Then, too, Roberts, Madoff, Stanford and Wheeler — and probably Blumenthal too — were also careerists. That is the nature of the game among the Washington, the political and the financial elite. As for George W. Bush, he managed to be a careerist while being talentless.

It is a curious thing, isn’t it, that of the seven people I’ve mentioned as not respecting truth, five have some connection with Harvard: Roberts, Kagan, Richard the Lyinghearted, Shrub and Wheeler. (And let us not forget one of the all time-kings of lies and careerism, Harvard’s own Henry Kissinger.) Perhaps those who think I was picking on Harvard for some no good, nefarious reason a few years ago when I wrote extensively about the plagiarism there, the ghostwriting there, and the stupid depredations there of The Great Summers, who helped importantly in leading us into economic disaster, will now begin to understand that my reason was not nefarious. Rather, it was a deep concern for truth, a commodity that has drastically shrunk in importance in this country since the early 1960s.

Because of its preeminence, Harvard sets the standard. The academic world follows its lead. It dominates the Executive Branch year after year. It dominates the Supreme Court. And it often has the presidency — yep, George W. Bush was a Harvard man (the biz school), as is Barack Obama. And what is the public lead that Harvard’s people show us? Is it respect for honesty and for the need for honesty in order to have a good society? Is it respect for truth? Is it respect for competence? Is it fair play for all regardless of their background? Nope. The lead we are publicly shown is dishonesty and careerism, which are ruining – or perhaps have already ruined — the country.

It has been my view for a long time that dishonesty is the worst of sins, because almost every national and personal disaster is facilitated by, is in fact made possible by and occurs because of, dishonesty of some type, be it outright lies, withholding of important information, or what have you. (Think Viet Nam, Cambodia, Iraq, Madoff, Stanford, etc.) And often in the vanguard of disasters wrought by dishonesty are persons trained at or connected to Harvard. As was once said (about Massachusetts) in a different context, what do they have in the water up there?

LAWRENCE VELVEL, co-founder and dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, is the author of Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam and An Enemy of the People. He can be reached at: Velvel@VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com

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Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, is the author of Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam and An Enemy of the People. He can be reached at: Velvel@VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com

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