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News Through the Looking Glass

By Rustin C. Silverstein

Reading the newspaper these days is like Alice peering at the looking glass. Nothing is as it once seemed. Up is down, left is right, night is day.

For instance, you know something is askew when conservatives start pining for the days when the liberal Ivy League elite ruled. Yet, shocking as it may seem, such a sentiment can be found in the October 5 issue of The Weekly Standard--a conservative magazine edited by Dan Quayle's onetime chief-of-staff William Kristol and bankrolled by Newt Gingrich's publisher media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

In the magazine's cover story, titled "Hollywood Beats Harvard!", Senior Editor David Brooks laments the passing of the "spiritual center of gravity" in the Clinton administration from "the faculty lounges of Harvard and Yale to the ballroom at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles."

The triumph of the Hollywood crowd in the White House leads Brooks to admit that "compared with the people who now set the tone for the Clinton administration, let's face it, those Ivy League meritocrats look like the Founding Fathers." Poor Richard Nixon--the godfather of conservative resentment of the Eastern Establishment--must be spinning in his grave.

But that's far from the only oddity in today's news. In Washington, it's now Republicans, especially old squares like Henry Hyde and Dan Burton, who find themselves embroiled in sex scandals.

Judging by all of the fuss over the cost of the Starr investigation, $40 million suddenly seems like a lot of money when spent by the government even though we would still need to spend 50 times that to buy one more Stealth Bomber.

Speaking of government spending, contrary to the doomsday scenarios that haunted us following the budget deficits of the Reagan and Bush years, as of last week, for the first time since 1969, the government will take in more money than it spends. Ross Perot's sky-is-falling rants about guv'ment irresponsibility of six years ago now seem almost cute--like a real-life Chicken Little.

The looking glass phenomenon has even reached us here at Harvard. The endowment is down and financial aid is up. Strangely, this year a global symbol of democratic hope, Nelson Mandela, was honored by the powers-that-be. At the same time, not a single Communist dictator has been seen gracing the stage of Sanders Theatre.

Far from "approaches to knowledge," the Core now teaches "approaches to trying your luck at begging professors for admission to overstuffed courses." Even on the gridiron, our mighty men of Crimson football, last year's Ivy Champs, have become this year's Saturday afternoon chumps.

On the global scene, the wobbly Boris Yeltsin still sits in the Kremlin in a crumbling Russia, while the enduring German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has been wobbled out of office in the most powerful country in Europe.

Democracy is fraying at the edges of the fragile, but surprisingly successful, Bosnian peace deal, while the Middle East peace process, nearly left for dead, now shows signs of resuscitation. And, contrary to the strangely clairvoyant movie Wag the Dog, in reality, Albanian tragedies are not enough to shift our attention away from Presidential sex.

Concerning our bottom line, the business pages tell us that our Herculean economy may be on shaky ground. The financial troubles of so much of the rest of the world may finally be creeping across our borders. Our soaring stock market has hit some turbulence. Long-time stock superstars like Coca-Cola, American Express, and Walt Disney have all recently taken dives. In response, our play-it-cool financial captain Alan Greenspan, as if in a fit of nostalgia for the early '90s, recently announced a rare cut in interest rates.

In the world of sports, baseball and basketball have switched places in the public's consciousness. The former is once again the exciting national obsession while the latter has become the sport of disgruntled, greedy players on strike.

On the field, a recently-unknown career minor leaguer, Shane Spencer, has become the unlikely Pride of the Yankees following a month of Hollywood-style home run heroics. And, in pro football, the Saints and Seahawks all boast winning records while the once-mighty Redskins, Bears and Bills wallow in last place.

Finally, who can resist marveling at the appearance of both the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs this year? Although their early exits from the playoffs put an end to the dreams of many long-suffering fans, at least we don't have to worry about the apocalyptic implications of a World Series featuring the perennially-cursed ballclubs. But, the way things have been going lately...just wait 'til next year.

Rustin C. Silverstein '99 is a government concentrator in Lowell House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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