The mother of all columns

BY GREG LIPPER

From time to time, I read The RECORD. Quit laughing, for here is what I found upon a recent perusal. First, I observed Lee Strang set back Christianity a few decades by pushing for a theocracy, employing prose so clumsy as to make the authors of the Bible — all four of them — turn in their graves. Then, I saw Yohannes Tsehai set the liberal movement back another few decades by going on a demagogic rant against, ironically enough, irrational discourse — because an administration that you say is hostile to racial minorities is exactly who you want regulating the campus racial discussion. Topping it all off was Alex Gordon, who set the columnist movement back close to a century by awkwardly taking aim at the clever and amusing Jeremy Blachman. As a public service to the LL.M. dating pool, I should point out that the aforementioned RECORD columnist is Alex M. Gordon the 1L, not to be confused with Alex Gordon the 3L, who I’m sure is tired of receiving nasty emails blaming him for the literary gaffes of his namesake.

Then I got to Katie Biber. Generally, I find Katie to be a worthy foil, and I thoroughly enjoy our twice-per-week jousts in Prof. Gerken’s Law of Democracy (although sadly, Katie and I have recently united around the common enemy of independent candidates and “good government” types). But after reading her last two columns, I am convinced that everyone’s favorite student Republican is having an identity crisis.

Two columns ago, Capitalist Katie was taking aim at the “failed educational policies of the Left,” ridiculing the notion that “more money will solve our nation’s educational woes.” (“Education done the ‘right’ way,” March 6, 2003) Capitalist Katie was no fan of increasing government funding of education, and in fact questioned whether doing so would do any good at all. Not quite my cup of tea, but that’s what you would expect from a conservative — government is not the answer, more government funding does not ensure better results, and the like. But two weeks later, the topic was the military, and Katie the Commie had discovered Uncle Sam and his checkbook. (“Support our troops,” March 20, 2003) Indeed, Katie the Commie went so far as to criticize the national leaders who have “debated the necessity of funding the armed forces at an operating minimum.” Money was the answer after all — and apparently government dollars no longer disappeared into an administrative black hole.

“Oh, but Greg, surely you must be taking dear Katie out of context.” After all, no upstanding conservative would be so intellectually lazy as to take inconsistent positions on the issues of the day. So I decided to read on. When it came to education, Capitalist Katie ridiculed liberals who demanded that conservatives “loosen the purse strings” and distribute more money to the public schools. But when it came to the military, Katie the Commie ridiculed legislators who described our defense budget as “bloated.” Hmm….

And when the task was ensuring the hiring of high quality personnel, Katie’s two faces reared themselves yet again. Unmoved by the plight of poorly-paid public school teachers, Capitalist Katie proclaimed that the answer was “tougher rules for getting [teachers] certified and regular checkups to offer students the very best.” Yet back at the barracks, Katie the Commie complained that “[s]ervicemen and women have often lived on food stamps and collected charity to feed their families. The meager pay assigned to most of them is shameful.” So it is, Katie, so it is — just don’t tell the NEA that you said so.

What is the explanation for these mixed messages? Does Capitalist Katie have a body double who every so often writes for The RECORD as Katie the Commie? Or is she unwilling to accept the broader implications of her desire for a well-funded military? As Katie implicitly acknowledged and as our military’s continued and overwhelming success reveals, when a government entity receives significant resources and attention, it can perform at a world-class level. Her logic ought to apply to the school system as well. So why, Katie, must you check your argument at the schoolhouse gate?

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