The Scrapbook has a well-documented weakness for acknowledgments. No, not the virtue of gratitude or the practice of recognizing indebtedness in general. We refer to those explanatory paragraphs, usually appended to the end of a book, where authors traditionally thanked the various libraries and archives they had consulted.
Except that, what really keeps The Scrapbook entertained is the fact that nowadays Acknowledgments are veritable Oscar-award-winning orgies of recognition. They are, in truth, prime specimens of what we might call the self-infatuation of the baby boom generation. Today, a typical Acknowledgments page will not just thank the usual suspects but also include a long list of friends, colleagues, mentors, and celebrity acquaintances—all carefully and conspicuously named—as well as a shout-out to agents, editors, publicists, long-suffering spouses, and neglected offspring. If the author first learned about excise taxes while a student at Yale, or during a session at the Aspen Institute, we will be sure to hear about it.
Some author-celebrities, like -Fareed Zakaria, Ph.D., of CNN’s -Fareed Zakaria GPS, are past masters of the genre, consuming several pages with self-deprecating banter designed to assure us that they know everything and everybody. But some, such as the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, are nominally more subtle.
For example, Blood Money, Ignatius’s latest “novel of espionage”—yes, it is so described on the dust jacket and, yes, novels now have Acknowledgments—features a comparatively modest single page of Acknowledgments proving, in the name-dropping game, that sometimes less is more. There is, of course, the author’s patented self-regard, which yields sentences—“I have tried to paint my fiction using colors that are true to life”—that The Scrapbook cannot imagine being written by, say, George Eliot. And then, because Blood Money is set in Pakistan, readers must feel a certain insider thrill to know that “my most important guides and advisers are best left unnamed here.”
Not everything is life-and-death serious, however: “I owe a special debt to Pakistan scholar extraordinaire Christine Fair of Georgetown University, whose knowledge of Punjabi curse words is surely unmatched this side of Lahore.” O, to spend a rollicking evening trading Punjabi epithets with Professor Fair!
In one instance, Ignatius does exercise a measure of restraint which, in its exquisite formulation, is more effective than just dropping the H‑bomb. He begins with an extended tribute to the left-wing writer and law professor Garrett Epps, “my closest friend since we met at college more than forty years ago,” without whose “generous and patient help” the world might have been deprived of the novels of David Ignatius. Perhaps so. But was The Scrapbook shocked to learn that the college where this monumental friendship began was Harvard? Of course not.
Nor was The Scrapbook especially surprised that the sense of restraint was gradually relaxed as the sentences rolled on. Ignatius thanks his friend, lawyer Jonathan Schiller, for providing a “hideaway” at his law firm; and while he doesn’t explain why a well-compensated Post columnist would need a hideaway in the first place, he does let us know the name of the white-shoe firm involved (Boies, Schiller & Flexner). And when it comes to the obligatory spousal tribute, he punctiliously identifies his wife as “Dr. Eve Ignatius.”
It is left to the reader to guess whether Dr. Ignatius is a cardiologist or a professor, but The Scrapbook suspects that the title would not have been included if she were, say, “Master Sgt. Eve Ignatius.”
God and Man at Vanderbilt
The Scrapbook is closely watching the fight at Vanderbilt University between the administration and a number of student religious organizations. Last fall, Vanderbilt placed five religious groups on provisional status for being in violation of the university’s nondiscrimination policy, and four of these remain threatened with removal from campus.
A little background: The university’s reevaluation of its student groups stems from an incident in the fall of 2010, when Christian fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi revoked the membership of an openly gay brother. The situation divided the campus over how religious organizations should be allowed to constitute themselves. Most have recognized that membership in student organizations should be open to all—the dispute centers on how members choose their leaders.
And so, on January 31, the university called a town hall meeting to discuss the issue. Administrators clarified that the policy for student organizations is “all comers”—that is, any student may join and also may run for office. There’s no obligation, they say, for religious organizations to elect nonbelievers to leadership positions, but in the interest of nondiscrimination, no one may be barred from running for office for religious reasons.
It was Jordan Rodgers, the Commodores’ quarterback and an active member of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (and the younger brother of Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers), who articulated the obvious. “If someone that doesn’t share the faith is teaching [in a leadership role], then what’s the point of even having these organizations?” Rodgers asked at the meeting. “The fact that we are not going to change the fact that you have to affirm your faith in Jesus Christ to be a teacher, to be a leader, to teach new people of any faith that come through our doors . . . we don’t feel that’s a problem.”
In his response, Vice Chancellor David Williams summed up the university’s thinking. “The university is going to have to make a decision on what side of the line they want to be,” he said. “Do they want to say ‘It’s totally all comers’? Or do they want to basically say, ‘Well, we understand the concept of some faith-based organizations, and we agree we will create an exception for them, either by membership . . . or by leadership.’ And I just think that’s something [on which] this university, at this point and time, has made a choice.”
We won’t be holding our breath waiting for Vanderbilt to have a change of heart. But for the sake of religious freedom and common sense, they ought to.
The Susan G. Komen foundation, the nation’s leading breast cancer charity, announced last week that they would no longer be giving grants to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. As a financial matter, this was a relatively inconsequential decision. Judging, however, by the reaction from liberal activists and media elites—but The Scrapbook repeats itself—you would have thought the Ragnarök was upon us.
It didn’t matter that the grant from the Komen foundation amounted to just $700,000 of Planned Parenthood’s $1 billion annual budget ($487 million of which is taxpayer provided). And almost no one noted that pro-lifers, which is to say a donor base that consists of roughly half the country, had sent Komen’s fundraising through the roof following their decision.
Instead, ABC News led last Thursday night with a remarkably one-sided news report. “That ubiquitous pink ribbon for decades uniting women in the greater good is sporting a black eye today. Thousands of women [are] saying they will no longer support the Komen foundation or buy pink. Women like Monique Benoit who benefited from a Komen Planned Parenthood mammogram . . . ” and it went downhill from there. Komen’s critics repeatedly claimed that Planned Parenthood provided mammograms—but it doesn’t, only referrals. Not only that, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards ended up in hot water last year because she falsely claimed in a TV interview that defunding her organization would deny women mammograms.
For her part, Andrea Mitchell conducted an interview with Komen founder Nancy Brinker, though it quickly devolved into a petty and spiteful one-sided tirade. As agit-prop, it was cheered loudly by the left-wing rabble. As journalism, it was a remarkable nadir, even by MSNBC standards.
According to a New York Times editorial, Komen “threw itself into the middle of one of America’s nastiest political battles, on the side of hard-right forces working to demonize Planned Parenthood and undermine women’s health and freedom.”
Thus, by the Times’s lights, so long as Komen was subsidizing abortion providers, it was apolitical. Once it ceased to do so, it was undermining freedom. Ah, nuance. The Times also said the decision to defund Planned Parenthood meant Komen had “suffered a grievous, perhaps mortal, wound.” Note well: Even though Susan G. Komen had raised almost $2 billion for breast cancer to date, that didn’t buy it any goodwill with the Times. For denying Planned Parenthood .07 percent of its annual operating budget so it can continue to not perform mammograms, the charity deserved to be marked for destruction.
But the most remarkable development was that 26 Democratic senators produced and signed a public letter scolding a private charity for withdrawing a minor grant it had bestowed on another private entity. This too was a lesson in the cult-like devotion of the left establishment to abortion providers.
The Washington Post’s left-leaning blogger Greg Sargent broke the story, almost gleefully noting that the pressure on Komen “is about to get significantly more intense.” One of Sargent’s Twitter followers responded to his story by telling him, “Senators are now censuring private organizations? This is crazy.” Sargent dismissed the concern by retorting, “Not quite sure I see the ‘censorship’ at play here.” Q.E.D.
The pressure did prove to be intense. By Friday, Susan G. Komen announced it was reconsidering and that Planned Parenthood could possibly be eligible to receive grants in the future. What Komen’s relationship will be with Planned Parenthood going forward is as clear as mud, and the charity has managed to infuriate everyone on both sides of the abortion debate. Suffice to say, we hope there’s a charity Komen can benefit from that helps those with afflictions of the spine.
Whatever else it proves, the Komen fracas is at least clarifying. The media panic over Planned Parenthood’s loss of the equivalent of pocket change was in startling contrast to its ho-hum coverage of the Obama administration’s recent directive to force religious institutions to violate their free-exercise rights and pay for birth control. (The New York Times actually dismissed this concern with an editorial last week that put the words “religious liberty” in scare quotes.)
Liberals all too frequently portrayed those who would protect the unborn as deranged religious zealots. We now know this is what psychiatrists would call a case of projection: Liberal America bows at the altar of the Church of Planned Parenthood. It is on the prowl for heretics. And when it finds them, there is an inquisition.
Great Moments in Political Fundraising
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York noted that the Obama campaign, a supposedly indomitable organizational and fundraising juggernaut, sent out the following plea for donations last week:
“Mitt Romney said just hours after winning the Florida GOP win [sic] primary this week that: ‘We must not forget what this election is really about: defeating Barack Obama,’ ” wrote Obama campaign finance director Rufus Gifford. “Mitt’s words weren’t an accident. They’re what he really believes.”
Naturally, it’s quite difficult to contain one’s astonishment upon being informed of Mitt Romney’s ulterior motives. Briefly powerless to resist Gifford’s compelling pitch, we rushed over to the Obama campaign website to donate “$25 or more” as requested. Alas, there was no option to earmark The Scrapbook’s donation for a copy editor to catch typos in emails before blasting them to a few million people, and the temptation soon passed.