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Jewish World Review March 20, 2001 / 25 Adar 5761

Evan Gahr

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Teddy's FOBs --- Friends of Bush -- TED Kennedy has more pals among prospective Bush appointees than you might expect. Thomas Scully, slated to head the Health Care Financing Administration, made $1,000 campaign contributions to both Ted Kennedy and Al Gore in 1999, National Review Online reported March 12. Scully also gave Bush $1,000 and another grand last year. But the man who would handle Medicare financing for the new administration can be stingy with Republicans. In 1996, Scully gave $1,000 to Bill Clinton, but only $500 to Bob Dole got only $500. That's what the Democrats call bipartisanship.

Now it turns out that Ted Kennedy and other prominent Democrats have received sizable donations from another prospective White House official: MIT president Charles Vest, who has reportedly been under "serious consideration" to serve as White House science adviser. Publicly Vest has suggested he's not interested, which from a prospective political appointee is usually a coy way of saying he is interested.

Nobody can accuse Vest of trying to buy the job. In 1999, Vest donated $500 to Sen. Ted Kennedy and $250 to Rep. Joe Moakley, according to Federal Election Commission records reviewed by TAS. He also gave $250 in 1997 to Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who recently declared that Vest would be a "good choice" for science adviser.

Vest's only listed donation to Republicans is $500 in 1998 to Michigan Rep. Vernon Ehlers, then and now a member of House Science Committee. Quite adept at convincing Congress to cough up huge sums for scientific research (some $250 million annually just to MIT), Vest has obvious reason to stay cozy with this particular Republican.

Vest's other beneficiaries aren't members of the House Science Committee, however. Nor does Sen. Kennedy serve on any Senate committee directly related to science, according to his web site. Yet Vest last year bestowed upon Kennedy the MIT "Champion of Science" award for "promoting scientific research" -- i.e., bringing home the bacon.

Compared to his other endeavors, Vest's bankrolling the Democratic liberal elite is small stuff. Far more problematic has been his willingness to make common cause with feminists. As White House Science adviser -- or head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy -- Vest would establish research priorities for the National Science Foundation and other federal departments, according to the Boston Globe. If his nearly decade-long tenure at MIT is any indication, Vest would likely make "Gender Equity" a key priority.

At MIT Vest cleared a path for feminists determined to reap innumerable benefits from dubious charges of gender discrimination. The campaign for "pay equity" and other liberal goodies reached its crescendo in March 1999 with the release of the "MIT Study on the Status of Women." Based on "data" MIT refused to release, the report declared the university guilty of institutional -- albeit subconscious or unintentional -- discrimination against women faculty. According to the conservative Independent Women's Forum, the raw data was actually evaluated by one of the faculty members who claimed gender discrimination. Nonetheless, the much ballyhooed report became the focal point of the effort at MIT and nationwide to further subsume science to gender equity dictates. That evidently pleased Vest, who urged colleagues to act upon the MIT report "personally and collectively."

Just weeks after his name surfaced as a possible White House official, Vest and eight other leaders of prestigious universities issued a statement vowing to eliminate the "barriers" -- that means you, white males -- which "still exist to the full participation of women in science and engineering." Top officials from Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and UC-Berkeley, along with the presidents of the University of Michigan, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale, vowed to fight within their respective institutions for social justice. With Vest, the apparent ringleader, they vowed to enlist "senior women faculty" to monitor pay data to insure pay "equity" -- most likely comparable worth -- for women professors.

Why does Vest carry water for feminists? Is he easily mau-maued or cajoled by shrill interest groups? Or inclined to allow advocates to twist research for political ends? Either way these are not particularly auspicious credentials for a science adviser.

Moreover, if Vest caves to feminists so readily he could prove even more vulnerable to National Missile Defense opponents, such as the unrepentant naysayers among the left-leaning Union of Concerned Scientists. His own paper trail sheds little light. But Vest associates and a TAS source in the scientific community speculate that Vest hoes to the UCS line. MIT is certainly a hotbed of anti-NMD sentiment. All this is no small matter of concern, given that the White House Science adviser can help shape missile defense policy.

With the post still vacant, the White House might do well to take a closer look at another prospective nominee. North Carolina State University Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, whose name surfaced with Vest's, also made a political donation last year. But according to FEC records, the $1,000 she gave last year went exclusively to the Republican National Committee.

Fox has ties to the new administration besides her purse strings. She has traversed the Bush orbit for years. In 1991, President George Bush named her to the governing board of the National Science Foundation, a federal agency long beset by political correctness. During her five-year term, the NSF even sponsored summer programs only for "under-represented minorities." The credo was enforced with all the determination and subtlety of George Wallace outside the school house door. When a white high school girl applied to "Planet Earth," the NSF-sponsored environmental summer camp declared in no uncertain terms that as an "Anglo-American" the girl did not "not meet the stated criteria for participation." Talk about environmental racism. But Fox , who served as vice president for research at the University of Texas at Austin from 1994-1997 when George W. Bush was governor, hardly seems animated by such grotesque quota-mongering. Her public record gives no indication she is determined to make math and science research a feminist playground.

She has, however, bemoaned the under-representation of women scientists. Still, Fox mostly blames the dearth of female role models rather than discrimination for the problem. In short, she's not quite Christina Hoff Sommers. But there's no indication she is Gloria Steinem in a white coat. Or, for that matter, Charles Vest in drag.

JWR contributor Evan Gahr is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. To comment click here.


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12/05/00: Fido v. Fido --- the emerging 'pets' rights' movement
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© 2001, Evan Gahr. Adapted from The American Spectator Online