Will Jesse Jackson Please Shut Up?

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A
year ago, Jesse Jackson was cooking up a "week of moral outrage"
in Florida, objecting to an "illegitimate president."
Suddenly he was forced to confirm reports that he had carried on
an affair with one of his staffers for years, and that her illegitimate
toddler was his – conceived while Jackson was "counseling"
fellow philanderer Bill Clinton.

The
nation heaved a sigh of relief as the moral fraudmeister went off
the screen to "revive his spirit." Most of us waved Jesse
good-bye, and good riddance.

No
such luck. Jackson is back, and the old-time huckster hasn't changed
his spots. Self-inspired by his own spiritual "revival,"
Jackson longed to return to his post as national moralizer. He found
his ticket when the University of Notre Dame started looking for
a new football coach.

A
little history: Notre Dame had a lousy season, and fired its coach,
Bob Davie, in early December. No big deal — but suddenly, Jackson
appeared before his media mouthpieces — who, as usual, treated him
like he just walked off Mount Sinai, and not out of the Rancho Gomorrah
– demanding that Notre Dame hire a black — any black — as the new
coach.

Another
historical footnote: fourteen years ago next week, Jackson led 500
Stanford University students around campus demanding, "Hey
hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go." The foundation of
western civilization, of course, is Christianity, specifically,
the Catholic Church. Notre Dame is the most prominent Catholic university
in the country. So Jackson's attack on Notre Dame is not at all
an accident. It is the Catholic Church — and virtually no other
– that still teaches that extramarital affairs are mortal sins.
And, bearing in mind that Jackson often uses the title "reverend,"
it was the Catholic theologian, John Henry Cardinal Newman, who
said, "Being a great theologian does not make you more holy.
It only makes you more guilty when you sin."

So
the fact that Jackson picked a Catholic institution to attack is
not out of character (if one can use that term at all in reference
to Jackson). It should go without saying that Notre Dame needs no
hectoring on the subject of civil rights. Longtime President (now
emeritus) Father Ted Hesburgh served several terms on the U.S. Civil
Rights Commission and championed civil rights and other liberal
causes for more than fifty years. His impeccable Catholic character
is firmly imprinted on the university.

Given
the moral mismatch (to put it mildly), Notre Dame could easily have
told Jackson to take a hike, preferably starting with a prolonged
visit to the confessionals in Sacred Heart Church on his way out
of town. Instead, a nitwit named Nanni (ND's professional PR flak,
to no one's surprise) compounded the problem when he agreed with
Jackson (according to the AP) about the "deplorable" percentage
of head football coaches who are black. (A classmate of mine observes
that Nanni did not find deplorable the relatively small percentage
of white athletes who go on to play in the NFL).

ND's
Athletic Director, Kevin White, stumbled right into Jackson's trap.
White began the search for a new coach immediately after firing
Davie. Sensing pressure to produce, he hastily delivered a winner,
Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary, an Irish fireball of motivation
right out of central casting. Though the deal required over a million
dollars up front, White goofed — he never bothered to spend twenty
minutes checking references – and, bingo! O'Leary had lied on his
resume, inflating his credentials from two schools, and Notre Dame
had to fire him (White: he "offered to resign") when a
small New England newspaper broke the story.

All
this is an instructive instance of the corporate capitulation mentality
that has driven one business after another to buckle under Jackson's
intimidation tactics. Universities share a common weakness with
corporations nowadays: athletic directors and PR spokesmen are now
"professionals," not real people who have deep roots in
the institutions they serve (a pattern predicted sixty years ago
by James Burnham in his classic, "The Managerial Revolution").
Notre Dame once had great AD's like Moose Krause and Dick Rosenthal,
drawn from the extensive ranks of its brilliant athlete-graduates,
whose first loyalties were always to Notre Dame. They never would
do anything to embarrass the university.

Mr.
White, a "professional," was obviously in over his head.
After O'Leary left town, White might have resigned in favor of a
successor who did not share the impediment of having presided over
a major disaster, but he insisted on staying on, and renewed his
search — frantically.

Enter
(again) Mr. Jackson. The blood was in the water, and he went for
the kill. After all, Notre Dame had given him the ball on their
goal line. "Notre Dame chose less than the best [O'Leary] and
they got embarrassed," Jackson told the local South Bend (Indiana)
Tribune. Obviously, Jackson never gets embarrassed, but he was more
determined to embarrass Notre Dame than Kevin White was to defend
the school's independence. Like so many lackluster corporate suits
before him, White capitulated. Tyrone Willingham was named head
football coach at Notre Dame on New Year's Day.

"This
is a victory for America," Jackson immediately crowed, equating,
as usual, his own self-promotion with "America." In a
remarkable demonstration of moralistic jiu-jitsu, Jackson had vaulted
from the depths of a well-deserved exile to the top of the Golden
Dome. He now feels morally superior to Notre Dame — and he will
not soon let us forget it.

Oh
yes, the new coach is an African-American black man, whose win-loss
record at Stanford was worse than that of Bob Davie, whom White
had fired for his poor win-loss record. To his credit, Mr. Willingham
has a genuine devotion to academic achievement for his athletes,
a valuable attribute for Notre Dame, although we'll never know whether
he embraces Notre Dame's Catholic view of western civilization,
or Jackson's (which was eventually adopted by Stanford).

Who
knows, Willingham might surprise everybody. But Jackson hasn't done
him any favors. He will have to dig out not only from a losing season,
but from a mess caused by an incompetent boss and a high-flying
huckster. Thanks to Jackson, White, and Nanni, Willingham's job
is now a political football.

Meanwhile,
Jackson is undoubtedly planning his next intimidation attack. His
corporate targets will look at the ease with which he beat Notre
Dame – and tremble. No doubt, he's got their number — to the tune
of several million each.

"Shake
down the thunder from the sky," goes the Notre Dame Victory
March. As usual, Jackson never got past the first two words.

January
5, 2002

Christopher
Manion [send him mail] grew
up at Notre Dame, where his father, a law professor for thirty years,
headed the athletic commission when Knute Rockne was coach. As an
undergraduate, he was the founding captain of Notre Dame's rowing
team and won the Theodore Hesburgh Prize. He received his Ph.D.
from Notre Dame in Political Theory, studying under Gerhart Niemeyer
and Eric Voegelin. He lives in Front Royal, Virginia.

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