Can Paul Goldman Resurrect Helen Dragas, Whack Larry Sabato, Reform Education, and Still Be Home in Time for Supper?
My old friend, Paul Goldman, seems intent on transforming the most ginormous cluster@#$@ in the history of Virginia higher education into a significant step towards his beloved, if vaguely defined, “education reform”.
Even more mystifying are his attempts to glorify soon-to-be Ex-Rector Helen E. Dragas as, I’m not sure what? A future governor? A Walk? A successor to Demi Moore? A political lesson (maybe like Alf Landon – as goes Maine, so goes Vermont)?
Paul, not even the combination of your mad skills, the invocation of Henry Howell and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, a chance to poke at Larry J. Sabato, and Demi Moore in G.I. Jane could redefine this fiasco.
As my great aunt Ella used to say, “You can call a pig a horse. But, that doesn’t mean it’s going to win the Kentucky Derby.”
The Dragas/Kington cabal brought to the University a flawed, irregular, underhanded process that resulted in a disastrous outcome. (By the way, thanks to Pulitzer-quality journalism by The Cavalier Daily, we now know the cabal included former Wilder policy advisor and current hedge fundster, Jeffrey D. Nuechterlein). The University has suffered the equivalent of a blow to the back of the head on a dark street, and my brother Paul is trying to call it a fair fight.
What was it that Henry Howell used to say?
Oh, yeah. “There’s more going around in the middle of the night than Santy Clause, and hanky-panky is its name.” Some may say Howlin’ Henry was admirable because he was “all in”. My respect for him has grown over the years because it became apparent to me that he meant what he said. Henry Howell lost a lot of elections but, in the end, was a winner because he never stopped fighting all the different kinds of hanky-panky.
This won’t be a seminal moment, a crossroads, or even a one stop-light town in a discussion of education reform or higher education reform in Virginia. One reason is that the plotters turned out to be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. They tried to get their machinations done in the dark of night, but the light of day is exposing them as maladroit and petty.
We should be thankful (credit again to the genius of the FOIA by the Cavalier Daily). Apparently, Dragas’ and Kington’s ideas on education seem to be based primarily on a column by David Brooks, a Wall Street Journal op-ed by two guys from the Hoover Institution and an inspirational piece in the New Yorker. What was it Ms. Dragas exclaimed as she rode off into the night after that twelve hour Board meeting? “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.”
Twelve hours of unanimity must have been an exhilarating experience.
In a strenuous attempt to accomplish something, Goldman writes, “Whatever you think about Ms. Dragas, she has the courage of her convictions.” Doesn’t he remember that Henry Howell’s slogan in all those elections was “Keep the Big Boys Honest?”
[Sidenote: The Biggest Boy that Howell fought hard against was something he called “the Very Expensive Power Company” or Vepco. I think it has a new name now. Anybody know what it might be?]
Courage of convictions would have required facing people of honesty, intellect and experience like Heywood Fralin, Vince Mastracco and Terry Sullivan across a table and arguing it out, even fighting it out. You don’t win medals for bravery for surreptitious phone calls, misrepresentations, evasions, and cover-ups.
Goldman also writes that “Dragas knew that she could have lost the fight. But she read her opponents perfectly.”
While it is true one might gain an initial advantage (if that’s what Paul thinks she’s gained) by a sneak attack, that doesn’t necessarily mean a fight is over.
To borrow from Mr. Churchill, this is not even the end of the beginning.