"It's time to leave when you're still hitting the long ball and have something else you want to do," said William Safire, the legendary New York Times columnist, explaining his 2004 retirement. I would like to think I'm still hitting the long ball, but this is my last column because of impending graduation, not choice.
I tallied the columns I had written in the past four years. This is number 57. For a change, I decided I would write a little about a lot of different things today. This was partly because there are many subjects that deserve mention here, partly because of my desire to recall earlier columns, and partly - well, fine, mostly - because I didn't know how to organize this final piece.
There were certainly some misses over the past four years (the column on Russian democracy comes to mind - how riveting!) and poor predictions offered. Wesley Clark didn't end up doing much in the 2004 Democratic primary (although I suggested he would in my first column) and my argument that John Kerry should have picked John McCain as his running mate that year really didn't make much sense. While Kerry would have benefited from the pick (and reports indicate that he courted McCain for the position), the Democratic base would have hated the selection and, more importantly, McCain never would have accepted the offer. Nor should he have.
But in reading past columns I was just as often struck by how little things have changed. In 2003, I blasted Al Sharpton as a racist agitator who didn't deserve to share a stage with serious presidential candidates. Now in the midst of another primary, Democrats are falling over one another to gain his endorsement. And then there's Don Imus. For me, the most outrageous part of the recent Imus controversy wasn't his despicable remarks. It was that he apologized for them on Sharpton's radio show. Why Sharpton - who has yet to apologize for the Tawana Brawley incident, his disgusting embrace of the gang of teenagers who raped and killed a Central Park jogger, and his incitement of a mob that cried "Kill the Jews" as it murdered a young rabbinical student - is our nation's racial arbiter is beyond me.
I felt the same way when I read over an early column criticizing the divestment movement against Israel on college campuses. Though this particular tactic has lost some steam, the sentiments that animate it surely remain. Having spent time in Israel myself, I have long thought it to be the most misunderstood and unfairly criticized nation in the world, and university communities are partly to blame. Although only the worst offenders (like the Middle Eastern studies program at Columbia University) receive national attention for their outrages, even at Boston College you can see the fervent anti-Israel attitude at work.
Don't believe me? Just wait until the next time the Global Justice Project sponsors "Palestinian Awareness Week" or an opinions piece runs on this page blasting the BC Coalition for Israel. Something tells me you won't be waiting long.
Despite this, BC has always struck me as more rational place for political debate than other schools, and I think the administration deserves at least part of the credit. Bringing Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama, and McCain (faculty criticism notwithstanding) to campus has brought immeasurable prestige to the University. But what I respect about BC is that it refuses to conflate reputation with notoriety. When Mohammad Khatami visited Boston on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, the Kennedy School at Harvard rolled out the red carpet for the Iranian theocrat. He rewarded them with a speech weighing the merits of capital punishment for homosexuals, among other things. How thoughtful. So when Khatami wanted to visit BC, the school turned him down. I couldn't help but find it ironic that so many students were upset by the non-invitation to an extremist who made a career out of jailing dissident activists (many of them at universities) in Iran.
One of the most difficult parts of writing a column is finding the room to say everything you want in 750 words. So with the remaining space, I would like to make like an Oscar speech and offer some thank you's. Thanks to those friends and professors who offered their advice and support, thanks to Dan Elliott, who got me started with this in the first place, and thanks to everyone who has read or commented over the past four years. I've enjoyed writing. I hope you've enjoyed reading.
Andrew Buttaro is a Heights staff columnist.