Ecuador’s tumultuously left-wing president Rafael Correa will give speeches at Harvard and Yale next week. This will probably be interesting, because nothing stirs the Ivy League soul like a Latin strongman.
During Fidel Castro’s Ivy speaking tour in 1959, Princeton students were so enthralled that they lifted El Jefe onto their shoulders for a tour of the quad.
Harvard topped that. Dean McGeorge Bundy, introducing Castro’s speech, noted that his 1948 college application to Harvard had been rejected. The exuberant Bundy offered to accept Castro into the class of 1963 then and there! It’s tempting to mock this offer, but if Fidel had spent the next few years learning to wear high heels for Hasty Pudding musicals, he probably would have been too busy to shoot dice with Soviet missiles.
Correa, much as he would probably like to be, is no Castro, just a garden-variety Latin American strongman who cloaks his lust for power and loot in Marxism Lite rhetoric. But here are some questions that might provoke an interesting response from the president:
Q: You’re always labeling U.S. government a sworn enemy of Ecuadorean democracy, Mr. President. But there must be some tiny part of the American political system you admire.
Likely A: Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme. Roosevelt, frustrated by Supreme Court rulings against his New Deal economic scheme, introduced a bill that would have allowed him to stuff the judicial ballot box by appointing six additional justices.
When I was getting a lot of pushback against my idea to rewrite Ecuador’s constitution, I took Roosevelt’s idea and ran with it. First I fired 57 of the country’s 100 congressmen. Their amicable replacements voted to approve my next move, the dismissal of Ecuador’s entire constitutional court.
The new judges, in turn, ruled that firing the congressmen had been entirely legal. Who says democracy isn’t efficient?
Q: What do you think about gender diversity?
Likely A: You college kids used to have good ideas, like swallowing goldfish and stuffing phone booths (ask your history professor what a phone booth is). But this stuff with gay marriage is just too wacky — or, as I said recently, “absurd” and “very dangerous.”
“That natural men and women don’t exist, that biological sex does not determine man or woman, but ‘social conditions’ do, and that one has a right to choose if one is a man or a woman — please! Come on!” I mentioned in a speech in December. “This won’t live up even to a minor analysis!”
By the way, your own Harvard administrators are probably squirming a bit right now. They might not want anybody remembering that in 1920 they formed a secret court to prosecute suspected homosexual students. One kid committed suicide after being forced to testify, but as Fidel Castro probably mentioned during his 1959 visit, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
Q: Must democracies stand by while subversive cartoonists mock all that is good and decent?
Likely A: Madre de Dios, no! That’s why my Superintendency of Information and Communication — man, not even George Orwell could have come up with a better name — earlier this year ruled that a cartoon in the newspaper El Universo was guilty of “twisting the truth” and inciting “social unrest.”
The paper was fined $93,000 and ordered to print a correction for the cartoon that made a joke about the police search of the home of a political activist. Though I’m not sure the “correction” was in the spirit of the ruling: It showed the police searching the cartoonist’s own home as he thanked them for coming and urged the cops to “take anything you need! I trust you!”
P.S. to President Correa: I know your general response to anything that irritates you is to declare it illegal and shut it down, as you did with that Indian environmental group Pachamama last year after it criticized your plans to resume oil-drilling in the Amazon rain forest.
But you might want to be careful at Harvard. I don’t know exactly what Fidel Castro said to that offer of admission by McGeorge Bundy. But within a couple of years, the dean left Harvard to become national security adviser in the Kennedy administration, which was soon up to its neck in plots with the Mafia to kill Castro with exploding seashells and poison pens. You might not tell it from their football team, but Harvard guys play hardball.