As previously mentioned,
I was on the waiting list for tickets to see
Biden's appearance at the University Near Here. To my surprise, this
actually worked. Yesterday, I got an e-missive providing me a link
to a page whence I could download my PDF ticket (reproduced here
for your amusement, click to embiggen).
And so I went.
Lots of security, of course: many unfamiliar cop cars and other
vehicles, and traffic was forced into unfamiliar patterns.
The screening on the way in was slightly less
rigorous than that encountered for an airplane journey; nobody offered
to touch my junk.
No bags. No backpacks. Signs, banners, liquids, umbrellas, and laptops
not permitted. But "personal cameras" are allowed, unfortunate that
I don't actually own one. Attendees were urged to show up early,
which (as it turned out) gave me a lot of time to look around aimlessly
inside the venue (the Granite State Room of the Memorial Union
Most attendees were, of course, college kids, dressed in the usual
casual-to-sloppy attire. A smattering were well-dressed; I speculate
these were the wannabe-someday pols. A few rows of seating down front
were reserved, and those people seemed to be local bigwigs in the
Democratic Party and the University, not that there's no overlap there.
About ten video cameras filled the back of the room, and I noticed some
on-air personalities from Manchester's TV station, WMUR.
The curtains on the outside windows were drawn, and some were taped
I assume a safeguard against snipers. I reflected that if I were to
do anything odd, I'd probably find myself surrounded by a bunch of
polite well-dressed guys with electronics in their ears. Is there
a problem here, sir? So I just sat still.
And of course, things ran signficantly late. But eventually UNH
Mark Huddleston took the stage, introducing Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan, a student speaker whose name I didn't catch, and
the Vice President.
The rationale for the visit was to introduce the Obama Administration's
new "Title IX" regulations concerning sexual assault on college campuses.
(White House press release is here.)
Duncan's speech was brief and dry; the student's speech was
brief and strident; neither was under any illusion that anyone was
there to listen to them.
Violence against women is an issue Biden clearly cares a lot about. (I
mean really cares, rather than just paying politician-style lip
service.) He gave more of a sermon than a speech. There were no applause
lines, no laugh lines, and the audience mostly sat in silence. (The only
chuckle came when Biden discussed meeting UNH President Huddleston back
in Delaware, decades back.)
You would be excused for thinking that this whole exercise was aimed
specifically at actual violence against women, a relatively black and
white issue. (And one more suited to straightforward local law enforcement
than college bureaucracy.)
But if you click
some of the links off that White House link above, you'll discover that
the new regulations target "sexual harassment" and "discrimination"
as well. In short, colleges will have to be even more careful in this
area now, and aggrieved parties will have significantly more avenues to
pursue their gripes. Given the Administration's general progressive
proclivities, this isn't surprising, but it's interesting that they
scrupulously avoided talking about anything but violence.
Even given the relatively non-controversial focus, there were a couple
of howlers in Biden's presentation. He trotted out the story about
the "rule of thumb" phrase: that it originally referred to a legal principle
allowing a man to beat his wife with a stick, as long as its diameter
didn't exceed the width of his thumb. This has long since been
debunked, but the Veep apparently lives in a bubble of epistemic closure.
Biden also (I'm pretty sure, sorry, I didn't record the talk)
echoed the claim found on the White House page linked above rationalizing this whole
effort: that "1 in 5" young college women "will be a victim of sexual
assault during college." This is widely repeated in feminist circles as a fact,
but anyone who has a mind to be skeptical should read this
City Journal article by Heather Mac Donald. She thinks it's a
myth; I'm inclined to agree. Does the Administration really need to
justify their regulatory actions via dubious and scarifying propaganda?
Perhaps the most unintentionally incongruous comment came from Biden's
informal shout-outs as he started his talk; one went to attendee Timothy
Horrigan. This might have struck some as odd, because Timothy gained
more than a bit of notoriety last year for fantasizing
about the assassination of Sarah Palin. A bit of too-late advice
to the Vice President: maybe Tim's not the right
guy to rhetorically embrace at a violence-against-women event.