Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2002 / 18 Teves, 5763
The college president who owes a greater duty to a fugitive serial killer than the public or to the law
What goes through Billy Bulger's head, I wonder, as he follows the news these days? What does the president of the
University of Massachusetts think when he reads and hears about prominent men who have found themselves enwrapped
in cocoons of unwanted notoriety? As their power to inspire awe or admiration or even respect in others has been
stripped away, has Bulger been brooding on his own situation? When he sees the faces of these men on TV or in the
papers, does he catch glimpses of his own face too?
What are Bulger's thoughts, for example, as he beholds the humiliated Trent Lott? Pity? Empathy? Both he and Lott,
after all, are prominent figures whose words have recently exposed an ugly flaw in their moral groundwork. In Lott's
case, it is an apparent fondness for the days of Jim Crow -- a fondness reflected in his praise for Strom Thurmond's
segregationist presidential run. In Bulger's case, it is the belief that he owes a greater duty to a fugitive serial killer -- his
brother "Whitey" Bulger -- than he does to the public, or to the law.
I can't help wondering what Bulger thought of Lott's repeated apologies and his groveling appearance on Black
Entertainment Television. My guess is that he found them pathetic. Bulger certainly isn't one to apologize. He never
apologized when he was the tyrant of the Massachusetts Senate and he doesn't plan to start now -- not even after
everyone has learned his dirty secret: that he arranged to speak with his brother, a gangster second only to Osama bin
Laden on the FBI's Most-Wanted List, and advised him not to turn himself in.
But as he saw Lott's racial past get dredged up, one shovelful at a time -- the support for segregationists in Mississippi,
the fight to keep his college fraternity all-white -- did Bulger worry that other skeletons in his own closet might be
exposed? Already there has been a leak of his classified 2001 testimony, when he coldly told a grand jury that he would
never help bring his brother to justice. "It's my hope that I'm never helpful to anyone against him," he said. Better for a
ruthless cutthroat to remain on the loose -- better for who knows how many more men and women to be robbed or
beaten or killed -- than for Bulger to lift a finger against one of his own.
And that was just one leak. What other shoes are going to drop? What other evidence of Bulger's depravity will
come to light? If Lott thought his troubles would blow over after a few days of bad press, he was wrong. Does Bulger,
watching what has happened to Lott, worry that he might be wrong as well?
And what has Bulger been telling himself about the fall of Bernard Law? In the space of a few months, a powerful
cardinal's reputation was destroyed, his career crippled, his lofty post lost. And all because he was more concerned with
shielding predators than with helping their victims. Because he colluded in thwarting the law instead of upholding it.
Because he showed more compassion for his fellow priests than for the innocent human beings some of them so badly
hurt. Does it make Bulger uneasy to contemplate the parallels between Law's case and his own? Or is he too blinded by
self-righteousness to see them?
The final nail in Law's coffin, it is said, was the call for his resignation by 58 priests of the archdiocese. Perhaps when
Bulger read about that, he took smug comfort in knowing that his people would never break ranks that way.
Or would they? To be sure, UMass trustees have been tripping over themselves in their rush to kiss Bulger's ring.
"My respect and admiration for President Bulger is [sic] stronger than ever," gushed trustee chairman Grace Fey on the
day Bulger appeared before a congressional committee and invoked the Fifth Amendment. Even more sycophantic was
Robert Sheridan, the president of Savings Bank Life Insurance and a new trustee. "What better leader to have?" he
slobbered. "What better model of integrity?"
But how long will that servility last? What will happen as more and more alumni come to understand that their school
is headed by a man whose first loyalty is to a vicious racketeer? Already there are campus voices calling for Bulger's
resignation. The Mass Media, an independent UMass newspaper, put the issue starkly: The head of a university "cannot
claim to pursue truth, and also proclaim his willingness to protect a murderer. Family loyalty cannot shield a murderer. If
William Bulger does not understand this, then we must ask if he can understand more elaborate truths."
A year ago, Lott and Law were untouchable, secure in their positions of power. Now they are out, disgraced -- Lott
stepping down as Senate leader, Law en route to a monastery. No one imagined it could happen to them. Does Bulger
imagine it can never happen to him?
"One in public office must be ever aware of the impermanence of that status," Bulger once wrote. I wonder if he has
been taking his own advice to heart.
Like this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.
12/20/02: The death penalty by the numbers
12/16/02: Yes, Virginia, there is (still) a liberal media bias
12/03/02: On the brink of regime change --- in Iran
11/27/02: Light's victory over darkness
11/25/02: A 'Republican' lesson from a Democratic convention
11/22/02: The slippery senator
11/18/02: The campus 'diversity' fraud
11/14/02: MURDER AT A KIBBUTZ
11/01/02: Saddam's shop of horrors
10/24/02: Musings, random and otherwise
10/17/02: Jimma's ignoble prize
10/14/02: New Jersey's bigot laureate
10/11/02: Today it is libs who are most likely to demand the silencing of speech they disapprove of
10/04/02: Learning English from Day 1
09/30/02: The world will follow us to war
09/27/02: The face of antisemitism
09/20/02: Starving time in Zimbabwe
09/14/02: Against moral confusion / 9-12-2002
09/03/02: With 'eternal friends' like these
08/30/02: Enriching survivors was a costly mistake
08/26/02: John Kerry's absent passion
08/23/02: Bonnie, get your gun
08/19/02: A screenwriter's remorse
07/29/02: The real abortion extremists
07/26/02: Another round of Kemp-Roth
07/19/02: Jews among Arabs, Arabs among Jews
07/15/02: Musings, random and otherwise
07/12/02: The new civil rights champions
07/03/02: Riding the rails
07/01/02: The prerequisite to peace
06/24/02: Frisking AlGore
06/17/02: Offense, not defense, is the key to homeland security
06/14/02: Looking at the horror
06/07/02: The cost of a death-penalty moratorium
06/03/02: Executing 'children,' and other death-penalty myths
05/29/02: A real threat?
05/24/02: The message in Arafat's headdress
05/20/02: (Mis)playing the popularity card
05/10/02: Outspoken, Muslim -- and moderate
05/10/02: The heroes in Castro's jails
05/06/02: The disappearing history term paper
05/03/02: Musings, random and otherwise
04/29/02: The canary in Europe's mine
04/15/02: Powell's crazy mission
04/12/02: The slavery reparations hustle
04/08/02: Peace at any price = war
03/26/02: Decency matters most, Caleb
03/22/02: The U.S. embargo and Cuba's future
03/19/02: The keepers of Cuba's conscience
03/15/02: A walk in Havana
02/26/02: Buchanan's lament
02/12/02: What 'peace' means to Arafat
02/08/02: STEVEN EMERSON AND THE NPR BLACKLIST
02/05/02: Antismoking: Who pays?
02/01/02: Turn the Saudis
01/25/02: Making MLK cry
01/21/02: Ted to tax cut: Drop dead
01/18/02: Musings random and otherwise
01/14/02: An ultimatum to Saudi Arabia
01/11/02: Friendship, Saudi-style
01/07/02: Shakedown at Harvard
01/04/02: More guns, more safety
01/02/02: Smears and slanders from the Left
12/28/01: Congress gives to others -- and itself
12/24/01: The littlest peacemakers
12/20/01: How to condemn terror
12/18/01: Greenland once was
12/14/01: Parents who never said ''no''
12/11/01: Wit and (economic) wisdom
12/07/01: THE PALESTINIANS' MYTH
12/04/01: The war against Israel goes on
11/30/01: Tribunals, motorcycles -- and freedom
11/19/01: Friendship and the House of Saud
11/12/01: The Justice Department's unjust monopoly
11/09/01: Muslim, but not extremist
11/02/01: Too good for Oprah
10/29/01: Journalism and the 'neutrality fetish'
10/26/01: Derail these subsidies
10/22/01: Good and evil in the New York Times
10/15/01: Rush Limbaugh's ear
10/08/01: With allies like these
10/01/01: An unpardonable act
09/28/01: THE CENSORS ARE COMING! THE CENSORS ARE COMING!
09/25/01: Speaking out against terror
09/21/01: What the terrorists saw
09/17/01: Calling evil by its name
09/13/01: Our enemies mean what they say
09/04/01: The real bigots
08/31/01: Shrugging at genocide
08/28/01: Big Brother's privacy -- or ours?
08/24/01: The mufti's message of hate
08/21/01: Remembering the 'Wall of Shame'
08/16/01: If I were the editor ...
08/14/01: If I were the Transportation Czar ...
08/10/01: Import quotas 'steel' from us all
08/07/01: Is gay "marriage" a threat?
08/03/01: A colorblind nominee
07/27/01: Eminent-domain tortures
07/24/01: On protecting the flag ... and drivers ... and immigrants
07/20/01: Dying for better mileage
07/17/01: Why Americans would rather drive
07/13/01: Do these cabbies look like bigots?
07/10/01: 'Defeated in the bedroom'
07/06/01: Who's white? Who's Hispanic? Who cares?
07/02/01: Big(oted) man on campus
06/29/01: Still appeasing China's dictators
06/21/01: Cuban liberty: A test for Bush
06/19/01: The feeble 'arguments' against capital punishment
06/12/01: What energy crisis?
06/08/01: A jewel in the crown of self-government
05/31/01: The settlement myth
05/25/01: An award JFK would have liked
05/22/01: No Internet taxes? No problem
05/18/01: Heather has five mommies (and a daddy)
05/15/01: An execution, not a lynching
05/11/01: Losing the common tongue
05/08/01: Olympics 2008: Say no to Beijing
05/04/01: Do welfare mothers a kindness: Make them work
05/01/01: Another man's child
04/24/01: Sharon should have said no
04/02/01: The Inhumane Society
03/30/01: To have a friend, Caleb, be a friend
03/27/01: Is Chief Wahoo racist?
03/22/01: Ending the Clinton appeasement
03/20/01: They're coming for you
03/16/01: Kennedy v. Kennedy
03/13/01: We should see McVeigh die
03/09/01: The Taliban's wrecking job
03/07/01: The No. 1 reason to cut taxes
03/02/01: A Harvard candidate's silence on free speech
02/27/01: A lesson from Birmingham jail
02/20/01: How Jimmy Carter got his good name back
02/15/01: Cashing in on the presidency
02/09/01: The debt for slavery -- and for freedom
02/06/01: The reparations calculation
02/01/01: The freedom not to say 'amen'
01/29/01: Chavez's 'hypocrisy': Take a closer look
01/26/01: Good-bye, good riddance
01/23/01: When everything changed (mostly for the better)
01/19/01: The real zealots
01/16/01: Pardon Clinton?
01/11/01: The fanaticism of Linda Chavez
01/09/01: When Jerusalem was divided
01/05/01 THEY NEVER FORGOT THEE, O JERUSALEM
12/29/00 Liberal hate speech, 2000
12/15/00Does the Constitution expect poor children be condemned to lousy government schools?
12/08/00 Powell is wrong man to run State Department
12/05/00 The 'MCAS' teens give each other
12/01/00 Turning his back on the Vietnamese -- again
11/23/00 Why were the Pilgrims thankful?
11/21/00 The fruit of this 'peace process' is war
11/13/00 Unleashing the lawyers
11/17/00 Gore's mark on history
40 reasons to say NO to Gore
© 2002, Boston Globe