Cathie Black, That Cosmo Girl, Deserves a Chance. For Now.

Granted, it's hard to see how the tools for putting out Cosmopolitan (this month's lead article: "First, Take Off His Pants") and Seventeen ("Amazing Hair") instantly translate into running the nation's largest and most troubled public school system. But for the moment anyways, it might be worth giving Cathie Black the benefit of the doubt.

To do so, you need only invoke the Hugo Black rule, i.e. just because you're a senator from heavily cracker Alabama, and a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, doesn't mean you can't go on to be one of the great Supreme Court justices. Hugo (Supreme Court 1937-1971) is no known relation to Cathie, but the same basic life principle applies: Never assume.

In Cathie Black's case her many talents may be a bust when it comes to school kids but hope springs eternal.

She's clearly a mixed bag when it comes to politics, based on her campaign donations in recent years. Her most recent gift was a modest $500 to Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, a maverick Republican admired for his feisty investigations of everything from Televangelists to doctors who play footsie with Big Pharma companies.

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Other Black favorites include Democrat Thomas Carper, Delaware's senior senator, who got a $1,000 check from the Hearst president last year, and another $1K in 2007. Black also likes Maine's GOP moderate senator, Susan Collins, who's received $3,000 in four separate checks from Black since 2005. She's also fond of Democratic congressional warhorse Henry Waxman who got $1500 from her over the same period.

Her biggest checks -- $8,000 in the past two years -- went to her industry's PAC, Magazine Publishers of America, which doled out cash in the most recent cycle to Democrats at a better than two-to-one clip over Republicans, Open Secrets.org reports.

There's also Black's management skills -- a big part of the job for anyone running the $23 billion, 135,000-employee Dept. of Ed. Here Black has shown an eye for great envelope-pushing talent by backing up Eve Burton, the feisty First Amendment battler and Hearst general counsel who made sure reporters from the corporation's San Francisco Chronicle who dug out the Barry Bonds/Balco steroids scandal story stayed out of jail while defying a judge's orders to give up their sources.

For what it's worth, we've seen a steady parade of great education resumes break up on the rocky shoals of the city's school system, and it's not like we have much of a choice in the matter. Under the rules he wrote back in 2002, Bloomberg gets to pick, and whatever he's up to here we're going to have live with it. So hope for the best and check out that latest Esquire issue ("Man at his Best").


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