War of words over Rut-Row

As a volcano of words erupts over the proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan universities, there’s precious little light but plenty of hot lava.

And the rhetorical flow is fabulous.

The Republican governor and his Southern Democrat legislative allies are trying to bury vintage U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg in an avalanche of verbiage, describing as “odd” (Christie) and “bizarre” (State Senate President Steve Sweeney) the 88-year-old New Jersey Democrat’s call for a federal review of the merger proposal.

Not to be outdone, noted merger champion and Southern bloc mastermind George E. Norcross 3d has issued a statement lambasting Lautenberg for alleged "cheap shots” and “hysteria.”

The spark for all this was Lautenberg’s letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier this week, which turned a few fascinating phrases itself.

"Suspicions have been raised that this (merger proposal) has been crafted to benefit powerful political interests without regard for the impact on students, the academic institutions and the community," the Senator wrote.

Many have interpreted this as a jab at Norcross, who in 2008 dispatched U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews, D-NJ, on a fruitless primary challenge mission against Lautenberg. And now Seeeney is casting a wistful/wishful eye on Lautenberg's Senate seat.

The grassroots groundswell against the merger may well be heartened by the war of words. And it is fun  to watch these big shots beat each other up.

But it's also worth asking what "who's the biggest" has to do with the proposal to radically restructure  higher education in South Jersey.

In a word: Nothing.

Or: Everything.