The New York Times notes that Summers knew he had to go when colleagues from the Clinton administration told him so.Kurtz' explanation is eerily similar to Gerard Vanderleun's summation of how the left (no need to even say the "extreme" left anymore--it's redundant) is taking over the Democratic Party, which I discussed here. The idea of Summer's advising a Democratic presidential candidate seems unbelievably appropriate somehow. Appropriate in that the Dems will likely look to people like Summers -- who can't even stand up to his own lunatic faculty--- to help them formulate foreign policy in the age of terrorism.
The Times adds that Summers is thinking of advising a Democratic presidential campaign. There you have the explanation for Summers' appeasement. Summers is from the sane side of the Democratic Party (yes, there is one). These moderate Democrats want to bring the academy closer to the center of the country. But when push came to shove, the leftist faculty wouldn't play along.
That left Summers and his moderate Democrat backers on the board to choose between appeasement and a serious public battle. Ultimately, Summers and his allies backed down because they are part of the same national political coalition as the leftist faculty (which contributes heavily to the Democratic Party). Moderate Dems would be happy to reform the academy, but they don't have the stomach to treat leftist professors as open opponents. Only Republicans can do that. So in a way, we are seeing another iteration of the paralyzing split between DLC types and the fire-breathing base.
Also, Kurtz today also has an interesting piece up at NRO (I think I'm starting to like this man) where he asks the question, "What would it be like if Harvard’s faculty ran an entire country?", where he discusses Sweden's experience with the radical feminist agenda. Not very appetizing results, that's for sure.