The Bush think tank: A giant Trojan horse among the Ponies?
Andrew Weaver and George Crawford
SMU Daily Campus
A large number of faculty, loyal alumni and United Methodist Church members are deeply concerned about the proposed package that includes the Bush Library and think tank at SMU. According to President Gerald Turner’s Jan. 5 letter, the operation of the think tank will not be accountable to SMU or the United Methodist Church that owns the University. It will report to the Bush Foundation.
There needs to be an open debate about the project, both on the campus and among the 11 million members of The United Methodist Church. SMU is the only university among the 123 educational institutions that are related to the UMC that has the Methodist name in it. What the university chooses to do will reflect on the church that founded the university.
According to the New York Daily News, “President Bush and his truest believers are about to launch their final campaign-an eye-popping, half-billion-dollar drive for the Bush presidential library” (1-2). Bush loyalists have already identified wealthy heirs, Arab nations and captains of industry as potential “mega” donors who can give $10 to $20 million each, and they are pressing for a formal site announcement expected early this year (1-2).
The President’s allies believe they need enormous funds to shape how history views Bush’s legacy. A Bush insider said, “The more [money] you have, the more influence [on history] you can exert.” Much of the funding will be used to build a “legacy-polishing” think tank, which several Bush insiders have called the Institute for Democracy. Bush’s institute will hire neo-conservative scholars and “give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President’s policies” (1-2).
Former senior vice president at the Heritage Foundation Burton Yale Pines has called think tanks like the one proposed at SMU “the shock troops of the conservative revolution” (3). Think tanks are like universities minus the systems of peer review and other mechanisms that academia uses to promote diversity of thought and honest intellectual debate. Ethical academics are expected to conduct their research first and draw their conclusions second, but this process is often reversed at free-standing think tanks. In general, research from think tanks is ideologically driven in accordance with the interests of its wealthy benefactors, in this case “mega” donor Bush loyalists.