Here is an example of why the Bush Institute would damage SMU

Alan Wolfe reviewed Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. Note the final sentence. Will this be the kind of “scholarship” produced by the Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University?

At one point in “The Enemy at Home,” D’Souza appeals to “decent liberals and Democrats” to join him in rejecting the American left. Although he does not name me as one of them, I sense he is appealing to people like me because I write for The New Republic, a liberal magazine that distances itself from leftism. So let this “decent” liberal make perfectly clear how thoroughly indecent Dinesh D’Souza is. Like his hero Joe McCarthy, he has no sense of shame. He is a childish thinker and writer tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism. His book is a national disgrace, a sorry example of a publishing culture more concerned with the sensational than the sensible. People on the left, especially those who have been subjects of D’Souza’s previous books, will shrug their shoulders at his latest screed. I look forward to the reaction from decent conservatives and Republicans who will, if they have any sense of honor, distance themselves, quickly and cleanly, from the Rishwain research scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Read the entire review here.

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2 Responses to Here is an example of why the Bush Institute would damage SMU

  1. Editor says:

    Here is a related email discussion, reposted with the permission of all participants:

    From: Alexis McCrossen
    Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2007 20:58:58 -0600
    Subject: Response to Ghosh and Fomby: Are reputable Universities the right place for partisan think-tanks?

    Colleagues,
    I am sorry if I am trying anyone’s email patience, but I wanted to chime in that the issue is not about the conservative orientation of the Bush Institute; it could be slanted toward true left politics of yore and still be wrong for SMU or any University. The issue at hand is about partisan think-tanks affilliating with institutions of higher education. A University, with a few exceptions that I doubt SMU would want to emulate, is non-partisan, it appoints faculty on the basis of expertise; a think tank on the other hand, appoints Fellows on the basis of ideology. How could we possibly blend the two, especially without University oversight?

    I think Professor Ghosh’s questions are good. I cannot see how we as a community of scholars could shape the Bush Institute “to ensure that the reputation of the University will be enhanced.” President Turner has made it clear that faculty at SMU won’t like what the Fellow publish; if that is the case, I am sure faculty at other Universities will not be impressed either, and therefore our reputation will decline at least amongst our peers. What are the possible consequences of a lessening of reputation amongst our peers? 1) More difficulty getting articles and books through peer-review; 2) More difficulty winning prizes; 3) More difficulty winning fellowships and grants in national competitions; 4) More difficulty attaining invitations to conferences, campuses, and other venues where we can showcase our work; 5) More difficulty recruiting top-notch graduate students; 6) More difficulty recruiting top-notch faculty; 7) Continued difficulty recruiting (and retaining I might add) top-notch administrators.

    In response to Professor Fomby’s email, I would concur that there is no doubt that think tanks of a range of partisan commitments have made tremendous contributions to American public and intellectual life. Thankfully we all have access to the works that fellows in partisan think-tanks have produced through the books and articles they publish, their appearances in the electronic media, and their lectures given across the nation in a variety of settings. We have had access to the work of Fellows at partisan think-tanks without having one on our campus, and will continue to do so far into the future. But why should we potentially trade in our good name(s) for association with what might in the end not be sound or reputable scholarship? And why do we need to trade on anyone else’s work, especially that done under the aegis of an entirely different sort of project than the one we signed up for when we entered the academy?[For an instance of unsound and disreputable scholarship recently produced at the Hoover Institution, see tomorrow’s NYT’s book review of the Hoover Institution’s Rishwain research scholar, Dinesh D’Souza’s latest effort, titled, tellingly, The Enemy at Home. In addition to being riddled with factual errors, to actually naming the names of who he considers to be the “enemy at home” (a enemy far more dangerous than Osama bin Laden), to even stooping so low as to assert that Joseph McCarthy “was largely right,” the reviewer concludes that D’Souza “is a childish thinker and writer tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism. His book is a national disgrace, a sorry example of a publishing culture more concerned with the sensational than the sensible.” Is this what a University should seek to foster if it can avoid it? Surely Stanford University’s “deciders” in 1930 when they accepted Hoover’s initial endowment for an Institution for the study of war of peace, had no idea what partisan think tanks would evolve into, how American politics would evolve past the point of rancor, how American higher education would flourish in the post-World War II era, particularly institutions devoted to the hard sciences (as Stanford was and is): that is to say, they did not know that three-quarters of a century later their name would be associated with sloppy, dishonest, and extremist publications.]

    So, to my mind, the question at hand is why does a University need to host a partisan think-tank? Why do so few Universities, especially those ranked in the top 100, host partisan think-tanks? If the Hoover Institute is such a great thing for Stanford, then why in 1984 did its President Donald Kennedy, stand up to the Reagan administration (which was arguably at the height of its popularity) over issues related to Reagan’s presidential library, ultimately resulting in Stanford’s failure to land the Reagan Library? [ One article about the controversy at Stanford explains: “Further exacerbating the conflict, Mr. Reagan insisted that the public affairs center of his library complex be run by Hoover [the Hoover Institute], independent of the university interference. The public affairs center had special significance to Mr. Reagan since he envisioned utilizing it as a basis for his public life after White House. In January 1984, then Stanford President Donald Kennedy declared that academic governance of the public affairs center was ‘essential to the university.'”]

    With thanks for your collegiality,
    Alexis

    FROM SHUBHA GHOSH SENT SATURDAY:

    I think the comparison with the Hoover Institution is a helpful one. There is no denying that the Institution has produced some stimulating and controversial research and has hosted some of the most distinguished conservative economists and social and political scientists in the world. There is also a good argument to be made that the Hoover Institution may have helped (among so many other factors) to build Stanford’s reputation as one of the premier institutions in the world. The questions, to me, are (1) whether the Bush Institute, as it is being conceived, will help to accelerate SMU’s distinction as a university and (2) if the answer to (1) is no, is there some way that we, as a community, can shape the institution to ensure that the reputation of the University will be enhanced?

    Shubha Ghosh, Ph.D., J.D.
    Professor of Law
    SMU Dedman School of Law

    ______________________________

    From: Fomby, Tom
    Sent: Sat 1/20/2007 6:10 PM
    Subject: RE: Today’s NYT editorials about Bush Library, Museum and Institute (Tom Fomby: See Hoover Institute Links)

    Dear Colleagues: For those of you who doubt the academic value of a conservative think tank please review the following links to the Hoover Institute located on the campus of Stanford University:

    http://www.hoover.org/bios/awards

    http://www.hoover.org/bios/?sortBy=name&c=y

    The field of economics has greatly benefitted from the research supported by the Hoover Institute. The current fellows whose research I have read and benefitted from are Gary Becker, Robert Barro, Milton Friedman (deceased), Robert Hall, Eric Hanushek, Caroline Hoxby, Kenneth Judd, Ed Lazear, Kevin Murphy, Douglass C. North, Paul Romer, Thomas Sargent, George P. Shultz, Thomas Sowell, Michael Spence, John B. Taylor, and David Wise among others. (Please see the second link above for additional bibliographical information on these fellows.)

    I would also draw your attention to the governance structure of the Hoover Institute. Stanford President John L. Hennessy is only one of 136 members of the Insitute’s Board of Overseers. The Board has five subcommittees under its purview. Surely 136 members allows for a diversity of opinion and minimizes the probability that the Board becomes ideologically bound. Although the Hoover Insitute resides on the Stanford Campus, you can see from the composition of the Board mentioned above that the Hoover Institute is essentially independent of Stanford University and its Board of Trustees (except through President Hennessy and the few (if any) members of the Stanford Board of Trustees who happen to also be members of the Hoover Institute’s Board of Overseers.)

    Professor Tom Fomby, Department of Economics, SMU and President of the Faculty Senate, 1999 – 2000.

  2. Greetings from Louisville, Kentucky. Many people across the country are watching the debate that you are having. My hope, for what little it’s worth, is that SMU’s Administration includes professors in the negotiating process.

    Is there any chance the Bush Institute could just be located in Dallas or Waco, away from SMU?

    If that’s not possible, I feel that academic oversight is essential.

    In any case, I send best wishes,

    Benjamin Hufbauer
    (who for good or ill happens to have studied presidential libraries)

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