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September 13, 2007

Rumsfeld goes to Cali
Posted by Moira Whelan

For those who missed it, Rumsfeld is taking a post at Stanford.

This is emblematic of my frustration with the "Foreign Policy Community." Now, I don't have any doubts that Rumsfeld's experience is something people can learn from, and I trust that students and colleagues of his will put it in the category of "what not to do," or maybe see it as textbook if you're into dismantling countries and constitutions...but to me, that's hardly the issue.

Think tanks, academic institutions, etc will start picking up these Bushies for two reasons.

First, they get to call themselves bipartisan and therefore allow the "liberal bias on campus" argument to be seen as reasonable, when it frankly isn't. We all know that campuses force people to THINK which according to some conservatives means LIBERAL.

Second, they draw money from foundations and individual donors. Think tanks and universities are no different than law firms in this respect. They bring people on to be rain makers. Even liberal donors will pay to sit in a room and tell Don Rumsfeld what they think about him.

Here's the problem: neither one of these things prioritizes the substantive contributions of the individual.

Agree or disagree with their politics, there are cases where this has been done right: Lee Hamilton over at Woodrow Wilson Center is a hands on leader. So is John Hamre over at CSIS and Richard Haas at CFR. The list goes on of "formers" from both sides putting themselves in a different environment and working just as hard as they did in their old jobs. They enjoy the chance to stop chasing the news of the day and focus instead on parts of the world and new trends being ignored, and more importantly  offering a chance for younger folks thinking about this stuff to have a paycheck while they do the heavy lifting and learn about the world they want to run one day. But be sure, even these resumes are not  lost on those making the decisions.

But when "thinking, writing and advising on important matters of public policy" is the best you can do for a job description of someone who just recently served as the boss of America's largest single employer--the Defense Department...I think we can all see clearly what is happening here. Expect it to happen more as people start leaving, and as think tankers pile into the (hopefully) new Democratic Administration.

A friend of mine once referred to think tanks as "IDP camps for the team out of power." As someone who's been there, I'd say that's about right (for the comfy confines of the Beltway anyway)...but those of us who've lived this life knew the difference between us and the Don Rumsfeld types---the "working hard" vs the "hardly working."


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"On the grounds of intellectual judgment and moral character, he would seem to be a markedly inappropriate choice," Bernstein said.

I'd say that he's about half right. Rumsfeld ought to be strung up for his moral failures but, since he apparently won't be, he does have a sharp intellect and so I think that he needs to be heard from especially as he professes to be against "the war on terror". Also he has repeatedly talked about the threat of a new caliphate extending from Indonesia to Spain, and this is a prophecy that needs to be addressed and hopefully dismissed.

One might ask, if Rumsfeld doesn't want to retire, where exactly is he going to go?

He goes to a university or think tank, he suffers the vilification above. He goes into the private sector, he suffers vilification as being permanently-considered-but-conveniently-never-demonstrated corrupt and bringing government influence into the private sector. Some people have an answer for everything. :(

Me, I'm happy he's at Stanford. Let him speak and teach and write while other evaluate and consider... the marketplace of ideas, right guys? Or do we liberals not believe in that anymore?

"We all know that campuses force people to THINK which according to some conservatives means LIBERAL."

Seriously? Maybe you should send Atrios your resume. Isn't this more his style?

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