Think Tanks as Military Bases

George W. Bush exploits captive audiences as well as any president. During the last four years, he has ritually gone to military bases to uncork his biggest inanities regarding foreign policy. There are some howlers that can only be tossed out in front of an audience forbidden to laugh. No one in a military audience can heckle without having his career ruined. Thus, there is no danger of the television clip of the president’s speech being marred by non-groveling responses.

But, given the number of absurdities that the Bush administration feels compelled to emit, there are simply not enough military bases within the District of Columbia.

The Bush team has found something almost as good – maybe better: Think tanks. When Bush needed a craven audience for a speech just before he invaded Iraq, Bush went to an American Enterprise Institute dinner – where his absurd rationales for the war were received as divine truths. Attorney General John Ashcroft kicked off his 2003 Patriot Act Salvation tour, replete with denials that the government was carrying out warrantless wiretaps, at AEI. Vice President Cheney hustled his hokum in recent months at both AEI and the Heritage Foundation.

Think tanks have become as servile as military bases, as far as applauding lies from the highest level of government. A decade or two ago, some people expected think tanks to revolutionize politics in Washington, bringing ideas and principles to sordid political clashes. Instead, at least some think tanks have become mere props for politicians.

I deal with the role of think tanks in the corruption of Washington in my new book, Attention Deficit Democracy.  


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5 Responses to Think Tanks as Military Bases

  1. Sunni Maravillosa January 6, 2006 at 5:13 pm #

    Hey, I’m feeling even more vindicated — thanks!

    I’m looking forward to the book, too. You’re a very good tease, you know.

  2. Bill Anderson January 6, 2006 at 10:03 pm #

    When John Ashcroft was leaving the Department of Justice (sic), he gave his farewell speech to the beaming audience at Heritage. Of course, he endorsed the fact that the USA has more people in prison (2.1 million) than any other country in the world (and a quarter of the world’s prisoners), all to wild applause.

  3. David K.Meller April 25, 2006 at 8:47 am #

    Dear Mr. Bovard,

    Of course “public policy foundations” or so-called think tanks support government policy—who do you think pays them?—What do you think would happen to AEI, or the “Heritage” Foundation and their ilk of so called “conservatives” if their resident toadies and stooges failed to pay proper homage to STUPID and his wretched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to say nothing of his appalling and socialistic “big government” domestic agendas? The more dimwitted (Stupid Party) wing of the political class would simply terminate their tax-exempt contributions.

    Forunately, There are still a few think tanks worthy of the name, Future of Freedom Foundation, International Society for Individual Liberty, The Randolph Bourne Foundation (operator of the truly superb website,, the Acton Intitute, The Foundatation for Economic Education, to cite the more explicitly libertarian ones.

    Some very interesting non-libertarian critics of Post-Constitutional America include the Rockford Institute, the New Century Foundation, and Our Way of As I said, they aren’t libertarian (yet), but they are intensely aware of the pathologies associated with Attention deficit democrazy and are certainly willing to listen to what you would have to say.

    At least people aren’t confusing the Bushevik “conservatives” today with libertarians as much as they did during the Nixon or Reagan years! That was an embarassment!

    Keep up the good work!!

    David K. Meller

  4. Jim April 25, 2006 at 9:58 pm #

    Mr. Meller –
    Thanks for the encouragement! Yes – there are fine think tanks out there.

    And as far as people confusing conservatives with libertarians – I don’t have high expectations of people making clear distinctions.

    At least until the next war.


  1. Enjoy Every Sandwich » Blog Archive » Week in Review - September 20, 2010

    […] Bovard comments on the next generation of captive audiences for the president’s blatherings- Think Tanks as Military Bases. I cannot stress enough how excellent this man is as a writer and as someone putting […]