Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield gave the esteemed Jefferson lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities last night in Washington.
According to the NEH website, “The Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities recognizes an individual who has made significant scholarly contributions to the humanities and who has the ability to communicate the knowledge and wisdom of the humanities in a broadly appealing way. Established in 1972, the Jefferson Lecture is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual and public achievement in the humanities.”
Mansfield would be a more appropriate choice for a Robespierre Lecture than for a Jefferson Lecture. Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Mansfield proclaimed that the president is above the rule of law – but reassured readers that “”A free government should show its respect for freedom even when it has to take it away.”
And, since the president is entitled to dictatorial powers, how would we know it is a “free government”? Presumably because it would be a crime to assert otherwise.
I am struck by how many advocates of dicatorship or foreign aggression have recently received federal laurels. Bush presented the National Humanities Award to the Hoover Institution last November, whose star columnist Thomas Sowell recently suggested the need for a military coup. Pro-Iraq war professors Fouad Ajami, Bernard Lewis, and Shelby Steele also garnered the award. (Mansfield received this award in 2004). Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Paul Bremer, George Tenet, Tommy Franks, Gen. Richard Myers, and various writers who fervently applauded attacking Iraq.
American intellectual life would be cleaner if politicians were banned from heaping accolades on their bootlickers and tools. (Admittedly, private groups would continue giving such awards – the Bradley Foundation recently feted John Bolton and the Claremont Institute will soon salute Don Rumsfeld).
I’m curious – what other private or government awards or laurels have gone to major-league Bush administration rascals or their apologists?