Another Award for a Tyrant Apologist

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?


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29 Responses to Another Award for a Tyrant Apologist

  1. Bob May 9, 2007 at 4:44 pm #

    It’s striking, isn’t it? I suppose every generation must learn what “freedom” means.

    In context, I think this is what happens in a militarized society. Was it FDR I wonder, who brought all this on, with his at-the-time-unpopular war against Germany? And since then we’ve not had a leader who could reverse the tendency toward empirism. I want to say “fascism,” rather than “militarism,” but I suspect they are the same. Perhaps “empirism” is the best.

    Good eye, James. Thanks for bringing it up. We have some very sick schools…

  2. Jim May 9, 2007 at 4:50 pm #

    Do you mean FDR or Wilson, as far as an unpopular war against Germany?

    There was far more resistance and doubt during the First World War than the Second.

    Hitler declared war on the US a few days after Pearl Harbor – before the US declared war on Germany.

  3. Scott May 9, 2007 at 5:36 pm #

    If this regime is ever held to count for their actions, we can pick out the ones for scorn based on who gave them accolades. Bush giving Tenet a medal for his “good deeds.” I guess being a sycophantic toady has its upside!

  4. Original Steve May 9, 2007 at 6:17 pm #

    Didnt Tony Blair get something from these guys around the time of the “great victory” in Iraq?

  5. Jim May 9, 2007 at 8:17 pm #

    Aside from the autographed knee pads?

  6. W Baker May 9, 2007 at 9:19 pm #

    I think it might be this simple: the politicians need the so-called scholastics for cerebral validation and legitimacy and the pointy-heads lust after the politicians power. — Think about it. What if you sat in a 15 x 15 office all day long, supposedly thinking great thoughts, but you couldn’t quite put them into effect…? You’d made yourself philosopher/king in the morning and by lunch you were chomping bagels with the hirsute women-studies teacher down the hall in the drab break area…

    Well, I’ll tell you what you’d do, you’d fashion yourself a comfy set of “knee pads” – as Jim says – and nothing makes for good fellatio like a British accent – and you’d waddle up to the nearest power broker…

    And, and, love would happen!

  7. Jim May 9, 2007 at 9:24 pm #

    Wes, you know a helluva lot more about British accents than I do.

    I’ll stick to the relics of 17th century French that got passed down the family.

  8. W Baker May 9, 2007 at 9:30 pm #


    Just passing along life experiences from a Navy hitch – and that’s with an “h”! Anyway, for decorum’s sake let’s just assume I was talking about how Tony the Tiger wowed our our groveling Congress post 9/11.

    Thank goodness the bastard announcing that he’s stepping down tomorrow. Now we’ve got a school-marmish Scotsman to look forward to!!

  9. Jim May 9, 2007 at 9:35 pm #

    I guess what I always heard about the lasses of Southhampton must be true.

    On the other hand, at least where I was raised back in the mountains, an accent might be important during dinner conversation. But the activity you referenced is not one in which I enjoy hearing lengthy soliloquies.

    As they say in law school, sparkling wit is no substitute for due diligence.

  10. W Baker May 9, 2007 at 9:49 pm #

    Okay, my belly’s hurting from laughing. I’ll stop the knee-pad allusions and admit that I was a young man once…young and obviously paying attention to the wrong things!

    This whole subject put me in mind of a conversation with Mel Bradford where he mentioned that one of the greatest threats to the intellectual and political life in this country was the rise of think tanks.

  11. Marc May 9, 2007 at 9:50 pm #

    Mansfield apparently views rights as grants or privileges to be revoked, when necessary, by the supreme leader. Don’t worry though, government SHOULD then be expected to act honorably. Welcome to pre-Magna Carta feudal America. Jim, is this a new branch of neocon-artistry or something alien to even the Straussians?

  12. Jim May 9, 2007 at 9:51 pm #

    Well, hell, back to the high road.

    What did Bradford say on this? I am very curious on this. I suspect he may be right, though I may be jaded by geographical proximity.

  13. Xenos May 9, 2007 at 10:25 pm #

    That this man is in any way associated with Thomas Jefferson (I assume that’s who the lecture is named after) sickens me.

  14. Jim May 9, 2007 at 10:42 pm #

    The lecture was named for Thomas Jefferson initially.

    But it should be renamed for Rep. William Jefferson, who was reelected last year by Louisiana voters after the FBI raided his house and “found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers.”

    Jefferson at least had the decency to put his loot on ice, while intellectuals like Mansfield… I’ll draw the curtain of mercy here.

  15. Orville H. Larson May 10, 2007 at 12:48 am #

    Yes, an awful lot of neofascist, intellectually-constipated bastards are crawling out from beneath their slime-covered rocks these days to advocate one-man rule, suppression of civil liberties, and the like. Neocons, of course, can’t tolerate opposition to their perpetual warmongering. Thus, they lust for rule by One Big Neocon, or something.

  16. Original Steve May 10, 2007 at 4:42 am #

    You know what Jefferson said when they opened his deep freeze?

    “Curses! FOILED again.”

  17. Paul McMahon May 10, 2007 at 9:07 am #

    Curious about your reference to Thomas Sowell — where and when did he suggest the need for a military coup? And against what government?

  18. Jim May 10, 2007 at 9:30 am #

    Sowell wrote recently on National Review Online: “When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.”

    This is also linked at

    Sowell was clearly thinking of the US government when he wrote this.

  19. Adam S. May 10, 2007 at 11:41 am #

    I hate to chime in so late in the debate. But the Sowell comment is the straw that broke this camel’s back. Thomas Sowell is a white conservative in a black libertarian’s body. The corps of his work has drifted from a light libertarian to a de rigeur corporate conservative. There is nothing to redeem him intellectually from the rest of today’s neo-conservatives, save for a few good books (e.g. Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Affirmative Action around the World) he is not that interesting a writer. I believe he should be eulogized while still alive as a latter-day analog of Bill Buckley, Jr., someone who pretends to be conservative or anti-statist but at his core is a squishy socialist and moralizer who will happily dispense his vision of the world at the end of a bayonet point. What is needed right now in American politics is someone who is truly radical, not “reformist” or an overly accommodating “moderate”. How many different ways do we have to try failed policy before we see it doesn’t works? As Sowell himself argued “When you put out a fire, what do you replace it with?”

  20. Saturdaynightspecial May 10, 2007 at 12:25 pm #

    What’s the problem: ours is a society where even cowards are heroes (sooner or later.) Don’t worry y’all, you’ll get your chance. But first you have to wait for all the dogs and cats to get their hero awards. Can you imagine a cat saving someones’s life – can you imagine the media calling it a hero ? If you can then your imagination is just like the Shrub’s (sorry).

    Are any of you like me; whenever those awards are handed out do you start to blush with embarassment ? Are you happy you are not the one up there on the receiving end ?

  21. Jim May 10, 2007 at 1:07 pm #

    Here’s a great example of one person who refused to accept a prize —- from today’s Washington Post –

    For Blair, a Legacy Overshadowed
    Briton’s Decade of Achievements Dimmed by Embrace of Bush and Iraq War

    By Kevin Sullivan
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Thursday, May 10, 2007; Page A01

    LONDON — In July 2003, the U.S. Congress voted to award Prime Minister Tony Blair a Congressional Gold Medal for being “a staunch and steadfast ally of the United States of America.” Since George Washington earned the first medal in 1776, the legislature’s most prestigious award has been presented only 134 times, to figures such as Ulysses S. Grant, Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa.

    Nearly four years later, Blair has not picked up his prize.

    “He is a very busy guy,” said a spokesman at Blair’s 10 Downing Street office.

    But critics, and even some supporters, contend that Blair is unwilling to drape a shiny U.S. medal around his neck just now because it would be too glaring a reminder of his extremely close — and poisonously unpopular — relationship with President Bush and the Iraq war, for which his critics dismiss him as “Bush’s poodle.”

  22. Dirk W. Sabin May 10, 2007 at 2:02 pm #

    “Boadly appealing way”…eh?
    I can see them all now, standing resolute in the face of a Snake in Every Woodpile, singing that old Neo-Con Spiritual “I Want to Be a Sunbeam For The Unitary Executive”. Talk about “Faith Based”. These smoky dingbats are one step away from Bull Worship. Let us now swoon at the sight of the Red Heifer.

    Conferring some kind of pro-liberty award on these Hee-Haw crypto Fascists in the name of Jefferson is like confering an award for serious thinking on Pee Wee Herman in the name of Cicero.

    One simply has to laugh, albeit with tears at the idea of some bored Red-Baiter at NR writing some fulsome piece of boo-hooing doggerel begging for a military coup.

    But, the public is deleriously impervious to the tawdry shame of it all, prefering not to accept the fact that their beloved government is led by abject morons and cunning swine. Did anyone catch Handsome Mitt’s swooning speech about the absolute need for the United States to be the “Lone Superpower”? I suppose like Candidate Hunter, he also believes “Precision Munitions” to be the “best of America”.
    Mitt’s passionate speech of checking the boxes only outdone by Secretary Gates using the analogy of “Faucets running” to describe his many streams of military funding. Poor Mr. Gates, obviously not thinking far enough ahead to know that faucets are generally connected to drains,…. where copious amounts of whatever is being dispensed is lost forever, after a brief period as sewerage. A man with such a tin ear for sweet metaphor should never be trusted with “defense”.

    The public, lost in a swarming sea of “isms” has been properly softened up for a rogue wave to come along and “give it to them good and hard”.
    George W., His Titanic Majesty is stearing steadily away, gunning the engines of the Good Ship White House toward the ice, confident that it cannot possibly sink as designed. His Attorney General quoted as telling him the idea of ice as being dangerous to be a quaint notion while Ensign Wolfie whispers that it aint ice, it’s cotton candy. Meanwhile, Cheney is poop-side, playing a brisk round of Stone -Paper -Scissors with Condi whilst the Cruise Treasurer is occupied by chasing cockroaches about the empty coffers.

    The Boys in Hell just must be laughing themselves silly. An empire has not been this easy to bring down for a good long while….if , in fact, forever.

  23. Alpowolf May 10, 2007 at 3:17 pm #

    The medals do make it easy to spot the brown-nosers. Hell, festoon them with rows and rows of medals like the generals in the old Soviet Union. Then in addition to being conspicuous, they will also look ridiculous.

  24. Jim May 10, 2007 at 6:37 pm #

    You think these dudes look respectable now?

  25. Jim May 10, 2007 at 6:39 pm #

    Adam S. – Sowell also wrote an excellent book in the early 1980s – Knowledge & Decisions.

    He has been at the Hoover Institution for a long time, and perhaps laptop-bombardier-itis proved infectious.

  26. Kevin Carson May 10, 2007 at 11:50 pm #

    “I’m curious – what other private or government awards or laurels have gone to major-league Bush administration rascals or their apologists?”

    Um, has Bush installed his horse in the Senate yet?

  27. Jim May 11, 2007 at 7:45 am #

    Great question!

    Orrin Hatch is a horse’s ass,but he was there before Bush took office.

  28. Bob May 15, 2007 at 1:43 pm #

    I don’t know if this is of any interest, but it seems relevant:

    The 2005 Nobel Prize for economics went to Thomas Schelling,

    What it doesn’t say at his Nobel autobio or in his Wikipedia entry is that as a consultant for the RAND corporation in the 1960s, he advised the Air Force on planning Operation Rolling Thunder, a bombing operation which killed several thousand people.

  29. Carly June 4, 2007 at 11:38 am #

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