One of many ways to gauge the political tilt of academia is to see how many cabinet members from past presidential administrations have obtained academic berths.
We did this exercise with the administration of George W. Bush and found that four out of 21 of his cabinet members wound up in the Ivory Tower. That would make about one-quarter of the last Republican president’s cabinet ensconced in academe: That’s actually an historical high for the GOP.
When we last played this “Whatever became of…?” game , we found that about half of President Clinton’s cabinet and one-third of President Carter’s left government service for university chairs, compared to a trio each from President Reagan’s two terms in office and his hapless successor’s single term in the White House:
Cabinet officials in academia (by administration)
Source: College and University web sites
Nearly as revealing as the ratios are the Republican appointees themselves who have actually garnered academic appointments. Condoleeza Rice at Stanford, who served as the Bush Administration’s last Secretary of State, is probably the most visible of these, particularly since she is now promoting her memoir of those tumultuous years.
Nonetheless, free market economist Elaine Chao, another scholarly lady, is indeed a resident scholar, at the Heritage Foundation, not at a university.
As well, a pair of less-ideologically inclined appointees in the Bush cabinet have also landed at universities: Susan Schwab , who served as U. S. trade representative, is a professor at the University of Maryland and Former White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten is a professor at Princeton.
“Ambassador Schwab is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration ( NAPA ),” according to her university website. Bolten “is an implementer rather than an innovator and is unlikely to push for daring new turns in policy,” the late Robert D. Novak  reported in 2005.
It is the fourth member of this quartet whose post-Bush Administration academic prestige is emblematic of a troubling trend in academia. In the faculty lounge, it appears, nothing succeeds like failure off-campus.
The Treasury secretary who engineered the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in the twilight of the Bush years, Henry Paulson, is a distinguished fellow at the University of Chicago. “It was big news on the three network newscasts on Wednesday night that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson basically admitted that the plan hasn’t worked, and that he has changed his mind about what is required to save the U.S. financial system,” Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid  reported on November 13, 2008. Apparently, Paulson’s “recovery is at hand” pronouncements that proved sadly mistaken are but a distant memory in academe.
The crowning irony, of course, is that this is the quarter that continues to blame the former president, who appointed Paulson, for the current economic crisis, even though W has long since retired to his ranch in Texas. Similarly, the man who could arguably be described as Mr. Paulson’s foreign policy doppelganger—George Tenet—provided the prediction of weapons of mass destruction that led President Bush into the Iraq War. “Our judgments have been consistent on this subject because the evidence has repeatedly pointed to continued Iraqi pursuit of WMD and efforts to conceal that pursuit from international scrutiny,” Tenet stated  at the time.
That Tenet’s prediction proved unfulfilled is a miscalculation the former chief executive is still taunted with but not Tenet. He is at Georgetown, where our forty-third president may only show up as a Halloween mask, in his most flattering incarnation.
By the way, one of Tenet’s colleagues at Georgetown is Madeleine Albright, who served as Secretary of State during the Clinton years. She moved into that job from her post at the UN where she taught the ambassador from Botswana how to do the Macarena .
That actually may have been one of her better moments. “The former ambassador for the Sudan to the United States, Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, told me personally that he had offered our government this terrorist catalog which would have been a silver bullet for the total destruction of bin Laden’s terrorist network, al Qaeda,” U. S. Representative Dana Rohrbacher  recalls. “Vanity Fair reports that the Sudanese Government’s offer to provide us this information was abruptly turned down by no one else other than Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.”
“That is right, the Secretary of State. Vanity Fair reports that she instructed that no one look at a copy of the material. It just reconfirms, I might add, what the Sudanese ambassador has told me personally. So in bold print let us add to the list of those responsible for 9/11 the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia .
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