Say Goodby to a Hack

Chris DeMuth, the head of AEI, is announced he’s stepping down from the position in the WSJ Op-Ed page (article free here – at AEI). His farewell is a call to crankery:

Every one of the right-of-center think tanks was founded in a spirit of opposition to the established order of things. Opposition is the natural proclivity of the intellectual (it’s what leads some smart people to become intellectuals rather than computer programmers), and is of course prerequisite to criticism and devotion to reform. And for conservatives, opposition lasted a very long time–in domestic policy, from the New Deal through 1980.

These circumstances meant that the think tanks in their formative years attracted many contrarian characters who were strongly disaffected by some aspect of politics or policy. One of AEI’s founders was Raymond Moley, the FDR brain-truster who coined the term “New Deal” and then became disillusioned with the project (a liberal mugged by reality long before the 1960s, he was a proto-neoconservative). Milton Friedman was an active AEIer when he was still considered a crackpot in polite academic circles. Robert Bork and Jeane Kirkpatrick worked at AEI long before they became public personalities.

You ask me, Milton Friedman still was a crackpot when he died this year – none of his ideas, no matter how widely adopted actually worked. Robert Bork is so embarrassing as an intellectual and a human being that when he wasn’t serving as a hit-man for Nixon during the Saturday Night Massacre, he wrote execrable legal opinions on reverting the constitution to a some antebellum ideal. He also cites Charles Murray, of Bell Curve fame, the most recent leader in the effort to abuse science to justify racism.

This isn’t surprising talk from someone who championed the conversion of AEI from a conservative, but scholarly organization to a promoter of catastrophic idiocy. Basically, if you want to know who thought up the Iraq war – it’s these idiots. DeMuth takes credit for the surge in the essay:

Sometimes the moment comes with astonishing speed. Last December, a group of military specialists closeted themselves at AEI to see if they could devise a new strategy for the war in Iraq, one that might have a reasonable prospect of victory following three years of catastrophic mistakes. Their plan was adopted within weeks by the White House, Pentagon, and new commanders in the field, with all credit due to our soldiers in action for their great success to date.

But what he fails to remind us is that the strategy of the invasion and subsequent attempt to turn Iraq into a libertarian paradise was largely the intellectually aborted brainchild of AEI “thinkers”.

Timothy Noah has the full scoop of the legacy of AEI in the DeMuth years in Slate. It’s a must-read for people to understand why I consider the global-warming denying, torture-promoting, stem-cell restricting, ultra-right, racist, and downright stupid nonsense coming from AEI to be the height of organized denialism.