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Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 5: So much for the American Enterprise Institute being a “think” tank

By Joe Romm on March 29, 2010 at 11:36 am

"Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 5: So much for the American Enterprise Institute being a “think” tank"

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Bush advisor slams AEI: “The Closing Of The Conservative Mind”

http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/shrunkthegop1.jpgSure the American Enterprise Institute is still crazy with climate denial and delay after all these years.  And sure it recently compared EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Clint Eastwood and carbon polluters to criminals.  But it always retained the semblance of a serious think tank.

Heck, back in October, Steven F. Hayward, “the F.K. Weyerhaeuser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute” wrote:

The brain waves of the American right continue to be erratic, when they are not flat-lining.

He’s still got a job at AEI.  I guess that sort of truth is okay to utter.

But while AEI scholars can question the lack of ideas in the entire conservative “movement,” apparently they can’t question GOP tactics, as TP’s Faiz Shakir explains in Bartlett: Frum’s Dismissal Shows ‘All That Matters Now Is Absolute Subservient Adherence’ To The GOP:

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum “” who famously authored the phrase “axis of evil” “” has been unceremoniously forced out from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a right wing, neoconservative think tank. Frum’s dismissal resulted from criticism he directed at the Republican Party for staking a failed strategic posture of “no compromise” on health care. As a result, “it’s Waterloo all right: ours,” Frum wrote to his fellow conservatives.

Right-wing donors of AEI began raising concerns about Frum. So, AEI president Arthur Brooks took Frum out to lunch this week to tell him that, while he valued “a diversity of opinion,” he wanted to downgrade Frum to a nonsalaried position. Frum declined the offer and posted a letter of resignation on his personal website.

Bruce Bartlett, a former economic adviser to President Bush, suffered a similar fate as Frum. After leaving the Bush White House, Bartlett authored a book titled Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. That book led to his dismissal in 2005 as a senior fellow at a conservative Texas-based think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis

On his personal blog, Bartlett referred to Frum’s departure from AEI as “the closing of the conservative mind.” He elaborated further this morning on C-Span’s Washington Journal:

BARTLETT: [W]hat’s really going on here is that adherence to conservative principles has been – is out the window now. All that matters now is absolute subservient adherence to the Republican Party line of the day. And that’s what got David into trouble. He was critical, not even of Republican principles, but of Republican tactics on the health care debate. And now, even that is considered, you know, you can’t say that or you lose your job.

Watch it:

On his blog, Bartlett rips AEI: “The organization has lost an enormous amount of credibility by firing him and hiring Republican political hacks like Marc Thiessen. That’s a statement I will never need to retract.”

The Wall Street Journal criticized Frum earlier this week: “Mr. Frum now makes his living as the media’s go-to basher of fellow Republicans, which is a stock Beltway role. But he’s peddling bad revisionist history that would have been even worse politics.”

I think it has been obvious for a while that the conservative movement should be renamed the conservative stagnation:

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10 Responses to Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 5: So much for the American Enterprise Institute being a “think” tank

  1. Zan says:

    LOL Re: “Honey I shrunk the GOP”! The headline alone….

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Who Comes Up With These Notions? And Who Believes Them?

    (On this and other recent matters …)

    The notion that seems to be floating around lately—i.e., that excellent thinking, combined with a respect for fact and science, is “unpatriotic”—is an impressively twisted one. It can only be outdone, perhaps, by the notion that an appeal to Judeo-Christian values (and other religious values) supports a view that it’s fine and moral to leave 40 million people without access to affordable and effective health care.

    Let’s see if I have this right, as some far right people would apparently have us believe:

    Scientific understanding is unpatriotic?

    Good thinking is unpatriotic?

    Good religious values support an approach that leaves tens of millions of people to suffer or die prematurely?

    Who comes up with these ideas anyhow? I mean, really! And who is so credulous to believe these ideas when they are touted by whoever comes up with them, whoever talks loudest on the radio, and whoever sobs in front of his blackboard while lecturing us on TV about the hidden evil message that he sees in the term ‘social justice’?

    George Orwell himself would be disturbed and “impressed” at how far human ingenuity can go in concocting bizarre ideas like this, and at the degree to which human credulity can be counted on to believe them.

    Unfortunately for us all, as Terence once observed, “There is a demand in these days for men who can make wrong appear right.”

    Nowadays, is the easiest way to get people to think poorly to tell them that doing so is the patriotic thing to do? “Keep using more oil! You and I and the climate and Middle Eastern governments and future human generations will all be happy campers! Believe you me! Whatever you do, don’t listen to those science folks. They’re unpatriotic!”

    Nowadays, is the easiest way to get people to think that we shouldn’t care (or do anything about the fact ) that tens of millions of people are without access to affordable health care to tell them that God would not want us to care or to do anything about it?

    On the matter of science, do most Americans understand (or not?) that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin both had a very deep respect for science and for excellent reasoning? Do people understand that Washington and others admired them for that? Do people understand that the French (who helped us achieve independence) admired Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson immensely and that Franklin and Jefferson were probably the two most admired Americans internationally, in large part because of their thinking and scientific abilities?

    That said, what amazes me is not that some people have tried to twist things all up, and call up down and down up. Some people always try to twist things up, for various reasons. Instead, what amazes me is the number of people who believe the garbage!

    What also amazes me, and worries me, is that it takes so long before people figure out how to “shine light on” the Emperors With No Clothes who concoct such notions, how to throw cold water on these phantom-like ideas, and how to get these notions to dissolve like the Wicked Witch.

    Of course, before you can throw cold water on a bad phantom-like notion, you must see it and understand it and “name” it first. Then the cold water can be thrown effectively.

    So let’s be clear: Science is not unpatriotic. Excellent thinking and reasoning are not unpatriotic. Responsible religious values do not support leaving tens of millions of people without healthcare, to suffer and sometimes die prematurely. And phantom-like notions that say or suggest otherwise ought to be called into question, appropriately challenged, and appropriately dissolved, intellectually speaking. The sooner, the better.

    Sigh,

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  3. SecularAnimist says:

    The idea that is at least implicitly stated by Bartlett and Frum, that at one point in the past the American Enterprise Institute represented “adherence to conserative principles”, is bogus.

    The AEI has never, ever, ever been anything but a corporate propaganda mill masquerading as a “conservative” think tank — churning out blatantly dishonest pseudo-science and pseudo-ideology to advance the ruthless, rapacious, relentless greed of the corporations that pay them to lie.

    The AEI has never represented any “principles” of any kind. They are bought-and-paid-for corporate shills. They have no more principles than a TV actor hired to do voice-overs for an SUV commercial.

  4. Bill W says:

    Joe McCarthy is smirking, rather than rolling over, in his grave. The worst parts of the 1950s are making a comeback.

    Jeff, you probably won’t sway many (any) GOP minds using Jefferson as an example, I’m sad to say. After all, the Texas Board of Education just removed him from their textbooks because he wasn’t religious enough. Franklin was also more of a deist than a Christian (which is not to say that current GOP values reflect anything I’d recognize as Christianity. I’m pretty sure Jesus would be chasing them out of the temple).

  5. Bruce says:

    You may be jumping to a conclusion.
    There’s been some mud thrown about whether Frum was taking care of ordinary business at AEI.
    It may be that the “Waterloo” column was a last straw.
    Or it may be that the mud that’s been thrown about his work habits is a smokescreen.
    What are the work habits of their other “scholars”?

    [JR: Listen to the video. Read Bartlett's columns. "Last straw" i think misses the point. Why was it a straw at all?]

  6. mike roddy says:

    Secular Animist, you’ve got a point- I don’t see a lot of qualitative differences here, except for one: All Republicans are now expected to click their heels and mouth whatever comes out of headquarters- and Sarah Palin is a pretty good indicator of what the latest talking points are. This is what’s scary to me, because if they ever get in power it will be people like her and Herr Boehner issuing the orders.

  7. Sou says:

    It would be illuminating (to me at least) to see just how consistent Republican policies are. For example, preparing a chart of the Republican stance on the following, in terms of laissez faire vs market regulation vs taxpayer funded support, listing specifics such as subsidies, regulation, trade barriers to imports etc.

    Agriculture – I understand much of the farmer lobby is conservative politically, but insists on trade barriers where they are uncompetitive, and subsidies, even getting paid for not producing. But I’m unclear on Republican stance.

    Health – I’m not sure whether Republicans support the current Medicare support. But clearly the sick should pay for getting better, even if by being sick they have lost their income. Let those who lose their jobs and therefore their health cover die or live on the streets. It’s called survival of the fittest (how does this fit with creationists who are Republicans?).

    Defense – government funded international wars and domestic defense – unclear on ‘free market’ policy re mercenaries, weapons development and trading etc.

    Law and order – all sorts of issues here, including popularity vs competence as measured by corporate donations (and/or bribes?). And surely if it was wanted by the populace, it would all be provided by the private sector.

    Education – shouldn’t this all be able to be provided by the private sector on a pay per class basis? Or do republicans think the poor taxpayer should fund the schooling of other people’s children?

    Roads, rail, water, electricity etc – again – shouldn’t all this be provided by the private sector? Anyone who wants a footpath or road should pay each time for the privilege. Bring back toll gates and let the market determine where the roads go and how they are maintained.

    Oil and gas – surely the Republicans wouldn’t dream of public funding to support offshore drilling, Alaskan pipelines etc.

    Prisons – lock everyone up who commits a misdemeanour, but make those locked up pay for their board and keep. If they can’t afford their board and keep, let them loose. I’m sure that would be the position of Republicans, wouldn’t it? We couldn’t have the taxpayer paying for the living expenses of criminals, could we? That doesn’t seem consistent with a free market philosophy.

    I’m not sure if the Republicans have policies on any of the above, but if they do, an explanation of the underlying rationale would be interesting, particularly if it could be tied to a cogent philosophy (if there is one).

  8. Tim L. says:

    Like most right-wing nutjobs, AEI has no “think.” Only “tank.”

  9. Leland Palmer says:

    Thanks, Joe.

    The whole conservative propaganda system, including the AEI needs to be examined thoroughly. Some of it’s activities should be illegal, IMO, or at least no longer tax free.

    The AEI, while obviously engaging in partisan propaganda, is chartered as a nonprofit think tank, and its activities are tax free.

    The conservative foundations that fund it, including the Scaife (Carthage, Sarah Scaife, Scaife Family) and Bradley foundations are also tax free.

    What such tax free conservative foundations, capitalized by big blocks of corporate stock do is freeze wealth in place, and make it eternal. In the case of the Scaife foundations it takes big blocks of Chevron/Texaco stock and makes these blocks of stock eternal. The stock can still be voted, and used to influence the operations of the corporations, but it has been made tax free.

    The Bradley Foundation does the same thing with Rockwell International stock, but in that case this constitutes a direct transfer of wealth from tax dollars spent on military spending to conservative public policy.

    Take a look at the funding of the AEI:

    http://mediamattersaction.org/transparency/organization/American_Enterprise_Institute_for_Public_Policy_Research/funders

    Seventeen million dollars from the Rockwell International capitalized Bradley Foundation into the AEI, over the years. Several million from the Scaife foundations, and almost two million directly from ExxonMobil.

    This pattern of the conservative foundations such as the Scaife and Bradley foundations doing most of the heavy lifting, while ExxonMobil lurks in the background is repeated in much of the AGW denial astroturf propaganda funding.

    Perhaps we need to bring back the fairness doctrine.

    Certainly, these propaganda operations should not be tax free.

    What the Republican “talking points” system really is a propaganda system, purely and simply. It is similar to past propaganda systems including the fascist and communist ones, they have just renamed the “party line” and now call it “talking points”.

    So, of course if people stray from the “talking points” they are exposed to fascist intimidation and retaliation. This fascist intimidation plus the big salaries the “scholars” at the think tanks receive, is how discipline is enforced.

  10. James Newberry says:

    Stink Tank: Stink up the public dialog on public policy and economics with propaganda so the economy (and environment) can be tanked and wealth further accumulated by elites, especially through mining for “energy” (commodities of uranium, coal, methane and other petrochemicals).