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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Center for American Progress

This is a continuation of yesterday's post about John Podesta's appearance on Meet the Press and his organization, the Center for American Progress. Podesta, who took the job of running Clinton's White House during the Lewinsky scandal, is using his Center for American Progress to bring the "CrossFire" concept of debate--yelling, lying, and general hackery--to universities across the country. Who exactly is to blame for starting this type of discourse is of little concern--whether Sean Hannity or Paul Begala was the first to make outrageous, headline grabbing claims with little to no evidence gives neither the moral high ground. That said, Podesta is going to absurd lengths to give his effort credibility. Campuses are historically liberal, yet they are at least arenas where discourse and dialogue can occur. Even if the debates on campuses are slanted left, evidence and logic trump blind adherence to the party line. Podesta, however, is doing his best to change that. Sure, versions of his efforts exist on the right and are no better--Young America Foundation, the Reagan Ranch, etc. all encourage faith over questioning, allegiance over reason. Yet these groups are marginalized by their inability to be effectual on campuses--they operate primarily off-campus, organizing brainwashing retreats where students can hear Ann Coulter and Hannity rant about the topic of the day. On the contrary, Podesta aims to bring the destructive and detrimental Washington political tone to campuses, under the guise of combating conservative political movements which are sweeping American campuses.

Let's dissect that last statement. If Podesta granted the fact that liberal political views were prominent on university campuses, his efforts would be seen for what they are--an attempt to breed a legion of frothing partisan hacks. Rather, by claiming he is reacting to a rising tide of conservative activism on campus he can claim to merely be combating something conservatives started--using the "He Started It" logic. The real problem here is that Podesta is not an academic--he has no interest in furthering the aims or ideals of the academia. He wishes to twist it for his own political advantage. These same critiques can be aimed at conservative organizations doing the same thing, yet the efforts of the Center for American Progress are especially worrisome because of the gullibility of undergraduates. Conservatives are limited in their ability to create a partisan atmosphere on campus because of the countervailing liberal slant of universities. Parading as intellectuals, Podesta and his ilk are attempting to use the movements built by great professors who happen to be liberal for political gain, turning students into partisans and increasing the already deafening tone of hackish rants into which political discourse has devolved. His colleagues on the right and left wish to turn the ivory tower into another version of some cable channel "debate show", in which students must pick their team and then regurgitate the party line. No matter how liberal, no professor of mine ever encouraged an endeavor so obviously detrimental to the academic process.