The Conservative Think-Tank Purge

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JONATHAN CHAIT SEPTEMBER 2, 2010

The Conservative Think-Tank Purge

David Frum is like Obi-Wan Kenobi -- they thought they slew him, but he continues to haunt the right:

[A]s with the notorious firing of Bruce Bartlett from the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 after his book critical of President George W. Bush; as with my own termination at the American Enterprise Institute in March; the Lindsey-Wilkinson apparent termination raises very troubling questions about what has happened to the right-of-center think-tank enterprise.

Consider this:

The leading right-of-center student of healthcare policy in the whole country is Mark McClellan. McClellan taught at Stanford in the 1990s. He came to the American Enterprise Institute in 2000. He was hired into government by President Bush, rose to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He left government in 2006 to write and think. Did he return to AEI? He did not. He went to Brookings. Why?

The question might be magnified. It’s very sobering to review the work produced by the leading Washington conservative think tanks over the past 5 years, and compare it to the work of prior periods. Even more sobering to review the work produced over the past 2 years. You might say that there has been much more “tank” than “think” – that these institutions have been acting not as the Harvards of the right, but as the armored fighting vehicles of the policy world.

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posted in: jonathan chait, bruce bartlett, david frum, george w. bush, mark mcclellan, medicare, stanford

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