Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Democratic Presidential Candidates All Promise to Attack Academic Freedom

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards all gave terrible answers in the debate last night about ROTC and the Solomon Amendment. In Obama's defense (since I've just published a book about him), I think he was taken by surprise by the question and doesn't understand the issues, which I've discussed at Here's the transcript:

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'll start with you. The volunteer Army, many believe, disproportionate in terms of poor and minority who participate in our armed forces. There's a federal statute on the books which says that, if a college or university does not provide space for military recruiters or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can lose its federal funding. Will you vigorously enforce that statute?

CLINTON: Yes, I will. You know, I think that the young men and women who voluntarily join our all-volunteer military are among the best of our country. I want to do everything I can, as president, to make sure that they get the resources and the help that they deserve. I want a new, 21st-century G.I. Bill of Rights so that our young veterans can get the money to get to college and to buy a home and start a business. And I've worked very hard, on the Senate Armed Services Committee, to, you know, try to make up for some of the negligence that we've seen from the Bush administration....So I think we should recognize that national service of all kinds is honorable and its essential to the future of our country. I want to expand civilian national service. But I think that everyone should make available an opportunity for a young man or woman to be in ROTC, to be able to join the military and I'm going to do everything I can to support the men and women in the military and their families.

RUSSERT: Of the top 10 rated schools, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, they do not have ROTC programs on campus. Should they?

CLINTON: Well, there are ways they can work out fulfilling that obligation. But they should certainly not do anything that either undermines or disrespects the young men and women who wish to pursue a military career.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, same question. Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs?

OBAMA: Yes. One of the striking things, as you travel around the country, you go into rural communities and you see how disproportionally they are carrying the load in this war in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. And it is not fair. Now, the volunteer Army, I think, is a way for us to maintain excellence. And if we are deploying our military wisely, then a voluntary army is sufficient, although I would call for an increase in our force structure, particularly around the Army and the Marines, because I think that we've got to put an end to people going on three, four, five tours of duty and the strain on families is enormous. I meet them every day. But I think that the obligation to serve exists for everybody, and that's why I've put forward a national service program that is tied to my tuition credit for students who want to go to college. You get $4000 every year to help you go to college. In return, you have to engage in some form of national service. Military service has to be an option.

RUSSERT: This statute's been on the books for some time, Senator. Will you vigorously enforce the statute to cut off federal funding to the school that does not provide military recruiters and a ROTC program?

EDWARDS: Yes, I will. But I have to say, it's not enough to talk about the extraordinary service of men and women who are wearing the uniform and have worn the uniform of the United States of America.


Bradley Spahn said...

Though I agree with you in thinking that these rules should be repealed, any serious presidential candidate doesn't really have a choice in enforcing such a law or not. It'd be even more aggregious for any presidential candidate to say that they won't enforce a law. After all, they would be constitutionally mandated to do so.

As to your point about Obama's lack of knowledge on the issue, wasn't this a significant issue at the U of C Law School while he was a lecturer there? If indeed it was, I'm sure he'd be familiar with it.

Anonymous said...

While it's possible, as you say, that the three Democratic candidates queried recently on whether they would enforce the Solomon Amendment (unanimously upheld in the Supreme Court) gave very incomplete answers to the questions put to them about enforcement, it's also possible one or more of their answers were intentionally evasive and off-point (thus pitching their remarks to their own agenda by hastily and tactically changing the subject).

And while I've read your thoroughly -researched but tendentiously-presented case against the Department of Defense in your linked IHE piece, it does not persuade (especially your ludicrous alternative suggestion that ROTC be offered as a student-run campus club). But in your closing remarks perhaps your most telling generalization appears: that conservatives seethe with hatred against universities. This canard is worse than rhetorically ineffective; it suggests possible tu quoque retorts concerning your own strong biases against conservatives, the Department of Defense, and the US military.

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Anonymous said...


Riddle me this - how shall an academic be qualified to review curriculum, with very little understanding of the training and education standards governing DoD instruction, a lack of expertise on battlefield dynamics, no understanding of military culture and zero formal military training?

Maybe the board of trustees at your university should be more involved in radifying the curriculum in your classroom as well? Maybe we should create a national criteria for curriculum development on college campuses to govern all institutions of higher learning in this country?

I find it interesting that you demand control of the ROTC curriculum on a blog devoted to "College Freedom."

Anonymous said...

Wow! I see on this thread that someone beat me to tenditious, completely independently.

I think, sir, this is clearly a trend. Perhaps some self-reflection is in order?