Ah Yes, Harvard, that Conservative Traditionalist Citadel!

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Ah Yes, Harvard, that Conservative Traditionalist Citadel!

Quite a few folks scoffed and objected when Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government made Chelsea Manning – convicted of 19 charges, including six counts of espionage – a visiting fellow. Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell resigned from Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in protest, declaring, “I have an obligation to my conscience — and I believe to the country — to stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information.”

(Near the end of his term, President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to a total of 7 years confinement.)

Douglas W. Elmendorf, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, announced he was rescinding the title Thursday night.

We invited Chelsea Manning to spend a day at the Kennedy School. Specifically, we invited her to meet with students and others who are interested in talking with her, and then to give remarks in the Forum where the audience would have ample opportunity—as with all of our speakers—to ask hard questions and challenge what she has said and done. On that basis, we also named Chelsea Manning a Visiting Fellow. We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow.

However, I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility… We are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a Visiting Fellow—and the perceived honor that it implies to some people—while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the Forum. I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation.

On Twitter, Manning responded with all of the even-tempered understanding, graciousness and gratitude that we have come to expect:

this is what a military/police/intel state looks like the @cia determines what is and is not taught at @harvard honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting @harvard fellow they chill marginalized voices under @cia pressure

Manning also retweeted a statement from a supporter that declared, “It doesn’t surprise me that an institution that has produced many of our most dangerous war criminals and architects of our military and prison apparatuses would remain beholden to the state…” (If Harvard is so terrible, why did Manning accept the invitation to become a fellow in the first place?)

The not-so-hidden secret that emerges from reading Manning’s twitter feed for more than a few minutes is that we’re dealing with a person who is, in clinical terms, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Manning retweeted a headline calling Morrell a “massive weenie,” called for abolishing the CIA, called for abolishing the presidency, and declared “Nazi Germany had Gestapo, Stalin Russia had NKVD, East Germany had Stasi, now America has @ICEgov.”

Harvard needed this? I suppose Manning defenders might argue that everyone, even a Harvard visiting fellow, has the right to vent their spleen on Twitter, engage in name-calling, smear entire U.S. government agencies by comparing them to history’s greatest monsters, and so on. But if you really believe that, then you can’t really complain about, say, the president’s use of Twitter.

Noah Rothman finds Elmendorf’s statement “disgraceful… Entirely passive aggressive, unrepentant, and fails to address the issue. Morell was right to resign.” I suspect a lot of that letter was window-dressing to hide the fact that he was completely blindsided by the angry response to the Manning invitation. Of course Elmendorf has no problem with Manning’s past decisions or perspectives. But he’s got to try to mitigate the damage to the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, who just lost a prestigious fellow because of this decision. Former acting directors of the CIA don’t just grow on trees.

Back in August 2016, I put forth the seemingly crazy notion that the Right was actually winning the “culture wars,” or that at the very least, the Left had endured a rebuilding year – Target’s bathroom policies, the Ghostbusters reboot, leftist campuses seeing a stark decline in alumni donations, the demise of Gawker…  Harvard’s sudden about-face on Manning suggests that 2017 isn’t looking so great, either.

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