Two historians have quit their roles at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, a think tank focused on presidential history and public policy. They are protesting the one-year fellowship the institution has granted to Marc Short, a former legislative-affairs director for President Trump.
Good riddance. The think tank’s director has resolutely defended his decision to hire Short, and should continue to do so.
To call Short’s critics “hypersensitive” is to surrender to the false notion that there is anything at all here to be sensitive about. Short is not being criticized for anything he actually did, whether in his private capacity or as a member of the Trump administration. Rather, he is being attacked merely for being in the administration — especially during the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, when the president failed to condemn white supremacists promptly.
As for his own opinion about what transpired in Charlottesville, Short has embraced the Miller Center’s strong statement on the matter; regarding the White House’s reaction, he told Politico that the administration “could have done a better job expressing sympathy for the victims and outrage at those who perpetrated this evil.” That, of course, does not satisfy the Resistance.
Academics and alumni have rushed to sign an online petition urging the university to cancel Short’s fellowship — a petition that says the school should not hire “high-level members of an administration that has directly harmed our community and to this day attacks the institutions vital to a free society.” The resigning professors, meanwhile, fault Short for “associating himself with an administration that shows no respect for truth” and thereby “contribut[ing] to the erosion of civil discourse and democratic norms that are essential to democratic governance and that are central to the mission of the Miller Center.”
Short doesn’t face a single accusation rooted in his own behavior.
The professors also point to Short’s prior positions with the Koch Brothers Freedom Partners fund and the Senate campaign of Oliver North, as well as his new position with a conservative lobbying firm, but this is a distraction: The Miller Center routinely hires “practitioners” who have pursued partisan goals, and currently hosts veterans of assorted presidential administrations, Capitol Hill offices, advocacy groups, and ideologically oriented think tanks. Short’s decades of experience in politics and policy are an asset, not a liability.
The core message is clear: Anyone who has served in the Trump administration, in any role, is not welcome to a fellowship at the Miller Center. Never mind the perspective that a member of the Trump White House could bring to an institution that both seeks to understand the presidency and aims to provide competing viewpoints. And never mind that Short doesn’t face a single accusation rooted in his own behavior.
The Miller Center’s director and CEO, William J. Antholis, so far has shown admirable backbone in the face of these attacks on his decision to bring Short on board. We admire his commitment to bringing new ideas into the institution he heads, and wish both him and Short the best of luck weathering this absurd storm.