The Corner


The Medal of Freedom for Donna Shalala — one of the Clinton administration’s foremost abortion advocates and welfare reform opponents — really is baffling. The Medal of Freedom is not just a pat on the back; it is a great and high honor, and should not be thrown around lightly or used to check boxes or bean-count. Some of the hardest working and most dedicated conservatives in this administration have been those at HHS striving these eight years to undo some of the damage Shalala did during her time there, and this is simply a slap in the face to all of them and their work. Reaching across party lines to recognize great public servants is certainly appropriate and valuable, but it also calls for some discretion in the choices made. As some of the other names on this year’s list of recipients show, there are some truly deserving and excellent human beings in this country. There are certainly many liberals and Democrats among them (Tom Lantos, another of this year’s honorees, was one for instance). Donna Shalala, for all her accomplishments, just isn’t. It’s bad enough when presidents give such awards to people who have served their administration even when they don’t deserve it (this White House has done that, unfortunately). But to give it to an undeserving person from a past administration, and one who worked against some important causes this president has championed, is really beyond belief.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.


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