My alma mater, the University of Chicago, has launched a new Institute of Politics, which it claims will be “nonpartisan” and committed to the “University’s culture of open debate that includes multiple and often competing perspectives.” It is headed by David Axelrod, a University graduate and a former senior official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, who wants to create “opportunities for politically minded students.” While in office, Axelrod was viewed as not so open to “competing perspectives,” being regarded as highly political and not known for either moderation or introspection. In the Institute’s first featured event on January 19th an array of pundits – David Axelrod, David Brooks, Rachel Maddow, George Stefanopoulos, Rahm Emanuel, and Alex Castellanos – discussed various issues, including the 2012 elections.
The appointment of Axelrod, who does not possess much in the way of academic distinction, has been greeted tepidly by many University alumni, and the first panel is curiously light on actual diversity of opinion. Brooks is, of course, a leading neocon while Castellanos is a Republican media consultant who has advised John McCain, Mitt Romney, and British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico. All the rest are conventional liberals close to Clinton-Obama in philosophy. All are also basically status quo politicos who, notably, are international interventionists on either humanitarian or security grounds (or both). I believe I am correct in asserting that all the participants have supported at some point in the past or currently the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the US overthrow of the Libyan government, future US intervention in Syria, and a possible military option against Iran.
I suppose one cannot expect too much from universities, which are dependent for survival on government largesse as well as private contributors who arrive with their own agendas. But if one believes, as I do, that the United States’ decline over the past ten years is inextricably linked to the reckless neo-imperialist policies that have driven budget deficits, global instability, and the persistence of terrorism then it would have been refreshingly “nonpartisan” to feature someone who actually represents an alternative point of view.