Our Town: Trying to defuse a crisis | November 14, 2007 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Notes & Comments - November 14, 2007

Our Town: Trying to defuse a crisis

by Don Kazak

John Raisian, the director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, showed up at a university Faculty Senate meeting many years ago wearing a World War I French Army helmet.

As political theater, it was perfect.

The largely autonomous Hoover Institution is noted for the conservative politics of its scholars while Stanford's teaching faculty collectively is much more liberal.

Seeing Raisian in the helmet, Faculty Senate members were amused.

Raisian appeared again before the Faculty Senate last week under much more serious circumstances.

His decision to appoint former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose policy decisions shaped the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to a one-year position as "distinguished visiting fellow" at Hoover touched off an impassioned protest from many faculty members.

Raisian set the right tone from the beginning. Standing in front of the senate, he thanked the members for inviting him to attend their meeting, prompting applause and laughter.

Raisian wasn't just "invited," he was summoned by a vote of the senate at its Oct. 11 meeting.

Raisian, an affable man, was disarmingly candid about the firestorm he created on campus by offering a one-year visiting post to a former government official who is reviled by many faculty members.

A faculty member asked Raisian if he didn't realize the turmoil the Rumsfeld appointment would create.

"I didn't see it coming," Raisian admitted. "I just blew it."

Raisian also apologized for not informing Stanford President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy of his decision to recruit Rumsfeld before it was announced publicly.

"I clearly blind-sided them with this appointment," Raisian said.

Hennessy and Etchemendy have been publicly neutral about the controversy.

Hennessy was out of town for last week's meeting. But Hennessy did say something important at the Oct. 11 meeting.

Debra Satz, a philosophy professor and an organizer of the faculty opposition to Rumsfeld's appointment, has repeatedly said that opposing the appointment is not a matter of free speech since Rumsfeld is welcome to speak on campus and say whatever he wants. Satz and others opposed the appointment because they think Rumsfeld was an incompetent secretary of defense and that his appointment reflects badly on the university's reputation for academic excellence.

But Hennessy said Oct. 11 that isn't how the controversy will be perceived.

"I absolutely believe Professor Satz and the faculty that signed this petition don't intend to abridge free speech," Hennessy said. "But it will be absolutely interpreted that way."

While faculty members are worried about the effect of the Rumsfeld appointment on the university's reputation, Hennessy said he is worried about the perception of a denial of free speech on the university's reputation.

The Hoover Institution has a world-class archive of historical books, pamphlets, newspapers, posters and other artifacts that Herbert Hoover began to accumulate after World War I while he was in Europe as part of a famine-relief commission, before he became president.

Hoover was also a member of Stanford's inaugural graduating class in 1895.

But the institution bearing his name has long been identified with conservative politics. When Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, it seemed like half the institution's scholars were part of his transition team or became officials in his administration.

The Hoover Institution's sometimes uneasy relationship with the larger university was underscored when supporters of Reagan hatched plans to build his presidential library in the foothills behind the campus. That effort sparked a faculty protest and the library was built in Southern California.

Now, with the Rumsfeld appointment, the Hoover-Stanford relationship is once again being provoking concern among Stanford faculty.

Rumsfeld will only be on campus four or five times during the year he is part of a Hoover "task force on terrorism" and may not make any public appearances.

Raisian, from his comments last week, never intended to create a crisis and was well-received by the Faculty Senate.

Stanford's reputation for academic excellence, in all likelihood, won't be harmed by the Rumsfeld appointment.

Senior Staff Writer Don Kazak can be e-mailed at dkazak@paweekly.com.


Posted by Linda Griffin, a resident of Atherton
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:10 pm

I find it difficult to believe that the Stanford faculty protest is based solely on the view that Rumsfeld was an incompetent Secretary of Defense. Many people in the United States and around the world consider him a war criminal for his role in an illegal war and torture. It follows that it would be more appropriate for him to be in jail than a "distinquished visiting fellow" at the Hoover Institute. The same could be said for the tenured Condoleeza Rice should she decide she would like to return to Stanford. It may be some time before their crimes catch up with them, but until they do, should Stanford turn a blind eye for fear of the appearance of suppressing free speech?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:34 pm

The Stanford faculty protest is based on the assurance that, given an opportunity to defend his actions in open debate, Rumsfeld will expose the fatuity of the faculty.

Posted by yup, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:39 pm

yup, I agree with you Walter. If they didn't fear the inevitable public "discussions", they wouldn't keep trying to shut him out.

ha-ha. Can't wait. I will be there, front row, the first time Rumsfeld speaks.

Posted by also, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:42 pm

The "illegal war" and "torture" war criminal rhetoric is just more of the same. If there were any way possible to put him to trial on any of these absurdities, I have no doubt at all that it would have happened by now, given the amount of sheer hatred that the far left has for him.

Those who use this rhetoric look as silly as those who use the rhetoric of the right.

Posted by Welcome Rumsfeld, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Well, I doubt you read this drivel Mr. Rumsfeld, but if anyone points it out to you, let me say that there are many of us who absolutely support you and see you as an intelligent and honorable person who did his best to help steer our response to terrorism. I supported the decision to go into Afghanistan and Iraq, and, though it appears we may have made some errors, for all we know the "errors" of small footprint types may very well be the very "errors" that have built the trust in us that the majority of the Iraqi people's ELECTED leaders have.

We, in concert with the Iraqi people and our friends and allies, are winning the peace and the liberty of the Iraqi people.

Thank you. Welcome. This is a very intolerant area, but don't let it bother you. There are a lot of us who are very tolerant of all types of people ( or else we couldn't live here!) and recognize the intolerance of the far left in our midst.

Posted by politics as usual., a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 14, 2007 at 7:59 pm

What crisis? Just because a few people are screaming loudly doesn't make it a crisis.

Just because a very small percentage of a community signs a petition doesn't make it a crisis.

This was no crisis. It was just politics as usual.

Look at the title of this piece for why "print media" is disappearing, distrusted for its constant spin.. The bias of the writer shines through.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Rumsfeld fled France to avoid being indicted for war crimes. His time in court will come.

Posted by Stanford's Shame, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2007 at 9:11 pm

How many young Americans died in Iraq because Rumsfeld defied the advice of military advisors, with no other motive than to better sell the Iraq war to the American people.

How many troops went into battle unprepared, with poor equipment, because of oRumsfeld's poor planning - again, *against* the advice of his advisors.

Aside form all the war criminal talk, Rumsfeld has shown himself to be almost pathological in his lies, and absolutely unable to tolerate opposing points of view from his subordinates.

By every indication, using clinical descriptions that are readily availablbe to any psychiatrist, Rumsfeld is as close to - if not in reality - a sociopath.

This is one reason why America's current position in the world has seemd so insane; it's because we have had our military operations administered, until recently, by someone who is unable to administer from the joint qualities of wisdom and power. Rumsfeld lacks wisdom; thus the unbalance.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2007 at 2:08 am

Quickest victory and lowest casualties must be meaningless to the Stanford luminati, but they sound good to an old combat infantryman, grandpa of a Marine with two tours in Fallujah. When Stanford prided themselves in the refusal of SLAC to take military related work, Stanford contributed to whatever equipment shortages the military had.

Posted by sue, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2007 at 8:54 am

The worst crime we could commit would be to lose the war on terror.

Rumsfeld is welcome in my house, in my town and in my alma mata anytime.

Posted by Victory, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 15, 2007 at 10:24 am

The war on terror continues to succeed despite the barking at Stanford.

The Hoover Institute is on the other hand actively supporting the winning of this war.

Here are some of the terror plots thwarted so far Web Link

Posted by Stanford's Shame, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2007 at 10:45 am

sue "The worst crime we could commit would be to lose the war on terror."

We're losing, thanks to Rummy...

Posted by Real Funny, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 15, 2007 at 10:52 am

A French army helmet?

Can you believe it?

Like his other Arab-hating think-tank pals, John Raisian must think murdering millions of people and destroying USA in the process is just a big fat joke.

Here's a military video, likely produced while Rumsfeld was Defense Secretary, that makes light of how to torture a human using the waterboard technique: Web Link

Here's GWB yucking up over not finding WMDs: Web Link

And here's a transcript of Rumsfeld joking about 2.6 trillion that went missing from the Pentagon while Rabbi Dov Zakheim, an American and Israeli citizen, was Pentagon comptroller: Web Link

SEC. RUMSFELD: Mr. Congressman, thank you very much. Your question is, of course, right at the heart of an enormously important issue for the Department of Defense. We have a panel in the Quadrennial Defense Review on this subject. We have met with it twice in the last two weeks. We're obviously going to have to meet with it again. It is a big, broad, complicated subject.

As you know, the Department of Defense really is not in charge of its civilian workforce, in a certain sense. It's the OPM, or Office of Personnel management, I guess. There are all kinds of long- standing rules and regulations about what you can do and what you can't do. I know Dr. Zakheim's been trying to hire CPAs because the financial systems of the department are so snarled up that we can't account for some $2.6 trillion in transactions that exist, if that's believable. And yet we're told that we can't hire CPAs to help untangle it in many respects.

So it's a big problem, and you're quite right it is an aging civilian workforce, they tell me, technically. They all look young to me. (Laughter.)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 15, 2007 at 12:08 pm

The liberal rhetoric is absurd on this thread.

Welcome, Mr. Rumsfeld. We are proud of your accomplishments and appreciate your efforts at combating terrorism.

Posted by Chabad Lubavitch, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 15, 2007 at 1:08 pm

John Raisian makes a ghoulish joke of staunch community anger and opposition to the Rumsfeld debacle by wearing a French army helmet.

Such is the welcome Rumsfeld has received thus far.

And there's nothing the mewling Israel-First minority can do about it.

Ten bucks says neither Rummy nor Condi will dare to dine on University Avenue.

Posted by jane, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Doesn't a French army helmet come with a permanently attached white flag on top?

Welcome to Rumsfeld, when Condi gets back we will have more adult supervision around campus

Posted by Peter, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2007 at 2:45 pm

if anyone is interested in joining the off-campus resistance to war criminals at Stanford, check us out:

Web Link

Posted by Alumna, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:22 pm

The only people slandering the American patriots Rumsfeld and Rice are a group of geriatric leftovers from the 1960s. raging grannies--- you could not make this stuff up.

Rumsfeld is coming to Hoover, Rice is coming back to Stanford and

Hennessey will deal with the trouble makers swiftly

Posted by Gary, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Don Kazak has, in his own way, backed off this failure of the Stanford left. Good for him. This entire deal WAS about freedom of speech. Hennessey gets it.

Posted by Stanford's Shame, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2007 at 4:29 pm

What Hennessey got was a $10M donation from a very right wing foundation. He got that, and the future shame that will sully his otherwise fine record. Payoff?

Maybe we should call it "Free Speechola"

Posted by USA First, Thank-you, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 15, 2007 at 5:10 pm

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets.

If you seriously believe the Israel-First gang are defenders of free speech, you need to examine the zionist cabal who forced/blackmailed DePaul University to deny tenure to Dr. Norman Finkelstein, including Alan Dershowitz, Elena Kagan, John Simon, James Block, Matt Rothschild, Ruth Conniff, and Charles Suchar.

Even DePaul clearly stated that Finkelstein is "a prolific scholar and an outstanding teacher".

Better still, take a look at Dershowitz's campaign to halt publication of Finkelstein's latest book Beyond Chutzpah. Although he denies it, Dershowitz had sent a deluge of letters to Finkelstein's publishers and and other interested parties such as California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: Web Link

So much for embracing our Hellenistic culture and value system.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2007 at 6:58 pm

When I fought alongside the French at Chipyongni, they fought bravely and victoriously. That was before France turned Yellow Socialist.

Posted by Gary, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2007 at 8:07 pm

For a short review of the battle that Walter was in see:

Web Link

It was a turning point in the Korean War.

Posted by davida, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2007 at 1:15 pm

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