Academics are taking a second look at Ronald Reagan, and they like what they see.
"Reagan's treatment by academics is far better than many people--especially many conservatives--might surmise it to be," writes Grove City College professor Paul Kengor in this month's Heritage Foundation Policy Review.
He says conservative politicians generally don't have a sympathetic audience among the professors who create their historical legacies. He cites surveys showing the nation's social scientists to be a liberal bunch who, even on a good day, were disinclined to give Reagan's presidency anything better than a gentleman's C.
"It is therefore all the more surprising--it is indeed stunning--to see that Ronald Reagan . . . is actually faring quite well among academics in the 'learned journals,' and in certain major academic books," writes Kengor, who notes that Reagan is getting credit for almost everything from his role in thawing the Cold War to starting the economic boom of the '90s.
"These works . . . have come from respected historians, presidential scholars and political scientists--people who were not Reagan supporters and are certainly not right-wingers," Kengor said. Included as evidence are writings by historians Richard Neustadt at Harvard, John W. Sloan of the University of Houston, and John Lewis Gaddis and Stephen Skowronek at Yale.
MONEY I: Hear that tinny "cha-ching" on the sixth floor of the Brookings Institution? It's the sound of the cash register.
"Between July 1 and next June 30 we will have doubled in size," said Paul Light, head of Brookings's governmental studies department, who hopes to bring in $6 million this fund-raising year.
A chunk of the change--about $3.6 million--comes in the form of a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Philadelphia-based philanthropy that Light recently left. It's one of the biggest grants Brookings has received in some time, and will fund a Center for Public Service and a Presidential Appointees Initiative. Both will be launched officially in January.
Light also is raising money for a project on religion and public life to be run by E.J. Dionne and Jean Bethke Elshtain, and for a Stephen Hess project on the networks and the 2000 elections.
Directors of Brookings's research departments are required to cover about 70 percent of their direct expenses; the tank's $200 million endowment and other fund-raising activities cover the other 30 percent, as well as indirect expenses. According to Nancy Perkins, vice president of external affairs, Light has been "fast out of the block."
"We've got a lot of talent on the floor. Instead of them having to spend time raising small grants, my job is to find grants that will provide two, three or four years of support," said Light. "It's fun."
MONEY II: Some good news to share with the American Enterprise Institute's board members in town for their annual meeting: The Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy has been upgraded by the Emeritus Trustee himself, a former chairman of pharmaceutical giant SmithKline Beecham. The perch is now worth more than $2 million, about a 50 percent increase from its original value. (No, the chairholder doesn't get all of this.)
The Wendt Chair, one of nine at the center-right tank, will be filled by Nicholas Eberstadt, currently a visiting scholar at AEI (as well as a visiting fellow at Harvard, the university that has awarded him three degrees so far). Eberstadt, who studies international development, demographics and foreign aid, is the third person to hold the chair.
MONEY III: The Henry L. Stimson Center is also celebrating this week, marking its 10th anniversary with a reception at its Dupont Circle offices Friday night. The 20-person tank has focused on international and regional security issues, with a special focus on Asia. One of the challenges of the next 10 years is to put the operation on sounder financial footing while maintaining this focus, according to tank head Michael Krepon.
"After the Cold War, foundations moved away from hard-core security to soft security" issues, such as the environment and population, causing a funding crunch for security tanks, said Krepon, who worked on arms control in the Carter administration. "Part of our task is to convince folks that left to come back, and bring new folks with them."
According to Krepon, the need for work on these issues has not abated. "If you look at all the difficult cases, they are getting harder," Krepon said, mentioning Russia, China, South Asia, the Persian Gulf and North Korea.
Krepon said that despite funding challenges, he's not tempted to advocate a change in the tank's mission. "We're hanging in there. We ain't moving."
MOVES:John Haaga will head the new domestic programs department at the Population Reference Bureau, moving over and up from his project director post at the tank. Haaga, a demographer, came from the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Population two years ago, and has worked for the Population Council and Rand.
Laura Skaff has joined the Council for Excellence in Government as director of government performance. Skaff is a former director of children's services for the state of Maryland and worked as a consultant to several federal agencies.
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