Editor’s Note: on REVOLUTION! and Rumsfeld

Stanford Review staffers represent all flavors of conservatism, but one viewpoint is common among us: the belief that a limited government is most beneficial for the great majority of society. Generally we discuss this belief on a national scale; but last week we considered its impact on the very local scale of Stanford’s campus.

The candidates The Review endorsed in the ASSU elections generally opted for a minimalist role for student government, seeing that government as a body whose primary purpose is to be a channel of communication between the student body and the administration on matters regarding student life. It is not the role of the student senate, we believe, to grandstand for political activists on campus.

At the other end of the spectrum of candidates was the highly activist executive slate REVOLUTION!, which proposed hunger strikes and mass action to support initiatives dealing with workers’ rights, environmentalism, and the detainment of such “criminals” as Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice. The night before voting started, the slate projected a glaring red “palm and sickle” icon onto Hoover tower to emphasize their revolutionary zeal.

Fortunately REVOLUTION!’s platform was written in such bombastic tones and overblown Marxist rhetoric as to make it difficult for any reasonable Stanford students, liberal or not, to support it. The slate barely scraped up the 200 signatures necessary to be listed on the ballot, and didn’t fare much better in actual voting. However, the troublesome thing about REVOLUTION! is that despite the hysterical tone of its platform, a large part of the Stanford community evidently agrees with the essence of its position on issues such as Donald Rumsfeld.

Case in point: at the beginning of this academic year, nearly 4000 students, faculty, and alumni signed an online petition protesting former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s one-year appointment to the Hoover Institution as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow. In addition to the petition, for months there were rumblings among student groups of holding a mock “war crimes” trial against Rumsfeld. An undergraduate senate resolution condemning Rumsfeld’s appointment only narrowly failed to pass in November, thanks in large part to the votes of Review-endorsed senators, who felt the bill was beyond the appropriate scope of ASSU voting.

When thousands of students and faculty say, “we do not welcome the secretary of defense of the United States of America to the University because we think he’s done something too dastardly to be accepted in our presence,” they are being every bit as hysterical as REVOLUTION!’s platform.

The Rumsfeld issue has lost its urgency, apparently, to the politically correct crowd on campus. The administration gave a tepid defense of the appointment, with President Hennessy’s office defending it on the grounds of free speech, but only after pandering to the crowd by remarking irrelevantly that “neither the president nor the provost is [traditionally] consulted on such [temporary] appointments.”

Conservatives strongly suspect that most liberals’ positions are created not by thought but by absorbing a general impression of what’s “approved” or “disapproved” by liberal culture at the moment. It is extremely hard to imagine on what logical grounds the University should prohibit or discourage a member of the US government from serving honorably in a position at the Hoover Institution. The Stanford Review exists to challenge the muddled thinking which persuades some students that the University should behave otherwise.

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