Monday, March 19, 2007

Will the AHA Concern Itself with Clinton Stonewalling?

The AHA is (correctly) in a tizzy over Executive Order 13233, signed by President Bush, "which overturned an executive order issued by President Reagan and gave current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely." As such, they are urging their members to push for the passage of the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007.” And that's exactly what they should be doing as an organization that is looking out for the practice of history--including historical research--in the United States.

However, the legislation will only make Presidential records available 12 years after the conclusion of that President's term, even if--by some twist--President Bush doesn't veto it. So, for instance, this legislation won't provide for the release of President Clinton's--or Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's--records during their White House tenure.

And while the AHA is embarked on this apparently quixotic quest, I'm left waiting for the hue and cry (or at least a feel-good resolution) from the AHA explaining that--on behalf of its FULL membership--they are calling for the end of the Clinton stonewalling:
...[T]o the dozens of reporters, historians, anti-Clinton types and eccentrics who have filed requests for documents from the library's archive, the [William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library] is Little Rock's Fort Knox.

The museum's 138-million-page presidential archive could play an important role in determining how Hillary Rodham Clinton's controversial White House past will affect her attempt to reclaim 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

"I haven't received any documents or even a note indicating that they're searching the records," said Jeff Gerth, a former New York Times reporter who requested a wide range of the first lady's files for an unauthorized Clinton biography he's working on.

With the 2008 election looming, researchers are eager to unearth undisclosed details from eight years marked by controversy, scandal and high-wire politics.

The Clintons' longtime personal lawyer, Bruce Lindsey, who helped defend the couple in the 1990s, has veto power over the release of the most sensitive documents. Attempts to contact Lindsey weren't successful.

Among the documents requested: almost all of Hillary Clinton's files as first lady, eight years' worth of her daily White House schedules, office diaries, day planners and telephone logs, according to a list of Freedom of Information Act requests obtained by Newsday.

Requests also have been filed for the internal correspondence of Clinton's ill-fated early-1990s health care reform task force (despite a court ruling saying its deliberations could remain private) and detailed files on Filegate, Travelgate, Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, the pardons scandal and even back-and-forth about Clinton's 2000 Senate bid.

Sixteen months after the library started accepting applications, no major request for sensitive documents pertaining to Clinton's first-lady years have been released.
I guess the AHA is only enamored with taking a public stand and expressing the supposed will of its membership--well, the voting majority, anyway-when the ideological jones of that majority is being stroked.

To boil it down: the AHA is all for passing a conflated resolution that only tangentially has to do with the practice of history--ie; their (or should I now say "our"? Thanks for speaking for me...) Iraq War Resolution--even when said resolution will have no impact in the real world. Yet, even if having a real world impact doesn't matter--even if it is really about taking a stand and feeling good about it--then why not pass an equally toothless resolution that actually aligns with the mission of the AHA?

[The AHA's] object shall be the promotion of historical studies through the encouragement of research, teaching, and publication; the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts; the dissemination of historical records and information; the broadening of historical knowledge among the general public; and the pursuit of kindred activities in the interest of history.
So why not pass a resolution that calls for the Clinton's and their charges to open up the library to the public, including historians? Seems like that comports with the above, doesn't it?

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