Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Historians for JFK...I mean, Obama

Historians for Obama has been formed to, well, support Barack Obama for President (h/t Ralph Luker). Scott Jaschick has more.
...in a move that is unusually early and specific, a group of prominent historians on Monday issued a joint endorsement of Barack Obama’s bid for the presidency. The endorsement, released through the History News Network, was organized by Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University, and Ralph E. Luker, a historian who is one of the leaders of the popular history blog Cliopatria. The scholars who signed included two past presidents of the American Historical Association — Joyce Appleby of the University of California at Los Angeles and James McPherson of Princeton University — and many other A-list scholars in the field.

Officials of the AHA (which was not a party to the endorsement) and several other long-time observers of the discipline said that they could not think of a comparable example of historians collectively taking a stand in a political race in this way.
It turns out that about half of the historians approached by Kazin and Luker signed on. The other half abstained or were supporting other candidates like Edwards and Clinton. Some historians even thought Obama was too "Republican." No Republicans were mentioned as having the support of any of the historians who declined.

That's surprising.

According to Jaschick, Kazin said "while he and other scholars felt an obligation as 'scholar/citizens' to speak out, they did not want to imply that historians are uniquely qualified to pick a president." Sounds like a little bit of false modesty: why call the group "Historians for Obama" unless you're trying to cast a certain air of expertise about your whole endorsement. Not a big deal, really.

In reading the HfO statement, it seemed to me that they believe in the power of Obama's personality above all else. His domestic agenda seems of the typical, mainstream liberal variety and his foreign policy agenda seems both naive and overly-idealistic (for instance, they reference his idea to abolish nuclear weapons). No matter. To these historians, he's JFK: The Sequel.

But it is his qualities of mind and temperament that really separate Obama from the rest of the pack. He is a gifted writer and orator who speaks forcefully but without animus. Not since John F. Kennedy has a Democrat candidate for president showed the same combination of charisma and thoughtfulness - or provided Americans with a symbolic opportunity to break with a tradition of bigotry older than the nation itself. Like Kennedy, he also inspires young people who see him as a great exception in a political world that seems mired in cynicism and corruption.

Presumably, Obama's power of personality will be enough to both abolish nuclear weapons ("Wait 'til the Chinese and Russians meet him, they won't be able to resist!"). If only.

But to be fair, the desire for the HfO to see the qualities of a past (beloved) champion (JFK) isn't unique: the GOP has been trying to find "the next Reagan" since he left office. Ideologues of all stripes have their own pantheon of personalities and it's only natural to try to recapture what--to our own minds--seemed to work before. But I think history shows that past performance of one individual doesn't predict the future performance of another--even if they seem so similar to our (rose-colored) eyes.

But maybe I'm just a cynical GenXer. This is just my opinion, anyhow, and the HfO are entitled to theirs.

Finally, I think I see what's really going on here. Oprah Winfrey is a high-profile Obama supporter and--through her "book club"--she can single-handedly vault a book into bestseller status. This is nothing more than a clever network marketing campaign on the part of these historians. Watch for a deluge of scholarly history tomes getting recommendations from Oprah in the coming months. It's a conspiracy based on self-interest and materialistic gain, I tells ya!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Barzun on History (via Nat'l Review)

The November 19, 2007 issue of National Review contains an "Appreciation" of Jacques Barzun by M. D. Aeschliman. Similar pieces have been penned in the New Yorker and New Criterion and all were inspired on the occasion of his 100th birthday. The plaudits are well deserved. Barzun is the sort of public intellectual and polymath that we rarely see nowadays. I was first exposed to Barzun when one of my former professors (a practicing psycho-historian) sent me along a selection of articles on psycho-history, including an excerpt from Barzun's Clio and the Doctors, a skeptical critique of quantitative and other "scientific" methods of doing history. Later, I read much more of Barzun in my historical methods class (his book with Henry Graff, The Modern Researcher, was an assigned text) and have enjoyed his work on historical theory (among other things!) ever since. Here's a bit from the NR piece:
It is Barzun’s contention that history is fundamentally made by individuals, and that all forms of determinism are grievously mistaken and destructive. Human liberty is an absolute datum of consciousness and reality: The human person’s “supreme pleasure and prerogative,” he writes, “is to feel himself at once a moral being and a natural philosopher.” No subjectivist, Barzun is nevertheless a rootand- branch opponent of two dominant modern intellectual extremes and errors: scientific reductionism (“what it reduces is the individual”) and histrionic subjectivism, dominant in the modern arts, a kind of permanent childishness: “We are permissive, not from love of liberty, but because we lack self-control and fear restraint as such,” he wrote 40 years ago. “We praise innocence because we want the license to behave like an infant.” These extremes congeal into intellectual attitudes and institutional forms in the culture and the schools: the scientistic worship of material procedures and objects, and the anarchic exaltation of aesthetic eccentricity and “self-expression” (what C. S. Lewis called “a world of incessant autobiography”).

Though inevitably and consciously a philosophical historian, Barzun is rightly suspicious and critical of all works on “the philosophy of history”—from Marx and Hegel through Spengler and Toynbee—that deny human agency and novelty. “A trend is variable and may be reversed,” he wrote in 1964, “as history, which is the graveyard of trends and the birthplace of counter-trends, amply shows.” Communism is dead, though its Western historical trumpet E. J. Hobsbawm is still alive and sounding. There is no monocausality and no determinism in history:
The “relentless” modern “drive to de-anthropomorphize,” to “unman” the human person, Barzun writes, must be shown to be not only logically false but emotionally demoralizing and politically harmful.

In addition to his timely 1941 critique of Marxism—at the high point of Western intellectual sympathy for and collaboration with Communism—Barzun’s lifelong hostility to the implicit, incessant, invalid philosophizing of Darwin and the Darwinians (increasingly explicit and vocal today) isone of his most courageous and illuminating achievements as an intellectual historian and civic moralist. In the 1870s the German Darwinist biologist Haeckel wrote to Darwin to congratulate and praise him for having “shown man his true place in nature . . . thereby overthrowing the anthropocentric fable.” Barzun’s teacher Hayes, Barzun himself, his student Fritz Stern, and Richard Weikart in his recent From Darwin to Hitler have shown in detail how historically and morally disastrous this transgressive philosophical dehumanization was for the Western mind. Barzun quotes a 20th-century “positivistic” French jurist as writing: “Responsibility, which is the foundation of the penal code, eludes scientific analysis and is thus a source of error and confusion.” Like Dostoevsky and C. S. Lewis, Barzun repeatedly argues that “learned foolishness” is the most dangerous folly of all, especially when clothed with the authoritative mantle of high science as in “the behavioral idea that mind and purpose are illusions.”

Barzun’s rationality is never reductive or arbitrary: “Life, which spurs desire and fills the mind, is wider than science or art or philosophy or all together. Mind encloses science, not the other way around.” Yet the radical voluntarists and irrationalists—whether historians or artists—are also mistaken: We are conditioned rational beings with implicit obligations to civilization as an ideal and partial reality. Among early modern thinkers, Barzun particularly admires Erasmus and Swift in this regard. In “Swift, or Man’s Capacity for Reason,” he wrote in the somber year 1946: “The axioms of social reason have a long history in Western culture, and Swift met them again and again in his favorite authors . . . Herodotus, Lucian, St. Augustine, Dante, Rabelais, and Montaigne.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Review: The Dead Guy Interviews

The Dead Guy Interviews: Conversations with 45 of the Most Accomplished, Notorious, and Deceased Personalities in History by Michael A. Stusser.

Michael A. Stusser is a Seattle-based journalist who authors the "Accidental Parent" column in ParentMap magazine and has written for an eclectic array of magazines, including mental_floss, Seattle Magazine, Yoga International Magazine, Law & Politics and Go World Travel Magazine. Stusser is also a game inventor with The Doonesbury Game (with Garry Trudeau), EARTHALERT, The Active Environmental Game, and Hear Me Out to his credit. And sometimes he blogs.

The premise of The Dead Guy Interviews (though there are some Gals included, too) is simple: what if you could sit down with a historical figure and ask him or her a few questions? Stusser has taken the concept and run with it. The result is a series of irreverant, contemporized and humorous 3-4 page "interviews" where no topic is off the table. However, betwixt and between the sometimes sophomoric humor, bits of profanity and sarcastic banter (and a lot of talk about the sexual picadilloes of various interviewees--Stusser leaves no stone unturned in this area), you may actually learn something.

A good part of the actual historical information about each individual is provided in the brief biographical sketches preceding each interview. For instance, in the introduction to his interview with George Washington Carver, we learn:
Though recruited by big shots such as friend Henry Ford, Carver kept it real, turning down an annual slary of over $100,000 to work for Thomas Edison and refusing to consult with Stalin on agricultural matters.
This passage is typical of the way Stusser educates while "keeping it real" via the use of modern day colloquialisms. Here's another:
MS:...Tell me, what was the Globe Theatre like?

William Shakespear: Lovely venue, almost like one of your so-called open-air stadiums today.

MS: Like a football stadium?

WS: If you must make fool-hearted analogies. We had seating in the round, and VIP boxes up high. Sadly, the acoustics sucked.

MS: Did you just say "sucked?"
Stusser also asks Charles Darwin about the Darwin Awards. The method works pretty well, especially for the teenager crowd. That's not to say that adults won't be entertained, though. Stusser does a good job of interspersing information in the midst of his tongue-in-cheek question and answer sessions. Aside from the introductory bios, Stusser's interviews often help flesh out the ideas and personalities of some of these historical characters. For instance, I learned something basic about Buddha's philosophy (of which I know almost nothing about) by reading this:
MS: As a prince you had it all. Your father, King Suddhodana, even arrange a marriage to a wonderful gal. But you left it all behind. Why?

B: At the age of twenty-nine I finally looked beyond the walls of the palace. There I saw four sights.

MS: An old crippled guy, a diseased dude, a decayed, nasty corpse, and an ascetic, right?

B: The truth of life: that death, disease, age, and pain are inescapable. Poor outnumber the wealthy, and the pleasures of the rich eventually come to nothing.
This is typical of Stusser's method and works to either give the reader all the information she wants or inspire deeper investigation.

Stusser also folds in criticism of the contemporary in these interviews. While interviewing Beethoven about his life as a struggling artist, Beethoven reveals what he would have done to make some money in today's music business, "The real money would have been in concessions--Beethoven T-shirts, crop-tops, posters. Oh, to do it all over again."

Stusser also uses these interviews as a vehicle to critique current politics (both as interviewer and subject). He is especially prone to slamming those of a particular ideological bent. A sampling:
Catherine the Great:"The nobles liked some of my policies. Land giveaways, granting them serfs, eliminating taxes.

Michael Stusser: Sounds like a Republican.


Confucious: Taking a moral high ground is difficult in an era of greed, ego, and instant gratification. Many should not lead, this is a certainty. Others should not attempt to.

MS: So, you're talkin' about guys like Rush Limbaugh and Don Rumsfeld, right?


MS: When you moved back to Catalonia after World War II, you were criticized for living in Spain while it was ruled by Franco.

Salvador Dali: And I could say the same thing about you and your president. Pick any one of your warmongering heads of state--and yet you live among them!


Thomas Jefferson: Women have a great purpose in life: marriage, children, and pleasing their husbands.

MS: You should have your own show on right-wing radio...
By no means is the book full of such instances--its more like a sprinkling--but there are enough instances to make it clear that Stusser is no fan of "the right." On the other hand, Stusser also isn't concerned with being considered politically correct:
MS: What was your view on black advancement?

George Washington Carver: Rising or falling, I believe, is practically inherent in an individual. Races and nations, too: They progress or are held back by the number of individuals who do the right thing. God works in the hearts of men, and the so-called Negro problem will be solved in His own good time, and in His own way.

MS: So African Americans had themselves to blame for not achieving higher status in the South?

GWC: Ya know, I try and avoid public statements on my philosophy and mainly stick to peanuts...


Ghengis Khan: Are you calling me a mongoloid?

MS: No. That's a derogatory term for retard. You're obviously not a retard.
Perhaps the humor--or irony--is going over my head, here. To be clear, Stusser often does use actual quotes from the individuals, so some of these may derive from that method. But it seems pretty close to the line.

A couple more things. First, stylistically, Stusser sometimes writes in dialect to give voice to many of his subjects (Einstein, Freud, Marx, Mussolini, to name a few)--for example, he will use "zees" for "this." This was distracting to me on the page, though it works better in audio versions of the book. Second, I noted a small editing error. One of Benjamin Franklin's pen names is given as Silence Dogwood (it was "Dogood").

Stusser is good at dispensing with the sort of urban legends and historical myths that have grown up around various figures. For example, he takes down nearly every common myth about George Washington (cherry trees, etc.) and explains that Nostradamus' prophecies were "Full of vague allegory and ambiguity, readers have interpreted them over the centuries for their own purposes and often see what they want to see."

Many of his chapters--those on Thomas Jefferson and George Washington come to mind--would probably serve as an interesting introduction to teenagers of a more nuanced historical picture of these figures. Others, however, are a bit more caricature or even a little "fluffy." (For instance, compare the rough treatment J. Edgar Hoover experienced to the non-judgemental, fluffy interview of Karl Marx--he does take it to Chairman Mao though!). But that's OK. Sometimes Stusser is like Mike Wallace, sometimes he's like Barbara Walters.

In the end, Stusser's The Dead Guy Interviews is entertaining and gets you to think. If you can get past some of the profanity and sex (and small amount of ideological stumping) then I'd recommend it as a good nightstand book or, with some qualifications, as a way to get your teenager more interested in history.

Monday, November 12, 2007

More Insight into Archives, the Clinton Records, and NCH Reporting

The Clinton records saga rolls on. Maarja Krusten has commented on my last post and adds some helpful insight into the problems faced by archivists in her HNN articles When Archivists Deal with Power Players and Look Before You Leap into Presidential Libraries . In the comments, Krusten notes:
As someone who once worked with Presidential records as an employee of the National Archives (I now work as an historian elsewhere), I haven’t found that NCH, AHA or any outside source does a very good job at illuminating issues relating to the Presidential Libraries that the Archives administers.

Presidential Libraries have an archival component and a museum component. Dr. Benjamin Hufbauer, a professor of art history, does a good job in looking at the museum angle in his book, Presidential Temples: How Memorials and Libraries Shape Public Memory, but no one really has looked at the archival side in depth. With so little out there, I’m not surprised many people fill the void with speculation or even their own biases, as a result. Opening records actually is very complicated because few human beings would face with equanimity the opening of their paper trails during their lifetimes. But I don’t think our culture permits former Presidents, regardless of party, to admit that this can be scary.

The press largely focuses on individual controversies and usually fails to provide sufficient context for readers. Pundits and editorial writers often look at the issues through a narrow lens, offer a set point of view, or leave out some information altogether....It is not useful to the National Archives for newspapers to frame issues in a political manner.


Much depends on the people involved. As a result, the traditional framing, with Republicans cast as the withholders of records and Democrats cast as supporters of disclosure, doesn’t always fit. Gerald Ford believed that "presidential papers, except for the most highly sensitive documents involving our national security, should be made available to the public . . . and the sooner the better." By all accounts, the release of his records went smoothly. His Library has a good reputation among the Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives.

You really have to consider the psychology of disclosure, why it can be difficult to achieve, and also to consider the potential challenges for the National Archives as a subordinate agency within the executive branch. As someone who has grappled with these issues, I don't find what AHA or NCH -- or most outsiders -- write to be nearly as nuanced as I would like.
Krusten also points out that the NCH has updated their reporting on the Clinton Records story and its nice to see that they have begun to include more sources (like the Newsweek piece or the work of the NY Sun) that contain criticisms of the Clintons. Apparently, the NCH has realized that there may be two sides to the story and that their "traditional framing" (Krusten's phrase) may not stack up.

It is not true that all of the records relating to the Clinton Administration’s Health Care Task Force have already been released. As noted above, the National Archives has admitted that over three million paper documents and e-mails relating to the topic remain under review at the Clinton Library.

And what is the practical impact of the letter that President Clinton sent to the National Archives in 2002, which Tim Russert alleged was delaying the release of records relating to then First Lady Hillary Clinton? According to an article in the New York Sun this week, it may not be that relevant after all.

The Sun interviewed attorney Scott Nelson of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, who represented the American Historical Association in its lawsuit to overturn President Bush’s Executive Order 13233....Nelson told the Sun, “It [the letter] starts off saying, ‘I want to be really open about this stuff,’ but, you know if you compare the categories that he [President Clinton] says would be considered for withholding. . . .they encompass most of what is within the scope of these restrictions.” He went on to say that the former president’s letter would not change “99.4% of what the [advice] restriction category applies to in the first place.”

Monday, November 05, 2007

The NCH and Clinton Records - A Comment, A Response

In a comment to my last post concerning how the NCH is playing the ongoing Clinton records debate, "allida" writes:
I have worked in presidential records for more than a decade and edit a documentary edition which contain vast numbers of presidential records. Furthermore, I have relied on FOIAs for the past decade in my research on the policy work First Ladies conducted while in the White House.

Consequently, I know this procedure inside out and backwards.

The NCH is explaining procedures correctly--and accurately. It took me 10 years to get material on Nancy Reagan. Barbara Bush's records are frozen. And a significant amount of Rosalynn Carter's papers are unaccessible because Carter Library staff is so short it cannot accession already processed (and open) material.

Just because 1) NCH took the time to explain the law and the current NARA staffing crisis,2) the Archives doesn't have the staff to meet the high demand of FOIAs, and 3) Clinton muffed the answer, doesn't mean there is bias.
I appreciate the insight and, like I said before, I want open access, too. I also don't find fault with the NCH's explanation as far as it goes. I just don't think they are explaining enough. In their press releases they don't seem to put much stock in the possibility that President Clinton may actually have something to do with holding up the release of his own records.

And while he says he wants open access, President Clinton sure does exclude a lot of documents in his memo to NARA asking for a quick release, including "communications directly between the President and First Lady, and their families, unless routine in nature." That sure covers a lot, doesn't it?

Hey maybe it isn't bias. Maybe the NCH is just being sloppy in their reporting.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cliopatria Awards 2007 - Nominations Open

Nominations for the 2007 Cliopatria Awards for History blogs are now being accepted.
The Cliopatria Awards recognize the best history writing in the blogosphere. There will be awards in six categories:

Cliopatria, as host of the awards, is ineligible for the "Best Group Blog" category. Individual judges are ineligible for nomination in their respective categories, but may be nominated for other awards. Judges may also make nominations in other categories.

Bloggers, blogs and posts may be nominated in multiple categories. Individuals may nominate any number of specific blogs, bloggers or posts, even in a single category, as long as the nominations include all the necessary information (names, titles, URLs, etc).

Nominations will be open through November; judges will make the final determinations in December. The winners will be announced at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting in early January 2008; winners will be listed on HNN and earn the right to display the Cliopatria Awards Logo on their blog.

Get on over and make some suggestions! Oh, and here are the past winners.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Clintons Keep Records Closed, NCH Still Blames Bush II

The NCH website finally put up a story about the Clinton records brouhaha that came to the fore during the recent Democratic Presidential debate (I posted about it yesterday--and the AHA is still silent). Kudos to them for finally paying attention to something that's been brewing for a couple months, guys! But after reading the last two paragraphs, it's evident that the NCH is focused like a laser on the real baddie in all this:

This presidential debate only added to what has become a media firestorm over the issue of whether the Clinton’s are obstructing the release of her records or whether the Bush administration’s Executive Order 13233 is responsible for delays in the processing and release of documents at not just the Clinton library, but the Reagan and Bush libraries as well. An article in the Washington Post blamed both the Clinton’s and the Bush administration for the delays. And, a lengthy piece in Newsweek sharply criticized the Clinton’s alleging that they have been less than forthcoming in the release of their papers.

Unfortunately, the media coverage has ignored the fact that consideration of legislation (H.R. 1255) in the Senate to overturn Executive Order 13233 continues to be blocked by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) at the behest of the White House who has threatened to veto the bill. (emphasis added)

Well, I guess we know who the NCH blames (surprise!). It seems as if the NCH finally--and reluctantly--brought up the possibility of the Clintons being responsible for withholding their own records only after the story got too big for them to ignore. Because the NCH has certainly been ignoring most of the media accounts critical of the Clintons.

In an earlier story, the NCH seemed more than happy to quote from a piece in which President Clinton blamed the Bush Adminstration for holding up the release of Clinton Administration records. But in this latest piece, they only allude to the NEWSWEEK piece critical of the Clintons and don't actually quote anything from it. Instead, they try to delegitimize the story as just part of a confusing "media firestorm" on their way to blaming the media for not covering "the real story" that the Executive Order is completely to blame for the holdup.

Now let me be clear here: I agree with repealing the Executive Order and allowing greater access more quickly (assuming that information in the records isn't critical to national security, of course) . What troubles me is the one-sided play the NCH is giving the Clinton story. In this particular case, repealing the Executive Order would remove some roadblocks to gaining access to the Clintons' records (and it would also remove the cover that the Clintons are currently hiding behind), but it also appears that the Clintons will still manage to keep the flow of information to a slow trickle--at least until after the 2008 Presidential election.

Then who will the NCH blame?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Clintons Keep Records Closed, AHA and NCH Still Blame Bush

I wonder if the AHA and the NCH are readying there complaints and resolutions concerning open access to Clinton family documents now that we know that it's the Clinton's--not the Bush Administration--that is holding up access.

The Clinton's have blamed the Bush Administration for holding up the release of Presidential documents and initially the media (and the AHA and NCH) bought their line. But maybe not anymore. Some Democrats (Sen. Obama, for instance) and the media are now asking questions.

When author Sally Bedell Smith was researching her new book about Bill and Hillary Clinton's White House years, she flew to Little Rock to visit the one place she thought could be an invaluable resource: the new William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Smith was hoping to inspect records that could shed light on what role the First Lady played in her husband's administration. But Smith quickly discovered the frustrations of dealing with a library critics call "Little Rock's Fort Knox."

An archivist explained to Smith that the release of materials was tightly controlled by the former president's longtime confidant Bruce Lindsey. Could she look at memos detailing the advice Hillary gave Bill during debates over welfare reform? Smith asked. No, the archivist said, those memos were "closed" to the public because they dealt with "policy" matters. What about any records that show what advice Bill gave his wife about her 2000 U.S. Senate campaign? Those, too, were closed, the archivist said, because they dealt with "political" matters. "He essentially told me I had no chance of getting anything," says Smith...

Bill Clinton has tried to cast blame for the backlog on the Bush White House...[b]ut White House spokesman Scott Stanzel tells NEWSWEEK the Bush White House has not blocked the release of any Clinton-era records, nor is it reviewing any....Ben Yarrow, a spokesman for Bill Clinton, says the former president was referring "in general" to a controversial 2001 Bush executive order—recently overturned, in part, by a federal judge—that authorized more extensive layers of review from both current and former presidents before papers are released. (Hillary's campaign didn't respond to requests for comment.)

But documents NEWSWEEK obtained under a FOIA request (made to the Archives in Washington, not the Clinton library) suggest that, while publicly saying he wants to ease restrictions on his records, Clinton has given the Archives private instructions to tightly control the disclosure of chunks of his archive. Among the document categories Clinton asked the Archives to "consider for withholding" in a November 2002 letter: "confidential communications" involving foreign-policy issues, "sensitive policy, personal or political" matters and "legal issues and advice" including all matters involving investigations by Congress, the Justice Department and independent counsels (a category that would cover, among other matters, Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky and the pardons of Marc Rich and others). Another restriction: "communications directly between the President and First Lady, and their families, unless routine in nature."

Archives officials say Clinton is within his legal rights. But other Archives records NEWSWEEK reviewed show Clinton's directives, while similar, also go beyond restrictions placed by predecessors Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, neither of whom put any controls over the papers of their wives.
In the recent Democratic Presidential debate, Senator Clinton tried to dodge the issue:
The question of experience came up repeatedly, and Mrs. Clinton wasn't shy about citing her time as first lady as a main qualification to be President. She was less forthcoming about the records of her time in the White House, however. Mr. Russert asked: "In order to give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your communications with the President, the advice you gave, because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the National Archives not to do anything until 2012?"

Mrs. Clinton's initial response was to blame the Archives, but Mr. Russert asked whether she would lift her husband's "ban" on releasing their correspondence. "That's not my decision to make," was her reply. Apparently we are supposed to believe that the former President would refuse his wife's request to release those records if she asked. Even gentle Mr. Obama couldn't bite his tongue about that one, comparing the episode to the "secretive" Bush Administration.

If they wanted to, the AHA and NCH should know the Clinton's are the ones hiding things. But that doesn't seem to fit their narrative. Earlier this month, the NCH trumpeted the fact that President Clinton wants to open his records faster:
Former President Bill Clinton recently jumped into the political debate surrounding the disposition of presidential records. A story in the October 4, 2007, New York Sun reported that President Clinton recently asserted that the Bush administration was at fault for delaying the release of his records.

“I want to open my presidential records more rapidly than the law requires, and the current administration has slowed down the opening of my own records,” the former president was quoted as saying in the Sun article. “And I do think that I will have extra responsibilities for transparency should the American people elect Hillary president,” he went on to say. The White House had no reaction to President Clinton’s statement.

The White House denied the claim, but the NCH didn't see fit to publish the story about the denial on their website.

"The White House is not currently reviewing any Clinton presidential records because none are ripe for White House review," a spokesman for Mr. Bush, Trey Bohn, said yesterday. "All current requests for Clinton administration records are pending review by President Clinton's designated representative. The White House can take no action on any of the requests until the Clinton representative has completed its review of the records relevant to each request and reached a decision on either authorizing their release or withholding them."
Additionally, it seems the NCH is unaware that President Clinton has the ability to release his records at any time.

In 2003, Mr. Clinton announced that he planned to make public most of the confidential advice he received, even though federal law allows such advice to be kept secret for 12 years after a president leaves office.

When the Clinton Library opened in 2004, thousands of pages were available for review sooner than the law required. More than half a million pages selected by Mr. Clinton and archivists are currently open to research.

However, hardly any documents have been released in response to records requests from the public, which the library began accepting in January 2006. Archives officials have indicated that the presidential review process for all Clinton White House records released so far has averaged eight months. A spokeswoman for the archives, Miriam Kleiman, declined to discuss whether aides to Messrs. Clinton or Bush have been responsible for the delays.

The AHA and NCH have continually blamed the Bush Administration for withholding records. Now it has been revealed that President Clinton is responsible for blocking access to his Presidential records. He's within his legal rights to do so, but I would think that--within the spirit of open access--both the AHA and NCH would spill at least a smudge of ink on the fact that the Clinton's are putting up roadblocks.