May 2, 2002


Phony Kass Council (Glenn Harlan Reynolds, 05/01/2002, Tech Central Station)
One needn't follow outside advice, of course, but it's bad manners to ask for it and then ignore it before it is given. Service on White House advisory committees is time-consuming, and not especially career-enhancing for academics engaged in active scholarship, who are judged by what they produce, not by what meetings they attend.

It will be far harder for the Bush administration to put together useful advisory committees on other topics, after the experience of the Kass Council. And that is likely to have consequences that go far beyond the political maneuvering over cloning.

Mr. Reynolds here renews the bizarre argument that President Bush should have taken no action in regard to bioethics until his commission reported on its deliberations. Perhaps his objection is best dealt with by analogy. A wild fire is burning in your neighborhood, approaching your house. Fire officials are meeting to determine the best course of action to contain the fire. In the meantime, do you : (a) do nothing until the experts weigh in; (b) at least try to rescue some valuables and take whatever reasonable steps you can to protect your house?

Meanwhile, the notion that academics won't be willing to serve on presidential councils in the future can not be taken seriously. Oh sure, every once in a while some grandstanding nitwit may announce with great fanfare that he has refused to serve precisely because of this instance of the President ignoring such a panel. But he will be doing so for the same reason that the rest will serve, it's great publicity and a huge boon to your career. As charming as we may find it, the image of a professor who would rather scribble away on his next article for some obscure journal than have a President elevate him to the kind of national spotlight that virtually guarantees someone will finally read what he's written is quite risible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 2, 2002 8:31 AM
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