January 16, 2005

Armstrong Williams as entrepreneur or idealogue?

There's continued hullaballo over Williams' failure to disclose his $240,000 contract with the U.S. Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind Act, after Williams's apology, and continued criticism that he was never really a journalist. There is, for example, a potentially apocryphal story about an interview to be Armstrong Williams's ghostwriter, but I find that one hard to interpret.

And perhaps we really don't have to go too far. The sad part here is the extent to which taxpayer dollars that can be used legitimately for educational purposes are instead being used to explicitly advocate for policy. I know postmodernists will point out that it's hard to tell the two apart, but the difficulty making distinctions doesn't mean that we shouldn't try where they're useful.

The President has an absolute right to use the bully pulpit to argue for policy purposes. But branches of the federal government shouldn't be doing so, because it will taint the implementation of statutes. If members of the Bush adminsitration wanted to do their best to demonstrate that they are primarily interested in PR and propaganda, the Williams scandal is a good way to advance their aims, as is the use of Social Security funds for promoting Bush's agenda.

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Posted in Education policy on January 16, 2005 10:42 AM |