Increasingly, I have very fond thoughts about Ezra Klein. But he is still capable of driving me crazy! Today, he did so with, Jim DeMint and the Death of Think Tanks.
His basic argument is that Jim DeMint going to head the Heritage Foundation is indicative of some kind of trend. Specifically, it means that Washington think tanks are getting more politicized. That conclusion I accept, but the argument? No way. To suggest that the Heritage Foundation is something other than a political organization is madness.
Consider the Cato Institute. It has a hell of a lot better a claim to being a real think tank than Heritage. And yet, a few years back I heard an interview with whomever was the head of Cato. In it, he said that if some bit of their research indicated that a libertarian approach to government was bad, they would bury it. I still remember it because at that time I still thought that libertarians might be wrong but at least they were honest.
The Heritage Foundation was formed as a political organization by Joseph Coors. It is no think tank as we normally think of one. And reading Klein’s column, you can see that he agrees with this interpretation. But he still tries to make an argument that is as thin as can be. And he also practices a bit of false equivalence. He writes, “The politicization of Washington’s think tanks long predates DeMint.” But then the only non-conservative think tank he mentions is the Brookings Institution. He can’t think they are politicized. So what it seems he means is, “The politicization of Washington’s conservative think tanks long predates DeMint.” He just isn’t willing to come right out and say it.