Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Hagel Archives Idiocy
The idiocy du jour is the appalling spectacle of Chuck Hagel -- the erstwhile Senator from Nebraska and now nominee for Secretary of Defense -- blocking access to his "archives" at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Hagel understandably doesn't want conservatives poking around in his records for damning statements he's made in the past, either critical of Israel or pro-Iran or just generically stupid. But, come on... this isn't beanbag. He's nominated for SecDef! You should expect to have your dirty laundry aired. Otherwise, why have any kind of vetting process at all?
But the whole process offends me for a simpler reason. We need to push back against the notion that records of public service by elected officials somehow belong to them, and they can "donate" them to a library with restrictions. Could they sell their public records at auction? Could a President sell his Presidential papers at Sotheby's? If not, then he doesn't own them. We do. They should be thought of the same way a company would think of an invention by one of its employees working in its lab with equipment the company paid for -- it's a "work for hire" and the company owns the intellectual property rights.