It’s been over a year and America pretty much knows who Donald Trump is.
He’s racist. (Full stop).
He’s selling us out to the Russians and big business, and he’s a habitual, unadulterated, unfiltered, premium draft, liar. Either you’re down with his Forever 21 white nationalist authoritarian regime, or you’re not. At this point, most people know which side they’re on. The real question for most of America’s press, businesses, non-profits and even regular citizens is, “What do you do about Trump’s minions?”
The University of Virginia says you should hire them, and I actually think, in some cases, that’s a good idea.
Full disclosure, I’m a University of Virginia alumnus. Not the face-paint-at-homecoming-show-up-at-your-old-dorm-looking-for-your-name-carved-in-the-wall type of alumn. More like the shows-up-for-black-alumni-weekend-keeps-up-with-the-major-events-at-the school type of graduate, and, like most of America, horrified at the terror attacks on Charlottesville, Va., last August. (In fact the night of the attacks I was at the wedding of a good friend of mine from UVA).
So when the University of Virginia Miller Center announced this week that it was hiring Marc Short, Donald Trump’s former legislative director, as a senior fellow and business professor, I can understand why people on the grounds are upset. A petition has circulated calling for the offer to be rescinded, stating: “The university should not serve as a waystation for high-level members of an administration that has directly harmed our community.”
The statement also noted, “While we do not object to dialogue with members of this administration, we do object to the use of our university to clean up their tarnished reputations.”
The petition also decries the fact that Donald Trump tried to rationalize the terror attacks, and points out how Marc Short got on television to back up his boss. While Trump and Short can tell themselves there were “bad people on both sides,” tell that to the parents of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old white woman killed by a white nationalist who drove his car into protestors, or DeAndre Harris who was savagely beaten by five white nationalist thugs at the “rally.”
However, UVA’s Miller Center is focused on the study of the presidency and specializes in the oral histories of as many administration staffer’s experiences as possible. There is a value in studying the presidency, especially one as petty, racist and historically dangerous as the Trump presidency. If you’re going to dissect the Trump administration, and the modern zombie husk of a party that calls itself Republicans, there’s no one better suited to hold under the interrogation lights than Marc Short.
Short worked for the Koch Brothers and the Young America’s Foundation. He and his wife were even caretakers for the Reagan Ranch. He was on Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign and did communications for Vice President Mike Pence before he went to do Trump’s legislative bidding on everything from the Muslim-ban to the repeated impotent attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Miller Center is a pretty rigorous academic environment and Short will be required to appear on panels, as well as engage with students and faculty—not get a paid vacation to rehab his reputation, which has happened at other institutions.
For example, Harvard’s Kennedy School has been handing out fellowships to former Trump staffers like Oprah gave out cars. The problem is that the people who received fellowships (former White House spokesperson Sean Spicer and fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski), had been out of the loop with Trump’s inner circle for months.
Students actually complained about how Spicer required all of his panels to be “off the record” and basically hid out on campus for a few months to write his new book. Lewandowski was equally scarce on campus, but given his long history of sexual assault and abuse of women, maybe that was a good thing. If you’re going to offer jobs to former Trumpers at least pick people who have some actual practical insight to share. While Harvard brought in the HR directors at the Death Star for tea and crumpets, UVA’s Miller Center is bringing in Darth Vader to stand trial.
I have no issue with protesting Trump officials in public. As far as I’m concerned every Mexican restaurant from Don Pablo’s to Chipotle should have a black and white photo of Department of Homeland Security Director Kristjen Neilsen taped to the cash register with “DO NOT SERVE” written across her face. I hope that every waiter across America treats Sarah Huckabee Sanders like she treats the White House Press Corps—no matter what she orders off the menu, how specific she gets, or how many times she asks—they still serve her a nothingburger with weak sauce.
However, at some point, Trump administration officials need to be held accountable in a credible, objective environment where they can’t hide from the truth or get saved by Tucker Carlson or a commercial break. A place where each and every lie and policy can be exposed and decimated, line-by-line, by intelligent students and faculty. Where their lies and malevolence will be recorded and studied so that hopefully we will never face this kind of horror in government again. That’s what academics and universities are supposed to do. That will happen with Marc Short at UVA.
I want to see Marc Short do a panel explaining how he went from working on the guest worker program to the Muslim-ban. I’d like to hear how he went from praising the frugal lifestyle of Ronald Reagan to justifying Trump spending millions of taxpayer dollars on his own golf properties.
I hope that he’s invited to the August 11 memorial on campus for the Charlottesville attack and is asked to take questions from the audience—just to remind the world that soft-spoken white guys with advanced degrees are just as complicit in the authoritarian turn this nation has taken as the slack-jawed yokels from the Midwest we see in focus groups.
Placing Marc Short at UVA’s Miller Center is one of the best ways to make use of former Trump administration officials and the ideas they espouse. And, by the way, if you want to protest Marc Short every time he sits down to eat at Newcomb Hall cafeteria, I’m down with that too.