Defining distinction down
Rarely has an academic institution so venerable been so thick in the head. Wednesday, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government announced that Chelsea Manning would be one of 10 visiting fellows for the academic year in its esteemed Institute of Politics.
Manning, of course, was convicted in 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses for disclosing nearly 750,000 classified and sensitive military and diplomatic documents.
She was handed a 35-year sentence — before being granted clemency last year by President Obama, in an ill-advised attempt at mercy.
That a true national-security pariah should never be held up as a model to future leaders in politics and public policy seems obvious. Yet Harvard, of all schools, saw fit to give Manning a title that’s been held by governors, senators, cabinet secretaries and accomplished journalists.
Which rightly ticked off people who care about, you know, the government.
Thursday, ex-CIA deputy director Michael Morell resigned as a non-resident senior fellow in a sister program, citing his fear that the invitation “will assist Ms. Manning in her long-standing effort to legitimize the criminal path that she took to prominence, an attempt that may encourage others to leak classified information as well.”
CIA Director Mike Pompeo then canceled a speaking appearance on the same grounds. Good for both for standing on principle. Friday, Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf released a statement with the mealymouthed claim that a visiting fellowship is only a “perceived honor,” not a real one.
Manning, who began life as a man before becoming a woman, is an important figure in the trans community — but that doesn’t override her betrayal of country to qualify her for high distinction.
The only thing students can learn from her is how to get famous by committing felonies.