University of Wisconsin Professor William Cronon, who has become the target of an open-records request by the state Republican Party — which is seeking his e-mails from his university account, after he wrote blog posts critical of Gov. Scott Walker’s new law curtailing public employee unions — is firing back at the GOP, in a statement given to TPM.
Wisconsin GOP executive director Mark Jefferson has stood by the open-records request, and attacked critics of it as “chilling” efforts to know what public officials are doing: “I have never seen such a concerted effort to intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government.”
Jefferson’s statement also said: “Finally, I find it appalling that Professor Cronin (sic) seems to have plenty of time to round up reporters from around the nation to push the Republican Party of Wisconsin into explaining its motives behind a lawful open records request, but has apparently not found time to provide any of the requested information.”
We e-mailed Cronon for a response to that statement, and here is what he told us:
“I had naively hoped that the Republican Party might be receptive to a moderate, fair-minded, well-reasoned appeal on my part. I think we all have an interest in trying to balance freedom of information versus intellectual freedom of inquiry — to say nothing of coercive state power versus liberty and privacy, values that I’ve always thought I could count on the Republican Party to defend. So they’re not the only ones who are shocked by this exchange. I had honestly hoped for a more thoughtful response from them. I’m surprised to discover that they think all university professors are “government officials” — and I also wish they could have spelled my name correctly.”
And for the record, this correspondence was done through Cronon’s personal e-mail account.
Late Update: Cronon has posted a further response on his blog. Key quote:
I have to say I’m at least as shocked as they say they are, but I’m rapidly gaining an unhappy education about what hardball politics in the United States now looks like.
I worried for a while that my New York Times op-ed on “Wisconsin’s Radical Break” might have gone too far in drawing a carefully limited parallel between the current tactics of the Republican Party in Wisconsin and those of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s…but since the Republican Party seems intent on offering evidence to support that comparison, I guess I should just let their words and actions speak for themselves.