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Bob Kerrey: Hawk in Sheep’s Clothing

Elizabeth Wood
Date Published: 
February 14, 2003

The New School for Social Research was created in 1919 by Columbia University professors who were denied the right to discuss their anti-war positions against WWI. The New School would be an institution to openly discuss economics and politics. During WWII, it offered refuge to progressive scholars in Europe, earning the name “University in Exile.”

The New School is recognized historically for its progressive roots. That is why students are confused as to why Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska Senator, is president of such an institution.

Bob Kerrey recently joined the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, described by Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service, as a “small group of well-placed right wing activists with close ties to the hawks in the offices of Pentagon Chief Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney as well as well as Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott.” Their sole job is to gather public support for a preemptive war on Iraq.

During Kerrey’s two years at the New School, the new trustees that have been appointed have such occupations as executive in an oil exploration company, a former vice-president of Allied Signal (which is related to Honeywell—a major defense contractor), and faculty insurance has been switched to Healthnet, which also specializes in bombs.

In January, a dinner is being held for George David, CEO of United Technology, which is the number 4 defense contractor and producer of Blackhawk and Comanche helicopters sold to the Pentagon and Israel.

Held accountable

On November 20, 24 New School students stormed President Kerrey’s office and sat in until he agreed to a public forum to discuss the relationship between his politics and the New School. Kerrey cursed at the students and argued, “ask me about abortion, ask me about gays,” before he agreed to a public forum on December 4.

The turnout was an accomplishment. The line reached out of the New School and two rooms were set up for broadcast. Both sides were allowed an eight-minute introduction and Kerrey spoke his side’s entire time. Kerrey discussed the benefits of militarization by offering that now Americans can safely shop in Sarajevo.

The forum failed to force Kerrey to discuss his role in the Committee, because the format allowed anyone to ask questions of the panelists. Unfortunately, not enough questions were directed to the issue at hand.

The event, however, was a victory for the activists. New School students succeeded in holding a former senator, current university president and prominent US figure accountable for his actions. The New School has generated a strong base of student and community support that will continue to actively question the role of the US and its allies in the ongoing war against Iraq.

About the Author
Elizabeth Wood is a student at Eugene Lang College and Parsons School of Design, both divisions of the New School University. She works with Students Against War (of New School) and other concerned members of the community. For more information, go to