Allen Weinstein: Why Archivists Think He's Not the Right Man for the Job
Letter to the Wash Post (April 29, 2004):
I appreciated that George Lardner Jr.'s April 20 news article"Bush Picks Weinstein as Archivist" brought attention to the stealth nomination of Allen Weinstein to replace John Carlin as archivist of the United States.
Notwithstanding the Dec. 19 letter Mr. Carlin sent to the White House about his future, if Mr. Weinstein was contacted regarding the nomination in the fall of 2003, the timing suggests the White House intended to remove Mr. Carlin. If so, then by law the Bush administration owes Congress an explanation. Unfortunately, the secretiveness of this process has fueled speculation about why Mr. Carlin is being removed just before an election and just before records from the first Bush presidency are due to be released in 2005.
Statements by the White House that Mr. Weinstein's credentials as a historian qualify him to become the next archivist illustrate further that President Bush's staff has taken a naive and simplistic view of the qualifications.
The next archivist will need to confront managerial, technological and legal issues that require qualifications far beyond using archival records to write a scholarly book. The 1984 law that established the National Archives as an independent agency envisioned an open process that included consultation with interested professional groups that could comment on qualifications from a more informed perspective.
Public hearings will give Mr. Weinstein a chance to state his case, and now that this nomination is out in the open, I hope this will happen.
TIMOTHY L. ERICSON
Society of American Archivists
Port Washington, Wis.
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