What with all the hoopla over David Stockman and Richard Allen, many Dallas-ites probably didn’t even realize that one of their own was ever so close to taking command of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

But University of Dallas Prof. M.E. Bradford won’t forget; after 18 U.S. senators sponsored him for the job, he was slapped with barrages of flak from many an East Coast neo-conservative battery. And the nastiest shot was fired by that master of the book of famous quotations, columnist George Will.

Will used the platform of his Sunday newspaper column to call Bradford’s candidacy (sponsored by a network of former students and admirers including U.S. Reps. Jim Collins and Phil Gramm) “unseemly.” Bradford, wrote Will, is “a shrill despiser of the first Republican president,” who, of course, was Abraham Lincoln. In fact, Will noted, Bradford has written that a “useful analogue” to Lincoln would be Adolf Hitler, and has likened philosophical questions about slavery to “the question of whether monarchy and democracy are valid systems in politics.”

Bradford was stung by the column and upset that Will “suggested that I was pro-slavery and crap like that.” He admits to being no great admirer of Old Abe, but says Will either grossly oversimplified or warped his scholarly discourses on Lincoln. The first Republican president, Bradford said, caused an “unnecessary war through unnecessarily harsh rhetoric,” and cynically used slavery as a Northern rallying call, caring little for the slaves or for their fates once they became freedmen.

“George Will set up a straw-man and blew him over,” Bradford says. He and some of his supporters believe that Will was alarmed because Bradford had twice been summoned to Washington to talk about the NEH job. “The column was just a smoke screen over who is going to control the spending of $110 million a year,” he says.

Ironically, Will’s column was published 11 days after President Reagan nominated a North Carolina neo-conser-vative for the NEH position. “That column,” Bradford says, “was a very nasty way of doing business. It was firing into a sinking ship.”


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