The Senate today confirmed Carla D. Hayden to be the librarian of Congress after a campaign of obstruction that’s unusual for such a nonpolitical post. Hayden seemed to run up against a combination of Senate gridlock and a campaign by an influential conservative activist who claimed that the fact that she would be the first African American and the first woman to hold the position was a concession to “political correctness.”
Last week, Zach Graves of the libertarian-leaning R Street Institute summarized the campaign that Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky launched against Hayden. Dismissing Hayden’s accomplishments, von Spakovsky declared that the head of the Library of Congress must be a “man of letters”:
To start off, von Spakovsky suggests Obama chose Hayden because she’s a black woman and “his administration has an unofficial quota system.” A remarkable sentiment, considering Hayden’s qualifications as a librarian: She has a doctorate in library science from the University of Chicago; taught at the University of Pittsburgh; served as CEO of the City of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, one of the oldest public library systems in the nation; served as president of the American Library Association; and was named National Librarian of the Year.
Despite her accomplishments, and a favorable Senate confirmation hearing, von Spakovsky insists Hayden is “unqualified.” She may be a fine librarian, he argues, but she’s “neither a scholar nor a historian” and the Library of Congress is an institution that must be run by a “man of letters” …
Von Spakovsky repeatedly suggested that Hayden had been picked for the job just because of her race and would be unable to be a keeper of “American cultural greatness,” writing, “The Librarians of Congress have been keepers of American memory, and public advocates for American cultural greatness. This is not a sinecure — like the post of United States treasurer — to be doled out to members of a politically favored demographic.” He warned that Hayden’s confirmation would make the Library of Congress a “monument to political correctness.”
The Senate Rules Committee approved Hayden’s nomination in April, but an anonymous senator placed a hold on the nomination, preventing it from coming to a vote. Astonishingly, even when Hayden’s nomination did come up for a vote today, 18 senators voted against her. Unless those senators explain their votes, it will be impossible to tell if they were swayed by von Spakovsky’s offensive arguments or were merely participating in the Senate GOP’s blanket obstruction of executive branch and judicial nominees.