Portman Presses Archivist Nominee on Partisan Views

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pressed the nominee for Archivist for the United States, Dr. Colleen Shogan, on her partisan and controversial views. In 2007, Dr. Shogan wrote an article titled “Anti-Intellectualism in the Modern Presidency: A Republican Populism,” which focuses on Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and George W. Bush. In it, she stated that “Republicans tend to exhibit anti-intellectual qualities, and Democrats coalesce on the intellectual tail of the continuum.” Portman pressed Dr. Shogan to explain that article and her other partisan views and highlighted that the law requires the Archivist to be “appointed without regard to political affiliation.” 

In addition, Portman asked Dr. Shogan whether she would abide by a National Archives statement which stood by a Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion concluding that the Equal Rights Amendment could not be certified because the deadline set by Congress had passed. Earlier this year, Portman sent a letter to the former Archivist, David Ferriero, urging him to stand by that statement. 

A transcript of the questioning can be found below and a video can be found here.

Portman: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Senator Lankford, for agreeing to be Ranking Member today. It’s been my practice, because Senator Lankford is the Ranking Member of the subcommittee on DC, that I had deferred to him with regard to these DC judge confirmation hearings. I do think these roles need to be filled, and I thank the four distinguished lawyers who are before us this morning who stepped forward to fill those roles. I normally ask questions about the criminal justice system in DC because the crime wave is a huge concern of all of ours, and I will not have time to get into that today, but just assume that all four of you agree that part of your role is to ensure that cases are brought, handled, and backlogs are dealt with so that we can have a safer DC community. 

“Dr. Shogan, I want to give you a chance to explain some of your previous statements and some of your record. The law, as you know, requires the Archivist to be appointed without regard to political affiliation. In 2007, you wrote an article entitled ‘Anti-Intellectualism in the Modern Presidency: A Republican Populism,’ which focuses on Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and George W. Bush. In it, you state that, ‘Republicans tend to exhibit anti-intellectual qualities and Democrats coalesce on the intellectual tail of the continuum.’ Would you please explain your views on this and what you meant by that?” 

Dr. Colleen Shogan, Nominee to be Archivist for the United States: “Thank you, Ranking Member Portman, for that question. As you stated, that article was written 16-17 years ago. It was an academic article and in that article, I was trying to explain how certain presidents very effectively, through their rhetoric, were able to communicate with everyday Americans.” 

Portman:Again, you’re being nominated as a nonpartisan National Archivist. Among other roles, the National Archives and Records Administration administers the presidential library system for Republicans and Democrats alike. Given that you have written about some of these Republican presidents in a negative way, for example, saying that Ronald Reagan had, ‘less than impressive intellectual capabilities,’ and that, ‘it was widely accepted that George W. Bush was less intelligent than his challenger, Al Gore,’ how can we be assured that you will serve effectively in this nonpartisan role?” 

Dr. Shogan: “Thank you, Ranking Member Portman, for that question. I stand strongly on my 15 years of nonpartisan government service at the Congressional Research Service, at the Library of Congress, and at the White House Historical Association, which I joined in 2019 when President Trump was President of the United States. I worked very effectively with President Trump’s White House as he served as President of the United States and continued to do so under President Biden’s administration. Also at the White House Historical Association, we have members of the Board who are representatives from both Republican and Democratic administrations, and I work very effectively with that Board of Directors.” 

Portman: “With regard to January 6, in response to a tweet from a political science professor which stated, ‘political science said this would happen. We are not smug about it either,’ you tweeted back, and I quote, ‘I wrote about it in 2007. I do believe what I observed was the precursor,’ and you included a link to the Republican anti-intellectual article that we talked about a moment ago. I just want to give you a chance to explain this. It would appear to me that you’re saying that because you believe Republican presidents like George W. Bush, for whom I worked, as you know, tended to exhibit anti-intellectual qualities and/or because you believe he was less intelligent than his opponent, Al Gore, that this was the precursor somehow to the events of January 6, which, of course, George W. Bush condemned in the strongest terms possible.” 

Dr. Shogan: “Thank you, Ranking Member Portman, for that question. In no way, shape, or possible do I think that President Bush is inferior intellectually or less intelligent. That was not the purpose of the article. It’s not stated in the article, and I was very clear that he was well suited for the presidency, and that is stated in the article.” 

Portman: “Okay, so the quote that I have that says, ‘it was widely accepted that Bush was less intelligent than his challenger, Al Gore,’ was not your quote?” 

Dr. Shogan: “Thank you for the question, Ranking Member Portman. That was a characterization. But once again, I want to say that I stand by my statement that this was an article about President Bush and his rhetorical abilities to be able to communicate common sense principles to everyday Americans.” 

Portman: “You do have a lot of tweets about President Trump. You mentioned that you served under him essentially when you were at the Historical Association. Here’s one on January 5, 2020, which says, ‘isn’t the next move a self-pardon?’ Self-pardon would imply criminality. If confirmed, you would have to work with the former president’s staff and how can you be confident that you’d be able to work effectively with former President Trump’s staff?” 

Dr. Shogan: “Thank you for that question, Ranking Member Portman. I am confident that I would be able to work with President Trump and his staff. I have worked with him in the past, as you’ve noted, at the White House Historical Association, also in my capacity as the Vice Chair of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, which was entirely conducted during the Trump presidency. And we worked very effectively with President Trump, Mrs. Trump, and the White House during that celebration to, I think, really benefit the American people.” 

Portman: “Dr. Shogan, there’s a January 2020 memo from the Trump Justice Department OLC, Office of Legal Counsel, which concluded that the Equal Rights Amendment could not be certified because not enough states had ratified the amendment prior to the relevant deadline set by Congress. Shortly thereafter, a National Archives press release stated that the Archivist deferred to the OLC on this issue and would abide by the opinion unless otherwise directed by a final court order. A January 2022 OLC memo by the Biden Justice Department stated that Congress was entitled to take a different view on that, but did not modify the conclusion of the January 2020 memo. If confirmed, would you continue to abide by the January 2020 OLC opinion, as your predecessor did?” 

Dr. Shogan: “Yes. Thank you for that question, Senator. Yes, I would.” 

Portman:And as the National Archives press release stated, would a court ordering you to certify the amendment be the only circumstances under which you would certify the amendment?” 

Dr. Shogan: “Yes. Thank you for that question. I think who will decide the fate of the ERA is the federal judiciary and/or Congress.” 

Portman: “There are members of Congress and interest groups who believe the Archivist has the authority to certify the Equal Rights Amendment. I’m sure you’re well aware of that. How would you respond to their calls to certify the amendment?” 

Dr. Shogan: “Yes. Thank you for that question. The Archivist serves in the capacity, in a nonpartisan, apolitical capacity. And I vow, if I am confirmed as Archivist, to serve in that fashion.” 

Portman: “Thank you, Dr. Shogan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.” 

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