Hans Noel flunks this test and says no:
I don’t think Clinton should be given a “tenured professorship.”+ Not because of his lack of a Ph.D. per se, but because, smart as he is, Clinton is not a scholar. He doesn’t do research. He is not in the business of contributing to the store of human knowledge. If Clinton is given a job as a tenured professor, what would he do? A “tenured professorship” is not a plum given to reward success. It’s an actual job.
The job of a professor is not the same as “being smart.” Academics write those pesky obscure papers that Kristof finds impenetrable and irrelevant because that’s how we learn things. The demands for publication may have perversities, but it is what drives people to do research.
I would offer a tenured professorship to any ex-President who is willing to spend real time with students and academic programs. That would be in a public policy school, a public administration department, a university-wide appointment, or even a political science department. A class actually taught by Clinton, even half of the time with another professor doing most of the actual work, would be fascinating. And if you don’t like Clinton, or don’t think he is smart (not my view at all), consider this a student’s chance to see the (ex) emperor with no clothes, which is itself a learning experience.
I know people who have had Obama as professor — before he was President of course — and loved him, and not for partisan reasons.
Have I mentioned that universities tenure plenty of people who don’t do research? Check out your music department, for a start, or Fine Arts. Or (very likely but not always) your business school.
I recently read Noel’s book on political polarization and enjoyed it, especially his discussion of how intellectual elites have led the process of polarization. Still, I would trade in having read that book for a five minute chat with Bill Clinton.
Addendum: I also would offer a tenured professorship to any ex-President who is not willing to spend real time with students and academic programs. The job offer would more than pay for itself, given the money it would bring into the university, directly and indirectly. Most universities support athletics programs, and pay the successful coaches millions more than any other state employee earns — can they not find room for a former Commander in Chief or two?