Among Washington think tanks, we know what to expect from the Brookings Institution: earnest, slightly left-of-center analysis of major issues. Likewise, we know that the Center for Strategic and International Studies will do the same job with a right-of-center shading, and a greater emphasis on defense and geopolitics.
What the tanks provide is support for political and policy views; detailed argument in favor of a known point of view. By and large, the verdict is in before the trial has begun.
There a few exceptions, house contrarians. The most notable is Norman Ornstein, who goes his own way at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Ornstein, hugely respected as an analyst and historian of Congress, often expresses opinions in articles and books which seem to be wildly at odds with the orthodoxy of AEI.
A less-celebrated role of the thinks tanks is as resting places for the political elite when their party is out of power. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, rumored to be favored as a future Republican secretary of state, is hosted at AEI. National Security Adviser Susan Rice was comfortable at Brookings between service in the Clinton and he Obama administrations. At any time, dozens of possible office holders reside at the Washington think tanks, building reputations and waiting.
Mr. King notes that he may be transforming the Boston Global Forum (BGF) into a think tank. BGF is led by former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Nguyen Anh Tuan. He calls the would-be think tank "East Coat tony and very energetic," but notes that funding at this point is still uncertain.
For the record, Massachusetts already has 176 think tanks, the most of any state/federal district except Washington, DC, which has a whopping 396 think tanks and counting.