Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Obama cognitive dissonance brain freeze

I just came across this from Cass Sunstein, claiming that the University of Chicago Law School hired Barack Obama at least partly at the suggestion of conservative judicial superstar Michael McConnell.

Discussions - 14 Comments

If so, McConnell is a flake and should be taken off everyone’s short list for SCOTUS.

"True Right":

That’s nonsense and if you don’t know it, you should.

Obama is impressive for his rhetoric, if for no other reason.

"if for no other reason" than his "impressive ... rhetoric," then Obama has no business teaching in a law school and McConnell has no business recommending him.

Stop! Obama had an impressive record as a law student. Whether this particular story is true I have no idea.

So what? He’s a leftist moonbat.

Let me defend my friend Michael McConnell’s reputation. As I understand it, his suggestion was based upon his experience of Obama as an editor at the Harvard Law Review, where his work included publishing one of the many seminal articles McConnell wrote during that period of his career. If I’m not mistaken, the article in question is "The Selective Funding Problem: Abortions and Religious Schools" (HLR, March 1991), available through lexisnexis and JSTOR.

Two points are worth making here. First, editorial work requires intelligence and judgment, not to mention the capacity to set aside one’s own opinions as one works with an author. To the extent that Obama was capable of that, it’s a point in his favor. Second, that McConnell would regard Obama as a good editor and potential colleague says nothing about Obama’s suitability to be president. There are plenty of people I like as colleagues for whom I would never vote for any office that had any real influence over my life and livelihood. Obviously also, judgments about colleagues are based on assessments of intelligence and professional promise (as well, of course, as character), not on whether opinions happen to line up nicely. McConnell’s suggestion at most convinces me that Obama is smart, which is also (apparently) the judgment of Cass Sunstein (no slouch himself in the brains department). Bill and Hillary Clinton are smart. Pierre Trudeau was smart. Michael Ignatieff is smart. I never voted for Bill, would never have voted for Pierre, wouldn’t vote for Hillary, and wouldn’t vote for Ignatieff (if I could).

So lay off McConnell and just take this little anecdote for what it is--some evidence of Obama’s intelligence and capacity, where the stakes aren’t high, to subordinate his own opinions to someone else’s.

Another note: McConnell must be remarkably collegial, because he seems to get along with everyone. First, he clerked for Brennan, one of the most liberal members of the court in the past thirty years. Second, when Bush nominated him to the Tenth Circuit and the Senate Democrats threatened to block him, hundreds of ("liberal," "leftist," "moonbat[ish]") law professors signed an open letter supporting his appointment.

Joe has it right. Young law professors are chosen on grounds other than their suitability to be president.

Otherwise, what is going on here? Must be trash Obama now because he (ill-advisedly) has thrown his hat in the ring?

Michael is a genuinely nice guy. He’s conservative, but not an ideologue. And he’s so smart that other smart people have a hard time getting around that fact, even if they disagree with his conclusions.

One of the tests of Obama’s character would be whether he’d vote to confirm McConnell for a Supreme Court appointment. I note only that Obama couldn’t bring himself to vote for Roberts or Alito.

Steve,

As many have noted, Obama’s legislative record is relatively thin. He hasn’t been seriously tested on the campaign trail, except when he was trounced by Bobby Rush. Above all else, he seems to have his story.

I’m genuinely trying to figure out how much substance there is beneath the charming style, which makes the judgment of someone whose judgment I trust so valuable.

Unfortunately, aside from the books Obama’s actual paper trail seems quite slender. He didn’t put his name to any notes in the HLR (though he surely had to have written one--wish I knew or could guess which). He also apparently was an editor of the Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties review, but I can’t find any contribution in its TOC with his byline.

I’m sure there are some briefs somewhere, but they’re not (yet) on the web. So we have his "on the one hand, on the other hand" chapters and speeches, which almost always end up where you’d expect. But then there’s this, also from Cass Sunstein.P>I’m eager for more about his career as a practicing attorney and law professor, and surely his colleagues and former students will oblige some reporter somewhere.

We are fighting a civil war in this country -- believers in self-government on one side, radical statists (including judicial supremacists) on the other. Obama is on the wrong side of this, and always has been. No one who recommended him as a University of Chicago law professor can be counted on to uphold our side in this civil war. No more squishes on the Supreme Court.

Joseph: Isn’t it standard practice for notes in the HLR to be anonymous?

Yes. I wasn’t suggesting that anything was out of the ordinary in this case, just that it would be nice to find a bit of Obama’s legal paper trail.

If you have access to JSTOR, this bit from The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (Winter 2000/2001) is interesting, because there he mentions his editorship at the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Review, which, so far as I can tell, has neither anonymous contributions nor Obama’s byline. I haven’t seen a masthead, so I don’t know what kind of editorial position he had.

Being an editor of a law review does not mean that you published in the law review. It is based primarily on grades. The editor in chief position is usually elected by the members. There is no reason to believe that Obama published anything.

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