Monday, December 11, 2017

The Night Riders of the Thought Police

You may or may not know it, but Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe has been attacking his former colleague, emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz because the latter had the temerity to declare that Robert Mueller could not indict President Trump for obstruction of justice. Dershowitz declared that the president could not be indicted for exercising his constitutional authority… which allows him to fire any of those who work for him in the executive branch, for any reason.

Dershowitz continued that if Trump had encouraged someone to lie or to bribe, then surely he could be indicted. An interesting legal issue, one that we might well want to debate... since the collusion argument seems to have blow up for now.

Are the nation’s great legal minds debating this constitutional issue? Not at all. They are horrified that Dershowitz, a true liberal Democrat, would say anything that would detract from the left wing derangement over Trump. Eminent legal scholar like Laurence Tribe want Trump to be impeached. He does not care how. Any means are apparently acceptable as long as the proper result is achieved. He and his cohorts refuse to allow anything, not rational argument, not constitutional law, not due process stand in their way.

Now, what does Tribe have to say about this? What does the law professor contribute to deliberative debate on the topic? Well, he offers this tweet about Dershowitz:

My retired former colleague seems proud of playing devil’s advocate here. But this is no game. I think he should be deeply ashamed of helping legitimate the closest thing we have to the Devil Incarnate with so absurd and dangerous an argument.

Note the rhetorical flourish: the closest thing we have to the Devil Incarnate. (In caps, out of respect, I imagine). Might we ask where in the Constitution he found that reference to the Antichrist? Might we ask whether it belongs to the Common Law? 

The truth is, Tribe has lost his mind, he is flailing, he is acting like someone who is deranged, he has girded his loins and declared war on Donald Trump. Having lost his mind he has lost all sense of reality. At that point, nothing really matters. Due process be damned. Criminal procedure must be ignored. The only question for one of America’s great legal minds—or, should I say, for someone who used to possess one of America’s great legal minds—is to get Trump. By any means, using any methods, regardless of the damage to the constitution or the legal system.

Someone who is supposed to have dedicated his life to the law, is trafficking in Biblical prophecy. Immanentize the eschaton, as they say in the vernacular. Tribe has taken up residence in the Book of Revelation and awaits the Second Coming of Christ to rid the world of the Antichrist, aka, the Beast. Ought he not to feel a slight twinge of shame for compromising his life’s work in order to lead the disloyal opposition, an opposition so disloyal that it no longer cares about facts or the law? Ought he not to avoid such incendiary nonsense, in the interest of fostering rational debate?

Apparently not. America’s intellectual culture, its national conversation has been so completely corrupted that an Alan Dershowitz, a titan of modern liberal thought, a former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union has not earned enough credit to have his views respected by his erstwhile colleagues.

For a Laurence Tribe it no longer matters whether you are right or wrong. It no longer matters that you have spent your life defending civil liberties and teaching constitutional law. It no longer matters that you have raised substantive legal issues that deserve a hearing. Not at all. the only thing that matters is whether you belong to the army that is willing to sacrifice principle and rational thought in the effort to impeach Donald Trump. If Tribe thinks he is fighting Nazis this only adds to our sense of his derangement.

If you were wondering how America’s universities became cesspools of political correctness, if you were wondering why the night riders of the thought police are harassing anyone who disputes the current orthodoxy, you do not need to look any further than the Dershowitz/Tribe conflict.

It’s not as though Tribe and his legions of maniacal anti-Trumpers can harm Dershowitz. The 79-year-old retired professor is retired from the halls of academia, where he taught for five decades. We might say that he has been liberated. More important is the message that the diatribes against him, the efforts to shun him from polite liberal society, are sending to anyone else who would dare say a word that disputes the anti-Trump orthodoxy.

We saw it in the case of one Stephen Cohen, retired professor of Russia Studies, eminent authority on Russian politics, contributor to The Nation—not a right wing magazine, that—who has been excoriated by his colleagues on the left for daring to suggest that Trump’s Russia policy is reasonable and correct. And also for saying that, among the unwelcome side effects of the Russian collusion mania has been the damage done to Russian and American relationship. To Cohen, American and Russia should try to work together on numerous international crises. With the attacks on Trump’s supposed Russian collusion, the task has become increasingly difficult.

For having uttered these thoughts Cohen has been attacked by his colleagues. Because, if your expertise and your rational thought leads you to a conclusion that might make Trump look good, you are a traitor to the cause and deserve to be taken out and shot... in a manner of speaking.

Dershowitz has been more prominent, so he has received the lion’s share of opprobrium. The Washington Post told the story:
As a result, Dershowitz told The Washington Post on Wednesday, he is being shunned by many of his old political allies. His motives are being questioned. And people who used to be his friends just don’t want to hear from him.

“None of my liberal friends invite me to dinner anymore,” he said. “Thanks to Donald Trump, I’ve lost seven pounds. I call it the Donald Trump diet,” he joked.

Even so, Dershowitz says that he’s the same fiery, uncompromising civil libertarian that he has always been.

The effect of the threats and intimidation is to stifle debate and discussion. The Post reported:

He says a number of lawyers and scholars privately accept his argument but are unwilling to say so publicly because they don’t want to do anything that helps Trump. “I would say that 25 times people have either written me, called me, or told me in person and said, ‘You’re right. You’re 100 percent right. Your arguments are solid, but why do you have to say it? Just keep quiet. Don’t help them.’ ”

Aside from being ostracized, his motives are being attacked and his character is being defamed:

“People have accused me of everything,” Dershowitz told The Post. “Of taking money. … A guy on MSNBC asked me if I was being paid by Trump. Others have asked me if I’m writing a book about it,” he said. “The answer to both is no and no.”

“Everybody’s questioning motive,” he said, with some suggesting he’s jockeying for a seat on the Supreme Court (“I’m 79 years old”) or that he wants to be Trump’s lawyer. None of this is true, he said. “People can’t just accept that I’m saying what I believe and I would be saying the same thing if Hillary Clinton were president.”

His viewpoint “has affected my friendships,” Dershowitz said. “I have a nephew who is just furious at me. He wants to do anything to have this guy impeached or removed from office and he says I’m stopping that. There are people who think — and I’ve been accused of this in print — that I’m the one who put this obstruction argument into the head of Trump and his lawyers, especially since Trump tweeted that he liked my argument.”

Dershowitz said he “got an email today from a very prominent friend — I’m not going to disclose his name because it was a private email — admitting that I’m right and saying ‘My hatred toward Trump blinds me to your truths.’ That was his email. ‘My hatred for Trump blinds me to your truths. Please stop.’

Think about it. These are supposed to be enlightened souls. They have fought against hatred all of their lives. And now they are so consumed by hate that they cannot even see. They ought to recognize that when you are blinded by hate you are not going to be a very good soldier. Blindness makes far more difficult to aim. You might even end up attacking people who are on your side.

Again, the salient point is that the best and the brightest, the pillars of the American legal establishment, are so completely deranged by Trump that they can no longer see. Worse yet, they can no longer think. They are not even trying. Those who are not retired and untouchable will receive a chilling message. Take the right side of this war on Trump or your life will be over.

Whatever you think of Donald Trump, this anti-intellectual emotionally overwrought attitude, fostered by the nation's best legal minds, will damage the nation and our democracy. They are a disgrace to their profession.


trigger warning said...

SS: "[T]his anti-intellectual emotionally overwrought attitude, fostered by the nation's best legal minds, will damage the nation..."

In my opinion, it is a symptom of the damage that has been done, not the cause of ongoing or future damage.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Point well taken... but it can surely be both.

David Foster said...

The present climate reminds me of Sebastian Haffner's experiences when he was a young lawyer working in the Prussian Supreme Court, in the early days of Nazi rule.

"It was strange to sit in the Kammergericht again, the same courtroom, the same seats, acting as if nothing had happened. The same ushers stood at the doors and ensured, as ever, that the dignity of the court was not disturbed. Even the judges were for the most part the same people. Of course, the Jewish judge was no longer there. He had not even been dismissed. He was an old gentleman and had served under the Kaiser, so he had been moved to an administrative position at some Amtsgericht (lower court). His position on the senate was taken by an open-faced, blond young Amtsgerichtsrat, with glowing cheeks, who did not seem to belong among the grave Kammergerichtsrats…It was whispered that in private the newcomer was something high up in the SS."

The new judge didn’t seem to know much about law, but asserted his points in a “fresh, confident voice.”

"We Refendars, who had just passed our exams, exchanged looks while he expounded. At last the president of the senate remarked with perfect politeness, ‘Colleague, could it be that you have overlooked paragraph 816 of the Civil Code?’ At which the new high court judge looked embarrassed…leafed through his copy of the code and then admitted lightly, ‘Oh, yes. Well, then it’s just the other way around.’ Those were the triumphs of the older law.

There were, however, other cases–cases in which the newcomer did not back down…stating that here the paragraph of the law must yield precedence; he would instruct his co-judges that the meaning was more important than the letter of the law…Then, with the gesture of a romantic stage hero, he would insist on some untenable decision. It was piteous to observe the faces of the older Kammergerichtsrats as this went on. They looked at their notes with an expression of indescribable dejection, while their fingers nervously twisted a paper-clip or a piece of blotting paper. They were used to failing candidates for the Assessor examination for spouting the kind of nonsense that was now being presented as the pinnacle of wisdom; but now this nonsense was backed by the full power of the state, by the threat of dismissal for lack of national reliability, loss of livelihood, the concentration camp…They begged for a little understanding for the Civil Code and tried to save what they could."

Which, in the end, turned out to be not much.

Ares Olympus said...

I recall an interview with Scott Adams, he said in the last year 100% of his ordinary speaking engagements have dried up. No one wants to hear from someone who dares to try to express an unpopular political opinion, despite the fact Adams himself doesn't support Trump. He merely trusts Trump election is a one-off event that will never be repeated, and that our institutions will survive.

And the markets certainly haven't showed any of the disasters that Paul Krugman predicted just before the election, and thanks to stocks up by 200% since 2009 and 36% since the election, we're all wealthier (Household NET wealth) than ever before in our history. (I figure with 130 million households, the average household has $745k, so we're not quite millionaires yet.)

Bill Clinton's phrase was "It's the economy, stupid" lead the U.S. through the first bubble economy before the dot-com bust. Now the republicans can continue the work of Bill and Make America Great Again, with all the riches the Federal Reserve can print out of thin air. Of course if Hillary was president, everyone would be sure market confidence was coming from her steady leadership, rather than Trump's chaotic one. But the problem is when this third and longest boom finally busts. At least there's flight to safely, in bitcoins.

Sam L. said...

Two words: Barking Mad. The English do know how to turn a phrase.

These fools should know by now, that "This is how we'll GET MORE TRUMP." But Noooooooooooooooooooooooo. This is beyond their comprehension, because they adamantly REFUSE to see it.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

What people seem to have forgotten was the choice we had: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. We made the right choice.

I believe there are three groups that have suffered most in the public light Trump hath shone: (1) lawyers, (2) government and academic bureaucrats, and (3) journalists.

I don’t think the attitude is anti-intellectual. Instead, it clarifies what passes for sophisticated intellect these days. Our supposed betters are full of $%&#. They are a mob as pedestrian as any other, disintegrating into a mad mass catharsis that would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic. Instead, I find it amusing. And most all of them went to college.

And to think “America first” was treated as though it was such a radical idea. Now we know how radical it actually is. Again, clarifying.

Too bad, so sad.

Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said... that would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic. Instead, I find it amusing.

It would be hilarious, but instead it is amusing?

But it does look like colleges are going to get hit badly. Apparently if tuition costs $50k/year, but you get a tuition waiver to cover part of it, the reduced price is now income and may soon be taxed. It's like getting a brand new $20k car for a discounted price of $10k and getting to pay income tax on the $10k you didn't spend!

Of course Trump has nothing to do with it. This is the GOP congress looking to pay for their corporate tax rates by raising taxes on students.

But surely the worse deal was a decade ago on bankruptcy reform - putting public and private student loans as nearly impossible to discharge. So buyer beware, not just on a bad education, but debt slavery for life.

Anyway, I've got my education done, never had to borrow anything for my public university education, so why do I care? It's amusing to make the next generation suffer so I can keep my taxes a little lower, until they expire.

Jack Fisher said...

"This is the GOP congress looking to pay for their corporate tax rates by raising taxes on students."

you missed 4th grade the day your class learned about economics. there's no downward pressure on kolleges to keep tuition costs low because any moron can get a student loan guaranteed by taxpayer money. kids and their idiot parents believe in the fetish of a kollege degree as an automatic entre into the middle class, which it hasn't been since kolleges began handing them out to anyone who can borrow enough money to pay tuition.

this will come as a complete surprise to someone with your lemonade stand-grade grasp of tax policy, but reducing the tax rate on income producers can lead to a higher amount of taxes collected as the producers are able to create more wealth. astonishing, eh? counterintuitive to anyone who hasn't run a business. by the way, I'm spoiling your Christmas; there is no Santa Claus.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that much of the problem one sees in the legal profession is defined by the intent of the person getting the law degree. Did the person matriculate because they really had a great deal of respect for the law and wanted to be a part of it or was the thought, whether said or implied, that a legal degree is a fast way to political office, knowing people in power and/or the power that can be had by using the law for one's own benefit? Weissman is an example. For that matter so is most of the "supposed" lawyers on Mueller's cabal, oops team. How thrilling it must be that one can send innocent people to jail, destroy businesses, and makeup laws to do it. In Mueller's case one does not have to have a defined crime to spend large sums of taxpayer's money in pursuits of "process crimes" that are questionable in their legal application.
I suspect Dershowitz is the one who has demonstrated a true respect for the law whereas I would suggest that Tribe is not of the same mettle in the application of the law as Blackstone or the Founders intended. I may disagree with Dershowitz, but I respect his adherence to the law. I cannot say that for Tribe, who is to me much like Krugman in economics. driven by political considerations.
Sadly, the legal profession is on the way to doing to itself what the Media is doing to itself. In the main it does seem that both are driven by political considerations vice objective reporting and/or the equal application of the law. How much disrespect do they have to do in order to destroy any credibility they may have once had? Maybe CS Lewis was right when he wrote "The Abolition of Man"

Anonymous said...

It does seem we have a lot of "men without chests."

Jack Fisher said...

most, if not almost every single one of us who has a law degree did it for the money. I suspect most of the Founders who were lawyers were no less devious and conniving that the present crop.

Anonymous said...

Ares Olympus said...

Jack Fisher said... you missed 4th grade the day your class learned about economics. there's no downward pressure on kolleges to keep tuition costs low because any moron can get a student loan guaranteed by taxpayer money.

Exactly, so if student loans from private banks COULD be discharged via bankruptcy, banks would be less likely to make such loans, and students would have to make due with fewer loan options, and colleges would have to face less students or control costs.

Sam L. said...

AO,that would be a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Joe Y said...

(I apologize if this posted twice; it didn't seem to post the first time.)

"...the best and the brightest, the pillars of the American legal establishment, are so completely deranged by Trump that they can no longer see. Worse yet, they can no longer think. They are not even trying." I would posit that they have not been deranged per se, but that who they have always been is being revealed by extraordinary events.

I base this on many reasons, but I will limit it to the first phenomenon that lead me to question the ideology of my progressive Democrat/left wing upbringing and environment. In the late 70's, when I was an undergraduate at one of the Ivies (non-big 3), I would sit in the library reading about the impending fall of the Shah and his replacement by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Shah was a genuine tyrant, but it was clear that Khomeini was going to be far, far worse, because...that was precisely what he was saying! Say what you want about these guys, but they sure are honest. Furthermore, awful as the Shah was, it was clear that his repression was in the service of bringing his country into the 20th-Century, in the best sense of that term.

And yet, the progessives, leftists, liberal Democrats, et al, were completely oblivious. As far as they were concerened, the Shah was a horrible dictator (true enough, but with the ameliorating factor above), and the Ayatollah was some sort of liberator, regardless of the truth of what the man was. There were even feminists who said the Ayatollah was an improvement.

The only periodicals that were reporting honestly on the situation--besides, as I remember, the New Republic--were the conservative ones, such as The American Spectator, National Review, Commentary, etc. It was then that, with disorienting clarity, I realized that the partisans of the ideology I had assumed forever was the truth, were not at all what they seemed to be.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

It's good that you remind us of this foreign policy catastrophe-- we do need to remember who was engineering the overthrow of the shah and the advent of Khomeini. The notion that civilization would advance when we overthrow tyrants led the Obama administration to overthrow Mubarak and Qaddhafi. It led the Bush admin to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In the mythical kingdom that progressives inhabit, overthrowing a tyrant will naturally lead to a new democratic world. How did that work out?

Jack Fisher said...

The idea that the US could overthrow tyrants and install democratic institutions was born from experience with Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany so the concept is not a pipe dream but is definitely dependent on the right circumstances.

In other instances, the US has been more than happy to support tyrants we bought and paid for, e.g., the Shah, Diem, Somoza ("... he's our son of a bitch"), Batista, Marcos, Sgt. Doe in Liberia, and probably dozens more, some of whom until we don't need them anymore. It's just a matter of picking the right tyrant and the right fight.

@ Joe Y: The only redeeming factors for the Shah were that he stayed bought and was anti-Soviet.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Japan has been ruled by one party-- the Liberal Democratic Party-- almost exclusively since the end of the war. Democratic institutions seem to require Western Judeo-Christian cultures.

Richard said...

I am not so sanguine about the future. I fear that the insanity will engender a deranged party of the self righteous. (But, do I repeat myself?)

Jack Fisher said...

I suspect that democracy more aligns with emerging capitalism and tribalism than Judeo-Christian ethics. E.g., the Germanic confederations that replaced Imperial Rome in the 5th and 6th centuries were far more democratic than the empire. Democracy seems to work best where the population experiences a maturing conomic independence before political freedoms.