Conservative White Dude Named Dean at Harvard Law; Embittered Lefties Kvetch [Updated]
[guest post by JVW]
Harvard Law School, endowed initially by money from a slaveholder, today announced that Professor John Manning, a double alumnus of Harvard, will become the new Dean of the Law School effective July 1. Mr. Manning replaces the outgoing Dean Martha Minnow, whose tenure was marked by the modern cornucopia of race issues that infest campuses these days, and Ms. Minnow’s reaction was typically one of subservience to whatever demands the grievance industry happened to issue on any given day. Patterico covered this predilection a couple of years ago, and Dana reminded us that Harvard Law is home to a great number of snowflakes and crybullies. Mr. Manning, on the other hand, has conservative credentials, having clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia as well as for the late Judge Robert Bork. He also served in the George W. Bush administration in the Office of Legal Council and the Office of the Solicitor General.
So naturally, Mr. Manning’s appointment finds lefties in a state somewhere between embitterment and apoplexy. Over at Above the Law, Elie Mystal is, well, mystified that this job wasn’t treated as an affirmative action plum:
In related news, Manning was opposed by pretty much every legal “affinity” group you can think of on campus. If HLS admitted Martian law students, the Martians would have opposed John Manning. The choice of the non-white males at Harvard Law was professor David Wilkins. Wilkins’s scholarship focuses on the legal profession and legal ethics. THAT SEEMS KIND OF IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW. [All-caps repeated from original.]
But hey, score one for the white guys. We know things are tough for them right now, what with running all three branches of the government and all.
That’s right, folks. When white guys are in power in government, law schools have some sort of sacred obligation to balance that by appointing women and minorities to top positions. To bolster his argument that women and minorities are disappointed with the appointment of Mr. Manning, Mr. Mystal goes to that most authoritative of sources, Twitter:
Usually, when a new dean gets named at a prestigious law school, there are tons of well wishers commending the choice. Manning is no different. But for the past couple hours, I’ve been searching “John Manning” on Twitter, and in my unscientific scanning, I really haven’t seen non-white men taking to Twitter to congratulate the new dean. [. . .]
I know how the internet works, as soon as I publish this, conservatives are going to go find some women who support Manning, even if they have to create them like Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science. But if you look at social media (and, you know, my inbox of disappointed HLS grads who are women or of color) as of this writing, you’d think that Manning is here to serve only one segment of the HLS community. [Emphasis repeated from original.]
Stop the presses: left-wing Harvard Law grads are emailing a left-wing law blogger to express dismay at the hiring of a conservative dean! Who would have expected that? Left unsaid by Mr. Mystal is whether the appointment of a woman or minority would have led white males at Harvard Law to believe that their community would not be served, but I’m sure Mr. Mystal doesn’t waste one neuron of his brainpower pondering that question. But since he hasn’t yet exhausted his wellspring of bitchy snark, Mr. Mystal lets loose with a final observation:
To the extent that HLS was looking for a consensus choice among its diverse constituencies, the Manning rollout looks pretty pathetic. If all the white guys are grinning like they hit the Keno in Watertown, and but you struggle to find women or people of color to even send out a nice Tweet, your choice is perhaps more polarizing than you and all your white boy friends anticipated.
I guess white guys who went to Harvard Law School were due for a victory. The world can be so very very hard on them.
“Provocative” and “edgy” bloggers like Elie Mystal delight in caustically referring to their own subgroup as “white boys” in the belief that it buys them credibility with the various grievance groups from whom they long for acceptance. If you stop to think about it, white lefty self-loathing is at its very core simply sad and pathetic, though I suppose it’s all the rage among progressives in these mindless days.
I’m loath to have to respectfully suggest this to Elie Mystal and all the HLS grads who are filling his inbox with despairing messages, but perhaps Harvard Law chose Mr. Manning precisely because even they have grown tired of the whining theatrics of grievance-obsessed law students, and they no longer want a leader who indulges their every whim and fancy. I don’t follow these things, but a commenter on the Harvard Crimson article suggests that the perception of Harvard in the legal world has taken a hit over the past few years, so perhaps Mr. Manning was brought in to put an end to the grandstanding and moral preening that has infected every level of academia throughout the past decade and to restore a robust and intellectually-stimulating education in legal matters. Wouldn’t that be a wonder of wonders? You won’t find me saying this often, but rah Harvard.
[Cross-posted at You Know Where.]
UPDATE: It appears that I was wrong about Elie Mystal. I had been led to believe that he was a white guy, but it would seem pretty likely that he is instead black, and not in a Rachel Dolezal wishful-thinking sort of way. My mistake in making the assumption. So instead of his crack at “white boys” being self-loathing, it’s just run-of-the-mill bigoted. Glad to clear that up. I also note that I failed to provide a link to his post, but since I now know what a jerk he is I think I’ll go ahead and leave it out.
How conservative is he in truth? He was a deputy dean under Minnow, and
Or is he merely not a Leftie?kishnevi (3ebfe9) — 6/2/2017 @ 1:54 pm
Fair point, kishnevi, but why don’t sharks bite lawyers? Professional courtesy. I am choosing to see Faust and Kagan’s quotes as the typical no-criticizing-your-own type of statements, similar to when all of the Washington DC lawyers who served in the Bush Administration assured us that Eric Holder was a fine and responsible choice for Attorney General.
But it will be interesting to see if Manning as a conservative feels compelled to be even more solicitous towards grievance groups than his predecessors, of if my guess that he might have been brought in to shake things up is correct. Here’s hoping that I prove right.JVW (42615e) — 6/2/2017 @ 2:03 pm
It has nothing to do with past performance or suitability for the position, it’s all about skin pigment.
Racism pure and simple and the Harvard cry bullies are either too stupid or dishonest to own it.harkin (cdb06f) — 6/2/2017 @ 2:04 pm
Minnow will leave a whale of a racial problem for her successor to resolve.Colonel Haiku (2601c0) — 6/2/2017 @ 2:12 pm
i hope all the different races find a way to get along and learn super-good about the different laws and thingshappyfeet (a037ad) — 6/2/2017 @ 2:43 pm
but a commenter on the Harvard Crimson article suggests that the perception of Harvard in the legal world has taken a hit over the past few years
It’s fun to stay at the D. C. S. C…. will blame a certain 5′ 8″ naturalized Texan for that one.urbanleftbehind (f5d81d) — 6/2/2017 @ 2:46 pm
If he’s even open-minded, I wish him luck. But I’m reasonably sure that no single mortal, in any position, could create genuine change at Harvard Law School, or for that matter, at any of the top 20 law schools in the USN&WR survey, including, it pains me to say, my own.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 3:50 pm
The only way that a new dean could fix Harvard Law, in other words, would be if tenure were abolished instantly and forever, and if all existing faculty had to submit their resignations for him to accept or reject as he chose. One would have to replace well over 50% of the existing faculty to create even a moderately tolerant environment.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 3:52 pm
it’s a surprising step for the sorts that let derrick bell’s unhinged animus any purchase,narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 3:57 pm
I suspect the biggest “hit” the HLS has taken in recent years was when a president, who had been “president (not Editor) of the Harvard Law Review, demonstrated what he had learned there.Mike K (f469ea) — 6/2/2017 @ 4:37 pm
you’re talking about food stamp, who was a crappy, fascist harvardtrash president
but in some ways our harvardtrash chief justice is even worse (john roberts) cause his fascist ass is gonna linger like a bad fart for decadeshappyfeet (28a91b) — 6/2/2017 @ 4:57 pm
Wonder if The Mob will even let him take office.Patricia (5fc097) — 6/2/2017 @ 4:59 pm
it’s not a crazy question, sadly patricia,narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:11 pm
I agree with Narciso, since their only real complaint seems to be that he belongs to the wrong race and is satisfied with his biological gender. Unless he’s gay and no one has yet publicized the fact.kishnevi (aef29b) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:19 pm
oh they’ll find much crimethink to consider,
https://today.law.harvard.edu/without-pretense-legislative-intent-john-manning-delivers-scalia-lecture/narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:28 pm
the takeaway here is that under pressure to change
the leader harvard law has selected is a sleazy piece of harvardtrash who was not only indoctrinated there but has already spent a good chunk of his putatively adult life steeping in the harvard law sewerhappyfeet (28a91b) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:32 pm
This is your top legal story of the day?
http://abovethelaw.com/2017/06/wachtell-lipton-partner-george-conway-withdraws-from-justice-department-consideration/?rf=1Spartacvs (2db708) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:33 pm
I dunno. Without Harvard Law, we might never have knownJohn Houseman. (It’s a good video, not a Paper Chase one.)nk (dbc370) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:34 pm
well he had a long career going back to orson welles, but it his signature role,narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:43 pm
it’s extremely rare that something like this happens, law is about statutes and precedents, not feelings, unpossible,narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:49 pm
in the previous administration, there were officials who represented terrorists, who were part of the subprime cartel, fannie Freddie, morgan, Enron, (there was at least one detailee to that economic fossil,narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 5:54 pm
Spartacus is once again chagrined that we aren’t talking about the things that he wants to talk about. I’m looking forward to the day he leaves us to go whine at another blog.JVW (42615e) — 6/2/2017 @ 6:54 pm
I tried to find ecidence of his jurisprudence, I couldn’t find much,narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:01 pm
nk (and everyone), did you ever see Saturday Night Live’s parody of The Paper Chase set at UNLV? It’s a classic:
https://youtu.be/LfGXiwo4ntY?t=3m35sJVW (42615e) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:01 pm
yes it is, the amusing part is when heston’s houseman manqué, pooh pooh’s basketball performancenarciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:07 pm
Chagrined? Hardly. It is however, highly amusing.Spartacvs (2db708) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:16 pm
Heston was so great at comedy; it’s a pity that he didn’t have more comedic roles during his career.JVW (42615e) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:20 pm
well consider the films of the later half of his career, apes, soylent, omega man, he was cast as a rather strong cynical personality,narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:26 pm
tim olyphant’s a natural at comedy who knew
santa clarita diet’s ridiculously fun i thinkhappyfeet (28a91b) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:33 pm
and personally i tend to avoid comedy, but i keep going back to thishappyfeet (28a91b) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:34 pm
@ Mike K, who wrote (#10):
That’s a very interesting notion, and it sets me off on a bit of a rant.
TL/DR: I’m not very impressed with Obama’s HLR credentials, even though they are by far his very best credentials in an otherwise pathetic legal career.
I didn’t go to Harvard Law, so I have no first-hand experience with the school or its leading law journal. But at Texas Law, where (like our host) I had experience on the Texas Law Review, we certainly paid attention to the HLR as the 800-pound gorilla of the law journal world. Harvard Law School is itself quite large compared to many other top-tier law schools, and the HLR is consequently (and by design) quite large also, and it historically has published more issues each academic year than most of its competitors. (I seem to recall them publishing 10 or 11 issues per year back in my day, but a quick check just now suggests they’re down to 8, which IIRC is about what TLR published then and now. I suppose all standards erode.)
Some of our policies at TLR were expressly modeled upon HLR policies: For example, we’d followed their example in changing from the traditional method of selecting new members solely on the basis of 1L grades (top 5% at Texas Law, dunno the corresponding number from Harvard) to a mix of “grade-on” and “write-on” members, the latter of whom had earned an invitation in a three-day intense research-and-writing competition graded blindly by the journal’s 3L editors. So by at least the mid-1970s, at both Harvard and Texas and many other top-20 law schools, it became impossible to infer anything about a member’s grades or class rank merely from the fact that he was “on law review.”
Since I graduated in 1980, like most practicing lawyers I’ve only occasionally had any occasion to read or interact with law reviews (other than perhaps the occasional TLR alumni reunion). But in the 1980s and 1990s, when I was a BigLaw lawyer, I did law school recruiting at Harvard from time to time, so occasionally I would interview students with HLR experience, and of course also their peers from other law schools’ law journals.
With those disclaimers:
My understanding is that traditionally — certainly going back before my time — one of the idiosyncrasies of HLR, as compared to law journals from other law schools of virtually all ranks and sizes, was to call its top student editor the “President” as opposed to the “Editor-in-Chief.” In general, law journal students obsess over mastheads, so this kind of stuff was indeed a subject of observation and discussion. HLR, it was generally known, had no EIC, but had a “President” in lieu thereof. (The number 2 slot at HLR, as at many other journals, was the Managing Editor — that’s the job Chief Justice John Roberts had when he was an HLR editor.)
And at least among my peers at that time at TLR, we thought it peculiar — and a decidedly bad idea that we definitely did not want to follow — to have the journal’s editors selected by popular election. The tradition elsewhere in the country, at least to my knowledge having recruited at a lot of law schools in the 1980s and 1990s, is that an outgoing board of editors, comprising 3L students about to graduate, selects its replacements from among the 2L members based on their observation of how the 2L members have performed during their first year of membership. That would include how diligent they were in doing necessary scut-work like cite-checking and proofreading. But mostly it tended to be based on the outgoing board’s evaluation of the academic and intellectual merits of the 2L members’ respective student “notes” or “casenotes” or “comments,” written for publication in the journal along with articles from law professors.
Thus it was that when the New York Times published an article by Fox Butterfield headlined First Black Elected to Head Harvard’s Law Review back in February 1990, I read it with keen interest. (Yes, I still subscribed to and read the NYT on dead trees daily in 1990, but didn’t for much longer.) This was the first time Barack Obama appeared on my personal radar screen — not in an overtly political context, but rather in the context of legal academics. (I was reminded of this again in 2004, when he spoke at the Kerry’s nominating convention.) But at Harvard Law and HLR in particular, legal academics and politics had already gotten plenty blurred by 1990.
It’s very, very hard to get any kind of useful empirical information about Obama’s time at Harvard Law. He has tons of faculty admirers, all of whom call him “brilliant” when discussing him now but whose actual grades given to him are still shrouded in complete, intentional, and well-coordinated and -maintained mystery. There’s never been any disclosure of his undergraduate or law school transcripts or GPAs, nor his scores from standardized tests like the SAT or LSAT. To this day, I haven’t been able to find any reliable indication from any of the many dozens of Obama’s fellow HLR members as to whether Obama “graded on” or “wrote on.” I’ve heard suggestions, but can’t verify, that the “write-on” process at HLR was not done on a “blind” basis, but rather that it was done in a “racially sensitive” way, the classic “affirmative action” as it was called then.
As for how he went from being a “member” to an editor — indeed, the top editor, the “President” — of the HLR, that’s also very obscure, again quite deliberately, I believe. I think this from that NYT article is generally accurate and in accord with what I’d heard elsewhere:
If you scour the interwebz, you can find hints — but not much more than that — which suggest that Obama’s selection was very much based on politics and race, with no corresponding indications that he was also selected for his legal scholarship, brilliance, editing ability, writing ability, or fitness as a top-of-the-masthead editor.
Indeed, until August of 2008 that the Obama campaign even acknowledged that yes, despite his silence when asked the question by press in preceding years, Obama did write and publish a student note while at HLR, which I blogged about at some length here: Obama’s belatedly acknowledged case comment in the Harvard Law Review raises questions about his campaign’s fundamental honesty. As I wrote then:
Frankly, I’m surprised that HLR published this. The Illinois law connection is unusual for HLR — which in the modern era hasn’t often bothered to publish about mere state supreme court decisions, and not about something as dross as tort law — so I suspect that Obama was handed this topic by lawyer friends he’d made back in Chicago, likely someone from Sidley Austin (the Chicago-based BigLaw firm where Obama worked after his first year at Harvard Law, and where he met his future wife, Michelle, then an associate). As legal writing goes, it’s certainly competent, but by the time anything goes through the editing process of a large law journal, it’s harmonized and pasteurized and cite-checked to death, typically with anything like lucid prose being replaced with academic jargon. How much was Obama’s work, how much was the work of his cite-checkers and student editors? We will never know, because neither he nor any of those people have ever been willing to speak on those subjects for publication.
Of one thing I am dead certain, however, from reading that note: It wouldn’t have gotten him onto the editorial board of the Texas Law Review, period — much less was it the kind of genuine scholarship that typically is expected from someone who becomes EIC.
Even in the NYT article from 1990, you see the hints of Obama the Slacker: Note the references to past HLR presidents almost uniformly going on after graduation to prestigious judicial clerkships, often even to SCOTUS clerkships, before entering the full-time practice of law, private or public. Abner Mikva, then a judge on the D.C. Circuit who was considered a “feeder judge” for SCOTUS clerkships, has publicly confirmed that he offered Obama a clerkship even though Obama hadn’t applied for one!
But judicial clerks don’t have subordinates. They have no one to whom they can delegate the actual work. And if their work product doesn’t satisfy the judges of the court for which they’re clerking, they can embarrass themselves and their patron judges.
Instead he went back to Chicago to work for a politically-connected law firm whose clients were mostly Dem politicians, unions, NGOs and interest groups, and, oh, yeah, Tony Rezko, the mobbed-up slumlord who handed the Obamas their first house in a sweetheart (crooked) real estate deal, back before his conviction on 16 counts of wire fraud, bribery, money laundering, and attempted extortion. (Rezko was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, btw — small world, isnt’ it?) He worked there, part-time, while writing his first book and then while being a community activist and state senator and part-time lecturer at Chicago Law — leaving almost no tracks in the annals of the law and achieving no distinction whatsoever.
Lots and lots of law degrees end up going to waste. His, in my judgment, is the best example of that in the history of the world.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:37 pm
he helped negotiate the Paris Agreement, which was an important agreement about the carbon dioxide molecules that was an integral part of the fabric of international environmental law for several monthshappyfeet (28a91b) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:44 pm
the real first African American review president was Charles Hamilton Houston, he was the brains behind the naacp legal strategy in the 40s and 50s,narciso (d1f714) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:45 pm
BTW: The NYT refers to HLR having “80 editors,” and describes the write-on process as being to select “editors,” rather than new “members.”
This is confusing and confused, again deliberately. Harvard Law is notorious among legal recruiters everywhere for its rampant grade inflation, its meaningless “cum laudes” (which it seems to hand out to almost everyone who passes), and its utter refusal to provide transcripts or other details of performance. Likewise, HLR engages in “title inflation,” in which (as it was explained to me, anyway) everyone who makes it past their probationary standard and finishes their required scutwork becomes an “editor” as a 3L. It’s an honorary title — generally unless they’re top-of-the-masthead (or “real”) editors, who have more specific titles (“articles editor,” “note & comment editor,” etc.), it’s just more resume padding.
I actually hated recruiting at Harvard and Yale because you couldn’t get a clue about how well the students had actually done there. Between grade inflation and absence of rigorous blind grading, there was no way to make meaningful distinctions between students’ records, such as they were, even when the students volunteered to disclose any of that info in their resumes.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:49 pm
Thanks for clarifying the HLR president vs Editor. I was told (read) that he never submitted a paper and Editors tended to be scholars.
MY personal impression is that Obama is the most perfect example of Affirmative Action we have ever seen.
I saw this way back in early 2008 when I researched his record.
Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio program.
I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:
“He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.’”
“Oh, you are? Who might that be?”
Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.
“I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen,” State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of landmark racial profiling and videotaped confession legislation yanked away by Jones and given to Obama, complained to me at the time. “Barack didn’t have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit.
Like I said, Affirmative Action.Mike K (f469ea) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:50 pm
@ Mike K: Yeah, it was widely reported before August 2008 that he’d never published. That alone makes me think there’s more to the story than has yet been revealed. But the ex-HLR people believe in Omertà, I guess, and will neither confirm nor deny nor reveal anything more than the glowing platitudes.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 7:59 pm
Basically, he was voted in, during a non-secret ballot, conducted among all of his own classmates and those of the year ahead of him who were in good standing on the review. Only a fraction of those would have been in any position to assess his writing or his scutwork or his industry or anything else but his name and skin color. They wouldn’t have known his grades either (although they might, or might not, have known if he “graded on” or “wrote on,” ’cause those tend to appear in clumps).
Basically it’s about as meaningful as a high school election for homecoming king.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:02 pm
This was my assessment of Obama’s career as a lawyer, back in 2008. Key quote:
That is an astonishingly small total! In those years, minimum billing expectations at any BigLaw firm were at least 2000 billable hours per year; at the first at which I worked, billables in excess of 2200 per year were common even among partners; and even in many smaller and less driven law practices, one would certainly be expected to bill more than 1600 hours per year.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:09 pm
And “Senior Lecturers” at Chicago Law got talented — typically law-review caliber — 2L and 3L “student aides” to help them write their course syllabus, write & grade their exams, and do everything except stand in front of the class and b*llsh*t.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:12 pm
My favorite line about recruiting at Harvard Law School: “We’ve gone Lake Woebegone one better: 90% of each of our graduating classes ranks in the top one-third!” Spoken in only mock jest, of course.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:14 pm
Obama represents exactly what is wrong with our intellectual class, they confuse long winded prose and nice grammer with intellect. They confuse activity with progress. They can separate signal from noise. Graduate Education does this to most. Especially lawyers.
Smart folks can think on their feet. In fact if real smart, you know when you are creating logical holes in your arguments. Obama is not smart. He is educated and memorized his talking points.Blah (44eaa0) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:24 pm
But smart he is not. He struggles when forced to think on his feet.
Smart? Clinton was smart. Very.Blah (44eaa0) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:26 pm
When I was in law school, I wrote for the underground school newspaper, mostly lampooning the official one. In one of our issues, we announced that year’s selection of law review editors. We put down everyone’s name, except the actual ones. We got strong reaction from the real review staff, and from the assistant dean, accusing us of devaluing their prestige and the prestige of the journal.
Reaction we had not gotten when we had given a new professor a fake biography as a secret agent, or when we had “revealed” that cannibalism was rampant at the school and that 1Ls who did not return had not really dropped out but had been eaten.nk (dbc370) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:32 pm
nk, that’s fabulous!Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:41 pm
The official explanation of missing 1Ls at Texas Law was that they had decided to go to dental school somewhere remote and obscure.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:42 pm
Fabulous thread/comments – especially Beldar at 31. If there were to ever be a Patterico comment HOF, this one would be in it.
Remind me to never have cause to be against him in any legal action. 😉Ed from SFV (3400a5) — 6/2/2017 @ 8:55 pm
Thank you, Ed from SFV. I was afraid that was way too long for anyone to wade through.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 9:06 pm
Just did some updating, and was surprised to find this: He’s published again! From the Harvard Crimson on January 5, 2017:
When I went to look for the article itself, I found this webpage on the HLR’s website, with a heading reading “All Work By Barack Obama” and then the title of his 2017 piece, “The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform,” which is designated as “Commentary by Barack Obama.” Once or twice during my time at TLR, we published a “commentary,” so marked to distinguish it from normal academic “articles” written, typically, by law professors (and, far less often, by judges or practicing lawyers or other sorts of legal scholars). It was a designation used only for someone who already had a “big name,” someone whom we were very glad to get a submission from if only for purposes of reflected prestige.
But the dirty little secret was that “commentaries” weren’t held to anywhere remotely close to the same publication standards that we used for articles, or even for student-written notes, case-notes, comments, or whatever.
Rather, like book reviews (the category I edited at TLR), “commentaries” were lightly sourced, if sourced at all. Often they were some sort of memoire or musing. They could be very entertaining, a relief from the dry stuff of which most legal academic scholarship is constructed. But it’s not something which, for example, an aspiring young assistant professor looking for an associate professorship — and tenure with it, with hopes of a full professorship, maybe an endowed chair later — would ever consider to be a top resume credit.
I then followed the link, and I’ve just now tried to read Obama’s “commentary.” And I’m sorry. I can’t force myself to waste that much time doing something that unpleasant when I’m not getting paid for it. It’s not quite as insipid as his second book, which was a collection of campaign speeches recycled for the 2008 election season. But it’s indistinguishable from the sort of plastic policy analysis you’d get from Brookings or a dozen other special interest think-tanks, which I strongly suspect either directly or indirectly did all the actual research, writing, and thinking that went into this. I’d gladly give 2-to-1 odds on whether Obama himself has read it, if there were any way to actually verify the truth about that (and there’s not).
But the guy is still trying to pad together a decent resume as a lawyer, and it’s really pathetic to me that he feels the need to do that. Deep-rooted insecurities in that guy, unfortunately well-founded.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 9:24 pm
Do you think that Obama “wrote” this piece in the same way that Dershowitz, Tribe, and Ogletree “write” their own books? That I can believe.
And I read your whole comment at #31 above, Beldar, and agree that it is a fantastic submission. Thanks for commenting. The story I remember hearing about Obama being named President of HLR is that he was a compromise choice between right-wing and left-wing law students. But of course this was back in 2008 when we were being fed this idea of Obama as someone who could bring together people of divergent ideologies and unite them in a forward-moving direction, so it was probably a lot of bunkum anyway.JVW (42615e) — 6/2/2017 @ 10:02 pm
@ narciso, who wrote (#33):
Yes, I’ve heard very knowledgeable observers give Mr. Houston credit for exactly that, which is to say, they’ve independently verified the credit given to Mr. Houston by his proteges, including Thurgood Marshall.
My con law prof at UT Law in 1977 was the late Jerre S. Williams, who’d come there as an assistant professor not long after his own graduation from Columbia Law in 1941. He thus was one of the joint faculty members referenced in Sweatt v. Painter (1950) as teaching both at Texas Law School and a newly-created all-black school that the State of Texas intended to be the “separate but equal” version thereof. He assured us that he used the same books & curriculum, even gave the same lectures on the same days, at both schools. But as the SCOTUS correctly ruled, facilities and teachers and curriculum alone aren’t all that goes into making a law degree valuable. Sweatt v. Painter came just to the brink of the “inherently unequal” ruling that would be made in Brown v. Board four years later; the case is still taught in law schools today, and Prof. Williams actually then taught Herman Sweatt when he was indeed admitted to Texas Law by order of the SCOTUS. So he paid close, and first-hand, attention to the civil rights litigation as it progressed through the 1950s and 1960s. And from that perspective, as we went through the series of cases leading up to Brown, Prof. Williams credited Mr. Houston with being extremely shrewd in picking and choosing clients, causes, and counsel to the very best effect over a long period — a strategy of nibble, pause, nibble, pause, nibble, GULP.
I admire Mr. Houston and his peers, including Thurgood Marshall: What they did was to correct the erroneous interpretation of the plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause, an erroneous interpretation going back to the so-called “Civil Rights Cases” of 1883 in setting up the whole fiction of “separate but equal.”
Alas, subsequent generations of Democratic politician-lawyers did not stop there, and now fight not to enforce the Constitution as written, but to make it into some sort of supposed “living, breathing” thing which has no fixed meaning.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 10:25 pm
@27. Rest easy; his performances at NRA gatherings remain comedy gold.DCSCA (797bc0) — 6/2/2017 @ 10:33 pm
@ JVW (#49): Thanks! I heard the same thing, re him being a “compromise” candidate, but as I heard it, it was a compromise between left-wing and radically left-wing factions on the HLR. Obama was supposed to be indifferent between the two (or they both thought he secretly supported them while feigning indifference), and was marketed as a “conciliator.” Where else have we heard that stuff before?
My sources are no better than second-hand, though. You can find quite a few stories on the net about people from HLR during Obama’s tenure who repeat the general bromides but then get really, really vague, or just utterly nonresponsive, about details. They won’t go on the record about any of the work he actually did.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 10:36 pm
Lots of law degrees end up going to waste… Given what he lost through his own actions– the most powerful office on Earth– Richard Nixon’s, in fact, is the best example of that in the history of the world.DCSCA (797bc0) — 6/2/2017 @ 10:39 pm
There was a paragraph in Sweatt v. Painter that Prof. (later Fifth Circuit Judge) Williams took special pride in pointing out every year when teaching this case to every group of 1Ls taking his con law course (italics mine):
“I challenge my friends at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford to point to any similar recognition of their law schools in an opinion of the Supreme Court!” he would say with enthusiasm.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 10:45 pm
Nixon was third in his class at Duke Law. He was a successful practicing lawyer, in and out of court, in and out of uniform, in both California and New York. The firm in which he was a name partner — Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, Alexander & Mitchell — continued (without his name) as a top-tier NYC law firm until its dissolution in 1995; I litigated against them in M&A cases in the 1980s. Nixon made good use of his law degree, regardless of his actions as POTUS which led to his resignation.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 10:53 pm
Obama’s legal career doesn’t even match up to Michelle’s, except for the HLR stuff. She was at Sidley Austin for at least a couple of years, during which I’m sure she must have out-billed Barack’s eleven years at Miner, Davis.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 11:00 pm
@ JVW (#49): When you get tenure and a chair and a big reputation and book contracts and friends who are district and circuit judges, it’s awfully tempting to turn to those best-and-brightest top-1% students who’re looking for faculty references and recommendations for their judicial clerkships. This year’s research assistant, ghostwriting for Prof. Tribe, will be next-year’s law clerk to Chief Judge Merrill Hartman on the D.C. Circuit, thence to Justice Kagan, etc.
But then you’d have someone like Charles Alan Wright, who no student research assistant could possibly ever keep up with, much less meaningfully assist or ghostwrite for. If I want a good laugh, I just imagine Barack Obama trying to keep up in a conversation about constitutional law with Charles Alan Wright.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 11:08 pm
Bah, meant Merrick Garland, not Merrill Hartman (once a very fine trial judge in Dallas).Beldar (fa637a) — 6/2/2017 @ 11:09 pm
@55. Nixon made good use of his law dergee, regardless of his actions as POTUS which led to his resignation.
??? Apparently not ‘good use’ enough- considering law partner and partner-in-crime AG Mitchell ended up in the slammer and the Big Dick himself, an unindicted co-conspirator, gave up the most powerful public office on Earth and conceded Watergate guilt by accepting the presidential pardon.
Sorry, Beldar, disagree. He could have been truly great but instead, was truly a great waste. His 5 o’clock shadow still darkens the public landscape today.DCSCA (797bc0) — 6/2/2017 @ 11:14 pm
Last historical tidbit: The “Painter” in the case name was T.S. Painter, then president of the University of Texas, and in that capacity the appropriate named defendant in Mr. Sweatt’s lawsuit. However, Pres. Painter was not a lawyer and didn’t teach at the law school. Instead, he was a world-class zoologist famous in genetics for his studies on fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster; there’s a laboratory building on the U.T. campus named after him, and no pesticides are permitted anywhere near it.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/3/2017 @ 12:02 am
I really haven’t seen non-white men taking to Twitter to congratulate the new dean
Cluelessly calling non-whites racists.Kevin M (25bbee) — 6/3/2017 @ 1:11 am
I am waiting for some attorney with a sack to find out what the heck is happening at these meetings. These people are worse than muzzie terrorists. Come on lawyers man the eff up and help the U.S.A.mg (31009b) — 6/3/2017 @ 3:46 am
https://www.intellihub.commg (31009b) — 6/3/2017 @ 3:48 am
sorry, supposed to be with the above.
Fascinating beldar I’ve long thought that Jim crow was an even more grievous wound in the American polity, why Dubois turned to Marxism although his judgement as typified nybendorsing Wilson wasn’t so swift in the first place.narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 5:56 am
Man of mystery is an ignorant man, compounded by the fact he learns nothing from these exchanges.narciso (9cb6e7) — 6/3/2017 @ 6:07 am
I would pay good money to listen to Beldar talk about UT and to have seen Obama debate Charles Alan Wright on any topic.DRJ (15874d) — 6/3/2017 @ 6:52 am
The denunciation of accomplished men or women by leftwing pissants brings a bit of levity and amusement to a Saturday morning.Colonel Haiku (2601c0) — 6/3/2017 @ 7:02 am
I just remembered something that gave me some delight upon awakening this morning l…
Hillary Clinton Will Never Be President Of The United States Of America!Colonel Haiku (2601c0) — 6/3/2017 @ 7:08 am
I took Federal Courts from Charles Alan Wright. One moment I remember was when a student said there was no federal common law, and Professor Wright said: “Really? Where did you get that idea?” The student said it was from the Erie case. Professor Wright said: “Could you give me a quote?” The student looked in his book, and then read a quote from Erie that said there was no “federal general common law.” The student said the second word of that phrase a bit more more quickly and quietly than the others, and Professor Wright asked: “What was that word that you swallowed there?”
I realized at the time that taking the class was an honor, but in retrospect I didn’t realize just how great an honor it was.Patterico (115b1f) — 6/3/2017 @ 7:41 am
Think back ten years ago, maybe even five…
When exactly did it become acceptable, and brave and righteous, to scream invective at someone, to force them out of their jobs or their homes, because of their skin color?Patricia (5fc097) — 6/3/2017 @ 7:43 am
Professor Scot Powe once told our First Amendment class the University of Texas School of Law had recently been ranked by U.S. News and World Report as being “among the top eleven law schools in the country.”
I never forgot that line.Patterico (115b1f) — 6/3/2017 @ 7:44 am
Scalia in his recommendations said he would prefer fewer ivy league more southern and Midwestern likely more churchednarciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 8:01 am
I mean whose the last Harvard law professor who didnt come off as a pompous fool.narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 8:03 am
The ones who crafted plessy which rubberstamped the bourbons already stated goals should share in ignominy with taney, but since they weren’t southern, brown was from Michigan they are not.narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 8:18 am
Why dwell on this point, because the separatists of this era, harp on past betrayals, to ‘rub raw the sources of siacontent’narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 8:23 am
Similarly the Chinese exclusion act are mustered against the application of a modest immigration pause.narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 8:32 am
@65 And still Nabisco remains a proven purveyor of fake news.DCSCA (797bc0) — 6/3/2017 @ 8:45 am
That is a striking Elision of the holding in erie: they do not have the power to effect federal common law.narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 9:05 am
No mystery, narciso, he’s an embittered, homebound caregiver who eats teh leftwing sh*tburger like it’s manna from his Gaia.Colonel Haiku (2601c0) — 6/3/2017 @ 9:10 am
I found this a reasonably fair account, although he does rely on the grishenko at the end:
https://thefederalist.com/2017/06/02/can-we-escape-a-second-cold-war-with-russia/narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 9:43 am
Deep-rooted insecurities in that guy, unfortunately well-founded.
I do wonder about the source of Obama’s pathologies. He had a missing father, radical mother who seemed to be a globe trotter, a Marxist grandfather and a mixture of Muslim third world and upper class private school upbringing.
It’s tempting to think that he was mentored by someone and given a path to Harvard that we still don’t know about.
His thoughts about penal “reform” seems designed to add to the delusion of black college students who crave segregation after all the trouble their forebears went to to end it. I spent 15 years teaching medical students in small group settings and during that time quite a few such students were black.
Most of those black students were foreign born, which I think is not unusual among graduate students who are doing pretty well, as you must do to be a medical student. The ones I have talked to have trouble understanding American blacks. They lack the victimhood pathology that is such a part of American blacks the past 25 years.
Affirmative Action has sent a large group of black students to colleges that have high achieving white and Asian students who, I suspect, intimidate and infuriate the blacks who sense they are not well prepared for high level studies.
The response has been to provide weak academic programs like “Studies” majors and grade inflation to make them feel they are accomplishing something. I think some of them sense they are not getting anywhere and they are angry when they see white and Asian students moving ahead.
The disgraceful Dartmouth Library protest by BLM was an example of the rage at white students studying for finals when the black students probably realize they have no need to study as their fake degrees are already printed and not worth the paper they are printed on.Mike K (f469ea) — 6/3/2017 @ 10:45 am
You note how all the stories from garrows book seem to have stopped after the yagher incident?
I guess leaked emails, they paraphrase don’t matter anynore
http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5932bf04e4b02478cb9bec1c?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 10:50 am
Patrick: Among other professional endeavors, Prof. Wright co-edited, with Harvard Law prof Arthur Miller, a multi-volume treatise, updated every year, comprehensively covering all of federal practice and procedure. Like all law clerks for federal judges of the last six decades or so, I regularly cited “Wright & Miller” as persuasive authority in a very high proportion of the opinions I drafted for my judge’s review. And likewise, I’ve continued to use it ever since in the portion of my practice that takes place in federal courts. Simply put, it’s the Bible for federal procedure.
Around the turn of the millennium, not very long after Prof. Wright’s passing, I had occasion to attend and monitor, for a client who had related litigation, a $3B combined class certification and settlement fairness hearing in federal court in Beaumont. The class plaintiffs’ counsel had hired Prof. Miller as an expert witness to give favorable opinion testimony about whether the class should indeed be certified and the settlement approved; nor surprisingly given who’d hired him, he was in favor of both, poo-poo’ing the objections being raised by dissident class members and their lawyers (who were objecting for the sole purpose of being bought off separately). Prof. Miller is not only a formidable scholar and writer, but a gregarious and entertaining speaker — he had a long-running PBS series some years ago, IIRC — and he was an absolute superstar in his testimony. But he began it, during the qualification stage, by very carefully identifying himself as “the junior partner in the Wright & Miller collaboration,” something he claimed to be careful always to point out even when not in Texas. The courtroom was packed with lawyers from all over the state — probably 80+ lawyers, probably one-third or more of whom were UT Law graduates, including the judge — so this testimony was met with polite chuckles and then, spontaneously, with about a 15-second moment of silent reverence.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/3/2017 @ 10:59 am
(I know you know about W&M, that set-up was obviously intended for your non-lawyer readers.)Beldar (fa637a) — 6/3/2017 @ 11:01 am
Ah miller I have seen some of his seminars on pbs in the 90s.
Garrow is exceedingly wordy his first chapter is about the deteriorating situation in South side Chicago in the early 80.narciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 11:05 am
So he’s a rare exception, he doesn’t let polemics her in the way of the fundamentalsnarciso (d1f714) — 6/3/2017 @ 11:12 am
DRJ, you’re too kind, but thank you. Did you have Wright as a prof for con law or fed courts? Certainly even those Texas Law students who didn’t knew of and about him — if only for the intramural football team he coached each year, the “Legal Eagles.” Certainly anyone who ever was in his presence for 30 seconds or more would understand why he’d be the perfect debating opponent for Barack Obama, yes?Beldar (fa637a) — 6/3/2017 @ 11:36 am
I had Witherspoon for Con Law.DRJ (15874d) — 6/3/2017 @ 11:46 am
But I actually knew him because he lived next door to my cousin, so I got to know him as a person. He had an encyclopedic mind. He was interesting and courteous.DRJ (15874d) — 6/3/2017 @ 11:48 am
And he could intellectually wipe the floor with anyone. The fact is he often tried not to, but he always could.DRJ (15874d) — 6/3/2017 @ 11:49 am
In real life, of course. From what I’ve heard, he never worried about embarrassing law students.DRJ (15874d) — 6/3/2017 @ 11:55 am
I never felt like I could stand up quite straight enough in his presence.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/3/2017 @ 7:29 pm
31 etc Re: Obama’s first election.
There’s a little bit about it in the 1990 New York Times article, which almost hides the fact it was heavily contested election, or caucus/convention rather, and he won on the upteenth ballot:
“early this morning, means the wee hours of Monday, February 5, 1990.
http://www.conservapedia.com/Barack_Hussein_Obama has a bit more detail:
The upteenth ballot, as I said.
Presidential nominating conventions aren’t contested any more, but the choice of Harvard Law Review president was in 1990.
As I said here on May 28, 2014 in comment 144:
It would make a great story, if anybody would tell it. But Obama kept the whole thing very quiet.
The convention (or conclave?) was deadlocked. But Barack Obama was acceptable to conservatives, who were able to use his race to pull away enough of the radicals to elect him. And their judgment was vindicated: He did not wreck, or attempt to wreck, the Harvard Law Review.
Footnote 18 in the conservapedia article links to:
It says:Sammy Finkelman (5b302e) — 6/3/2017 @ 8:56 pm
ddddBettyRaf (1588e2) — 6/4/2017 @ 10:47 am
Ted Cruz was just a few years behind Obama on HLR. His book makes clear that the genuine conservatives on Harvard Law Review could comfortably populate one poker table. The conservative faculty members at Harvard Law could, perhaps, have filled another.
I am very, very sure that Barack Obama sat at no poker tables with the handful of Ted Cruz analogs at Harvard Law, and I’m quite sure they couldn’t possibly have been more than a “spoiler” in HLR elections.
The politics being waged within HLR paralleled a political fight within the Harvard Law faculty, which likewise was a fight between leftists and radical leftists. Some of the fight was very deep in esoteric legal weeds, being led by polarizing figures like Duncan Kennedy with his “critical legal theories” jurisprudence, the effective goal of which is to replace the Rule of Law with the Rule of the Smart Liberal Judges Who Will Do What Legislatures Won’t and Can’t to Advance Our Agenda and Redistribute Wealth (to us and our buds). There were also big debates going on about who would and wouldn’t get tenure. This was about the time, for example, that Harvard Law recruited Elizabeth Warren, previously of UT Law and Penn Law as a plain white lady, as a minority (Native American) faculty member — just in case you’re wondering about the academic honesty of this institution.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/4/2017 @ 11:21 am
Mr. Finkelman, you do realize, I hope, that the language you quoted from the Vanity Fair article is utterly unsourced (it probably came from the NYT article in 1990, therefore); and, more to the point, doesn’t include the word “conservative.” Thus it cannot possibly support the assertion in the “conservapedia” post that Obama’s HLR election was “largely with help of conservatives.” I call b*llsh*t.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/4/2017 @ 11:30 am
Ah Duncan Kennedy a name I had forgotten.narciso (d1f714) — 6/4/2017 @ 11:58 am
By the same token, I assume that Prof. John Manning is likely to be a conservative only by Harvard Law School standards. I would be surprised if he has voted for a Republican for president in the last 20 years, for example. If he is able to avoid having the radical-left students and faculty drag the law school further to the left, though, he will deserve a lot of credit for that.Joshua K. (cd074b) — 6/4/2017 @ 12:03 pm
96. Beldar (fa637a) — 6/4/2017 @ 11:30 am
No, it is not, it goes beyond the NYT article, but it is unsourced, and all other sources on the Internet that say specifically that he won on the 19th ballot, seems to trace back to the Vanity Fair article.
But that doesn’t mean that Todd Purdham, writing in the March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, had no source, as he could have gotten into trouble had he simply made it up or been lied to. He does quote somebody in the next paragraph, who might be his source, or one of them, Nancy McCullough, described as entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles who wss one year behind Obama at Harvard Law, and she gives a reason as to why “people were comfortable putting him in the presidency.”
I kind of feel Todd Purdham is hiding some facts, but he’s not making up the basic fact of his election on the 19th ballot in a strategic move by conservatives, who were otherwise outvoted. I think what he’s hiding is the nature of the leading candidates whom Obama beat out. (the radicals are supposed to have been deadlocked between two choices, which gave the conservatives this opportuniy.)
I think I did encounter something somewhere else at some time about there being multiple ballots, a datum the New York Times does not have. The 1990 NYT article also refers to Obama’s father as having been a Finance Minister in Kenya, which I think is not correct. The highest he got probably was a position as senior economic analyst in the Ministry of Finance and he got into trouble both for political reasons (he was anti-Kenyetta Marxist) and because he was an alcoholic, and maybe because he was bigamist, but I don’t know if that would have caused trouble in Kenya. He got blacklisted, and was involved in three serious car accidents during one of which I think he lost a leg and he died as a result of the last one in 1982.
It makes sense if the conservatives didn’t have enough votes to have a candidate of their own win.
I also found now a Politico article from a bit later in 2008 (link to Google cache) which purports to describe some things he did at the Harvard Law Review, where it says:
It says Obama would always end disputes while he was running the Harvard Law Review by saying: “Just remember, folks: Nobody reads it.”Sammy Finkelman (32408d) — 6/4/2017 @ 12:11 pm
From “A Time for Truth,” by Ted Cruz:
Now Mr. Finkelman, if you choose to believe that Obama was elected President of the HLR in 1990 “largely with the help of conservatives,” I certainly can’t stop you.
But it’s a fantasy. It didn’t happen like that.Beldar (fa637a) — 6/4/2017 @ 1:43 pm
Love Ted.mg (31009b) — 6/4/2017 @ 2:09 pm
think fast what’s a more pompous title for a book than “A Time for Truth”
ha you have to drinkhappyfeet (28a91b) — 6/4/2017 @ 3:06 pm
100. Beldar (fa637a) — 6/4/2017 @ 1:43 pm
The election in which Ted Cruz was a candidate was maybe four years later. In 1990, conservatives were in a much worse position. Barack Obama, of course, was not their first choice. But they could put forth, or get behind, a dark horse who could win who was better for them than the two leading candidates, and tghey had a chance because the convention or caucus was deadlocked. I don’t see what is the problem with this idea.Sammy Finkelman (32408d) — 6/4/2017 @ 8:11 pm