I’ve been traveling, away from computers, but deeply immersed in
conversations with thoughtful associates and scholars about the
political landscape of America right now. One subject coming up now,
provoking compelling questions, is the Constitution, and how the next
president will view it. That’s a strikingly serious question.
The fabric of society is woven of the laws and liberties laid out by
the Founding Fathers in that document and the Declaration of
Independence. They are “self-evident truths” about the equality of all
people and the “inalienable rights” endowed on us by “our
Creator”. Over the past few decades, judicial activism has hammered
away at a re-crafted reference point for civil and human rights, and
the Constitution is not usually even required reading in university
classes on constitutional law. No kidding. They read case
precedent…..of cases established by liberal judges operating on the
theory that the Constitution is a ‘living breathing document’.
So how the next president sees all that is going to be decisive for this nation for at least the next generation.
The Forum here will have plenty more on this going forward, but for now, I found this discussion going on over at NRO Bench Memos. It concerns Sen. Barack Obama.
According to Obama’s biographical entry in Michael
Barone’s Almanac of American Politics, Obama had the status of
“lecturer” at the University of Chicago Law School from 1993 until his
election as a U.S. senator in 2004. But in 1996 he was elected to the
Illinois legislature, and from all appearances on the U. of C. law
school’s website (which now lists Obama as a “senior lecturer” on
leave), the status of “lecturer” is like an adjunct or part-time
appointment. He was never, as Bazelon describes him, a “professor” of
constitutional law, though con law is often said to have been the
subject he taught.
And what has Obama published on constitutional law or any other
legal topic? Although he was president of the Harvard Law Review as a
student, in which capacity he no doubt wrote some unsigned notes, a
search of the HeinOnline database of law journals turns up exactly
nothing credited to Obama in any law review anywhere at any time. This
is yet more indication that his status as “lecturer” at Chicago was not
a regular faculty appointment, since regular full-time faculty are
expected to produce scholarship.
Let me say that again. There appears to be not one single article,
published talk, book review, or comment of any kind, anywhere in the
professional legal literature, under Barack Obama’s name,
notwithstanding an apparent eleven-year teaching career in
constitutional law at a top-flight law school.
I presumed that in his time as president of the
student-edited Harvard Law Review, he’d have published some unsigned
notes, which for that reason don’t show up in database records as
authored by him. Now I hear from a well-placed source that Obama is
remembered by his contemporaries as having written nothing at all for
the HLR during his time working on its student editorial staff. That
is . . . unusual.
This is fair questioning, especially of a presidential candidate.
The homework is there, the search for articles or even notes that
turned up nothing.
Hillary’s backers have been known to accuse her critics of being
sexist, Obama’s critics are usually blasted for being racist, and
McCain’s critics are either called unpatriotic or right wing
extremists. Those are smokescreens for people who don’t want to engage
the issues. Honest, legitimate questions have to be asked,
and attacking the questioner only hurts the candidate’s reputation for
being able to answer them.
This reminds me of a good book, with an extended version of this discussion on a larger scale. It’s called “Memory and Identity.”