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Sunday, February 24, 2013

If the Shoe Fits...

I am generally no fan of accusation by easy labeling, which is often misleading or inaccurate, rarely helpful or informative, and generally not conducive to clear thought. My pet example is Project Censored, whose annual top ten list of "censored" stories rarely involves actual censorship. Whatever merit there is in the claim that these stories deserved more coverage than they got is, for me, swallowed up by the cheap, attention-seeking misuse of the charged word "censorship."

All this is by way of talking about Senator Ted Cruz, who has been accused for the past week of engaging in McCarthyism, merely because he engaged in half-baked accusations and cheap insinuations. In the past couple of days, the New Yorker has dug up another example: in this case, a 2010 speech in which Cruz

"went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, 'would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.' The reason, said Cruz, was that, 'There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.'"

This was a laughable assertion, but people say silly things all the time. So I am duly impressed that a spokesperson for Cruz has doubled down, saying to The Blaze in response to the New Yorker story:

“'It’s curious that the New Yorker would dredge up a three-year-old speech and call it "news,"'. . . . Regardless, Senator Cruz’s substantive point was absolutely correct: in the mid-1990s, the Harvard Law School faculty included numerous self-described proponents of ‘critical legal studies’ — a school of thought explicitly derived from Marxism – and they far outnumbered Republicans.”

I am impressed by this response on any number of levels, not least for constituting a dredger complaining about the dredging activities of others. Mostly, though, I am impressed by the claim that Cruz's earlier suggestion that a dozen HLS faculty members believed in the Communist overthrow of the United States government is "substantively correct" because the faculty included a number of adherents of critical legal studies--the most prominent among them being former CIA employee Duncan Kennedy.

I hope it's not too Tushnetian to say so, but I worry about a United States Senator, bright, well-educated, and often treated as the great non-white hope of the Republican Party, who can't tell his Reds from his red-diaper babies. I doubt that Cruz cares much whether he's accused of McCarthyism. If he does, though, he could probably avoid it more often in the future if he acts less like, well, McCarthy.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/02/ted-cruz-sees-red-not-crimson-at-harvard.html#ixzz2Lmyx8rcW

Posted by Paul Horwitz on February 24, 2013 at 12:01 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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A new feature of the GOP Ship of State: "CRUZ UNCONTROLLED"

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Feb 24, 2013 8:50:11 AM

Very funny Paul! If only someone could add, "I knew Joe McCarthy and you sir are no Joe McCarthy!" " Half-baked accusations and cheap insinuations" only get you so far in aiming for the Congressional Hall of Shame. Virtually everyone in Congress does THAT. Talk to me when you have your own investigative committee Senator Cruz!

Posted by: Tamara Piety | Feb 24, 2013 9:59:53 AM

I've been searching, unsuccessfully, for a publicly available version of the semi-famous New Yorker article by Calvin Trillin in 1984 on the politics within Harvard Law. Does anyone know where that's available?

Posted by: anon | Feb 24, 2013 11:18:29 AM

I was in my final year at law school in the Boston area and because most of the courses I was taking were elective, I spent a lot of time watching the Army/McCarthy hearings, and reveling in the performance by Boston's own Joseph Welch providing legal counsel to the Army, and skewering Sen. Joe McCarthy at just about every turn. Based on my observations at the time, I would suggest that Sen. Ted Cruz is more aptly described as the progeny (in a political/legal sense, of course) of the match-up of Joe McCarthy and his lawyer Roy Cohn. How vividly I recall from back in 1954 Welch's "Have you no sense of decency" retort to McCarthy and watching the squirming Roy Cohn in the background.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Feb 24, 2013 1:00:06 PM

This is all ridiculous. Of course, the Harvard faculty has had many far-leftists over the years. Whether you label them "communists" or "critical legal scholars" or "democratic socialists," what's the difference? The fine points of distinction on the left don't matter much to the rest of us.

Posted by: Doug2 | Feb 24, 2013 8:19:38 PM

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