THE LIBERALDoes Anyone at HLS Care About Class?
by Matt WoodThis biweekly gig is murder. Thank goodness they gave us that surprise vacation last week, because I didn’t know what to write about. How can they expect anyone to be so productive? The Supreme Court hadn’t issued any opinions in like a month until a couple Mondays ago – and let’s be honest, they just make that stuff up. So, extra week off or not, I’m still having trouble deciding what to do with my column this time around.
I could dwell on President Bush’s stupidity in each and every piece I write. It’s not like I’d run out of material any time soon. Truth be told though, I’m pretty tired of him already. Sure, I could continue to lift juicy quotes from websites lampooning W.’s profound advice for our nation’s youth (“So when your teachers say, ‘Read,’ you ought to listen to her.”), or mocking his sense of duty to the men who held the nation’s highest office before him (“I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well.”) Yeah, that’s funny and all, but let’s give the guy a break. I mean, how in the world is he supposed to know that a predecessor is someone who preceded you in the position?
Furthermore, I’ve been slowly picking up on the fact all year that publications other than the RECORD do tend to cover the president, Congress, what have you. I certainly don’t want to be redundant here, even if that redundancy is in the service of continually pointing out what a dangerously slight intellect our poor, confused Commander-in-Chief possesses. It’s all well and good for other columnists appearing in this newspaper to imply that “dumb” Democrats can’t even decipher a butterfly ballot correctly; but the difference between us and the Republicans is that we didn’t nominate one of those “hopelessly confus[ed]” people for president. (I would say that we didn’t elect George W. Bush president, but of course no one can really take credit for having done that except Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris and Rehnquist, C.J.)
Since, I’ve already started down that road, I could return to a tactic I employed last semester – commenting not on politics in general, but rather on the political views that my colleagues have published in prior (note to Pres. Bush: prior means “earlier’) issues of the RECORD itself. Just where would that get us though?
Other columnists may not-so-subtly refer to Clarence Thomas to make the point that senators other than dear old Ashcroft had “voted against a black man for a federal judgeship” as recently as 1991. Would it do any good now though, I wonder, to remind our readers that black men have lost a vote or two since then? After all, each and every Republican senator on Capitol Hill voted against Judge White’s confirmation as recently as October of 1999.
Yet, I think I’d rather not dwell on the fact that people can get away with writing columns about Clintonesque hypocrisy that are themselves laced with hypocritical statements. We might wonder how Republicans can criticize Bill Clinton for not “keeping the lights on in Cali-fornia,” for example, when the Bush Administra-tion’s response to this problem has consisted of little more than the same tired pronouncements about the limited role of the federal government. But there’s no benefit to dredging up those inconsistencies, is there?
Maybe, then, I should just recycle material from my own column – rather than someone else’s – and hope that no one notices. Last semester, for example, I relayed a comment that Visiting Professor Robert Ellickson had made to my Land Use class, wherein he implied that law students might do more good by devoting their time and energy to law school politics than by trying to change the world at large. What I took to wondering about this week though was what exactly “political” should mean in the law school context.
Catalyst’s call upon Dean Clark to disclose more information on the school’s utilization of funds, including the amount and source of money devoted to LIPP, is an undeniably important step. The dollars that the Law School sets aside for loan forgiveness will influence whether or not HLS grads are able to leave here with a desire to change the world rather than just a need to make a ton of money. How much the school nurtures an activist outlook could be said to depend, at least in part, on the amount it makes available to subsidize activist careers.
Maybe the real reason to focus on the local, however, is that working for change at the law school level may in fact be a better and more effective activism – in the “think globally, act locally” sense – than any sort of political action we might take beyond the limits of the campus. There’s plenty to do around here before we move on to problems outside this little slice of Cambridge, like addressing a lack of diversity on the faculty, continuing to improve the recruitment process for students of color and, let’s not forget, ensuring a living wage for all Harvard employees.
What worries me somewhat is the apparent inability or unwillingness displayed by some of my peers when it comes to explicitly linking our actions at the law school to ramifications in the world beyond. Focusing on the local should not mean simply zeroing in on how to improve our own lot in life. That would be the case even if it were true that better training for all of us will eventually turn us into better lawyers – although having more terminals available in the Hark to cut down on the waiting time for email access doesn’t strike me as a particularly weighty matter. Ivy-covered and ivory-towered though we may be to some degree, it seems to me that we should be capable not only of discussing how we might reform classes but also attending to issues of class in society at large.
THE CONSERVATIVEThe Left-Wing conspiracy?
by Aaron OlsenWith Clinton out of office, many liberals take solace in the fact that the vast right-wing conspiracy doesn’t have much to conspire about anymore. Gone are the good old days when the tabloids could print the truth about Clinton and still sound crazy. Well, I guess they are almost gone. In Clinton’s defense, for the first time in eight years the bombing of a two-bit rogue nation can’t be blamed on Clinton trying to wriggle his way out of the latest scandal. As for bombings in the past eight years, I have my doubts about Clinton’s intent. I know that the left-wing, pro-war types amongst us defend all of the Clinton bombings as justified. But I will always be a little skeptical that “Wag the Dog” wasn’t written by a psychic. Given Clinton’s earlier views on the military, the Commander-in-Chief title never seemed to fit. It was like making Dershowitz the chief of police.
But the liberals are right. There isn’t much left for us conspirators to do anymore. When liberals controlled everything, the liberal commentators had their work cut out for them. They came up with such creative ways to explain why socializing medicine in the U.S. was consistent with preaching the virtues of market economies to the Eastern Bloc countries. When Clinton made a run to the center, they had to explain why the Republican ideas that he was espousing are really tenets of the Democratic party in the first place. Then they had to explain why an allegation of off-color jokes should keep someone from being on the Supreme Court; but a governor having the state police bring a woman to a hotel, dropping his drawers and propositioning her, is not so bad; actually it is her fault and a good opportunity to make fun of her if she doesn’t look like a super-model.
The transition in power has created a conspiracy vacuum. Republicans have nothing left to conspire against and the Democrats haven’t been picking up the slack. Now that the balance of power has shifted, left-wing conspirators need to get on message. My free advice for the rapidly forming left-wing conspiracy is that you need a new ap-proach on W. The “there goes the dumb guy who beat us” thing just isn’t working. To characterize Bush as dumb seems a lot like the loser of a heav
yweight fight claiming that the new champion is a wimp. For such a dumb guy, his first month in office has been much more successful than the early Clinton debacles.
The other left-wing conspiracy mantra of Bush being “selected” instead of elected also isn’t going according to plan. All of the manipulations of the Florida ballots still doesn’t produce a count with Gore on top. You would think that, with all of the liberal newspapers recounting the ballots, you could come up with at least one that puts Gore on top. But, unless you plan on creating a winner-of-just-the-popular-vote-President’s Day, I think the whole “we were robbed” angle of your conspiracy isn’t going anywhere.
The claim that Jeb orchestrated an effort to systematically deny blacks the right to vote had all the elements of a good conspiracy. But that kind of fizzled when the only thing supporting the theory was that Bush is Republican and there was a police checkpoint a mile away from a polling precinct in a predominately black area. Come on, you can do better than that.
Unless somebody comes up with something good, I worry about what effect this will have on Saturday Night Live. I just don’t think that another skit on how taxes are being lowered and education standards are being tightened will make for good television.