Alan Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, a prominent constitutional law scholar and among the left’s towering intellectual figures. But, at the moment, among many of his fellow liberals he is persona non grata. Professor Dershowitz has earned the enmity of the political left by arguing, in essence, that the same legal standard for obstruction of justice must apply whether a President is a Democrat or Republican. This is a perfectly reasonable position. Inconveniently, it also spoils their case for obstruction of justice against President Trump.
The anti-Trump contingent concedes that President Trump did have the authority to fire his FBI Director. But, they contend, this otherwise innocent act becomes illegal if the president was ‘corruptly motivated.’ Writing in the Washington Examiner Wednesday, Dershowitz warned that this is “a dangerous argument that no civil libertarian should be pressing.”
The law does not — and must not — bend to fit partisan ends.
What “corruptly motivated” means has a lot to do with where you stand politically. “If Hillary Clinton had been elected and Republicans were investigating her for asking the attorney general to describe the investigation of her as a ‘matter’ rather than a ‘case,'” Dershowitz wrote, “my colleagues would be arguing against an expansive view of existing criminal statutes, as they did when Republicans were demanding that she be locked up for espionage. The same would be true if Bill Clinton or former Attorney General Loretta Lynch were being investigated for his visit to her when she was investigating his wife’s misuse of email servers.”
As our friend Ted Frank might say, everyone remember to switch sides on what constitutes obstruction of justice. Professor Dershowitz deserves credit for forgetting to do so. The law does not — and must not — bend to fit partisan ends.
Among the more disturbing aspects of our current political moment is how readily we discard contrary facts and accept extremely dubious arguments when they serve our partisan biases.
Professor Dershowitz has taken enormous heat from his fellow travelers on the left for resisting this trend. Some have accused him of being paid off. Others have declared him to be “a Zionist Republican authoritarian bigot.”
When confronted with their own cognitive dissonance, people tend to react with anger — there is a special kind of bile partisans on the left or right reserve for those who challenge their own. “The point,” Dershowitz says, “is that many of those who disagree with my arguments refuse to believe that I am making them out of principle. They assume a corrupt motive.”
“We have to stop criminalizing political differences,” Dershowitz, told Fox News last week. “The criminal law should be reserved for obvious violations of the criminal law that exists, not for making political points against your political enemies on both sides.”
Professor Dershowitz has willingly suffered the relentless slings and arrows that seem to come with commitment to principle and intellectual honesty these days. While we may disagree with Prof. Dershowitz on many things, for this he has our respect — and the title of this week’s enemy of nonsense.