Monday, February 25, 2013

Ted Cruz has a list

By Richard K. Barry 

For such an apparently smart guy, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is an idiot. On paper he is a 1995 graduate of Harvard Law School, and an editor of the Harvard Law Review, which they tell me is a big thing.

As part of a typical right-wing rant given at a Koch brothers sponsored event, Cruz mentioned, as per normal, that President Obama was "the most radical" President "ever to occupy the Oval Office."

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, who was there and took notes, writes that:

He then 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."

Just when you think they won't go there, they reintroduce their damned imagined McCarthyite lists.

Quite predictably, Harvard University, through spokesman Robb London, defended its reputation by saying, among other things, "We are proud of our longstanding tradition of freedom of speech and the robust range of views and debates on our campus."

Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, a Republican who was Reagan's Solicitor General from 1985-89, and later taught when Cruz was there, took issue with Cruz's facts:

Fried went on to say that unlike Cruz, or McCarthy, who infamously kept tallies of alleged subversives, he had never tried to count Communists. "I have not taken a poll, but I would be surprised if there were any members of the faculty who 'believed in the Communists overthrowing the U.S. government,'" he said. Under the Smith Act, it is a crime to actively engage in any organization pursuing the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Fried acknowledged that in his estimation there were some faculty members who were "quite radical," whatever that means. He added that he doubted, however, that "any had allegiance or sympathy with anything called "the Communists," who were in quite bad odor among radical intellectuals."

Yes, that's obvious, to anyone who can think for him or herself. It was suggested in Mayer's piece that perhaps Cruz was talking about professors who supported something called Critical Legal Studies, which addresses the political impact of American legal system.

One Harvard professor, Duncan Kennedy, said that he considered himself influenced by the writings of Karl Marx, called himself a social democrat, not a communist, and has never advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Many, many people I know, including myself, would characterize themselves in precisely the same way as Professor Duncan. If you have studied politics seriously from the left or the right and you didn't read Karl Marx, you didn't do your homework. If you are on the left, you were very likely influenced by the ideas of Marx and social democracy, with a very limited likelihood that you have ever been interested in overthrowing the U.S. government.

When I was first doing serious academic work in leftist political science in the late 1970s in New York, I used to wonder if my chosen courses or term papers would ever have an impact if I were to someday get involved in politics. Even then I thought I was being a little paranoid, though I solved the problem by moving to Canada to get involved in politics - a place where the kind of gibberish Sen. Cruz spouts is laughed out of court (at least these days).

Still, with the rise of the crazy right in America and people like Cruz, I have to wonder if there are any young academics with political aspirations who might be taking a second look at the courses they take or the term papers they write, just in case.

I'd like to think it couldn't come to that, but I'm not sure.

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