The right-wing's latest meme is that the "Breitbart video" is significant because it shows that Barack Obama was friendly with that dangerous radical Derrick Bell. If you go to Breitbart.com this morning, you'll find it filled with the most radical-sounding quotes from Professor Bell, combined with the supposedly startling revelation that, when he was teaching at the University of Chicago, Barack Obama actually ... GASP ... assigned his students readings from Professor Bell.
Never mind the fact that Derrick Bell was a prodigious, if sometimes controversial, legal scholar. The implication seems to be that as a law teacher, Barack Obama was trying to indoctrinate his students with Dr. Bell's approach to race and the law, and that he therefore accepts Professor Bell's theories. We are going to be hearing this from all of our conservative family members, co-workers and other acquaintances. Therefore, I thought it might be useful to see what a CONSERVATIVE legal scholar has to say about Barack Obama's teaching.
Far from the "liberal mainstream media" having tried to hide inquiry into Barack Obama's teaching, that prime right-wing bogeyman, the New York Times, offered a full discussion of his teaching style and what it might say about a future Obama presidency, entitled "Inside Professor Obama's Classroom," all the way back on July 30, 2008. The entire thing is well worth reading, but I thought what was particularly revealing was what a couple of CONSERVATIVE legal scholars had to say about his teaching, and the materials he assigned for his class. Here is John C. Eastman, now the dean of Chapman Law School, and a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and a former Republican candidate for Congress:
I am not surprised to see the intellectual diversity for which Chicago is famous reflected in then-Professor Obama’s course syllabi and examinations. The syllabus from the 1994 “Current Issues in Racism and the Law” course is particularly instructive. While at many law schools, such courses are frequently taught by critical race theorists who focus largely on one side of a complex legal and policy debate, then-Professor Obama’s course included, quite appropriately in my view, readings from across the ideological spectrum, from Derrick Bell and Malcolm X to Chuck Cooper and Lino Graglia.And this:
What is more, it is evident from the sampling of proposed topics for group presentations contained in the syllabus that this spectrum of authors was included for more than mere exposure. Rather, it appears that then-Professor Obama was leading his students in an honest assessment of competing views regarding some of the most difficult legal and policy issues our nation has ever faced—a refreshing change from what passes for debate about contested questions in our political classes these days.The following is from Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown and a senior fellow at the libertarian-conservative Cato Institute:
I was particularly intrigued by his 1994 syllabus on “Racism and the Law.” The materials assigned were balanced, including several readings by Frederick Douglass, who many modern race theorists have come to disparage as insufficiently radical (as Obama would know), along with an exchange between Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy on the one hand and Charles Cooper (who is now on Senator McCain’s advisory committee) and Texas law professor Lino Graglia on the other. All three essays appeared in the conservative/libertarian Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy as part of a 1991 symposium on “The Future of Civil Rights Law” and were initially presented at the Federalist Society’s 1990 National Student Symposium held at Stanford.And this:
I was struck by Obama’s list of possible discussion topics for his seminar. They comprehensively and concisely identified most of the issues of “race and the law” that were then being widely discussed. What particularly impressed me was how even handed were his presentations of the competing sides the students might take. These summaries were remarkably free of the sort of cant and polemics that all too often afflicts academic discussions of race. Were this not a seminar on “racism and the law” I doubt one could tell which side of each issue the teacher was on. And indeed, even knowing it was written by Senator Obama, one cannot be sure which side of each issue he really took. Whatever position he held, however, Obama could clearly see and dispassionately articulate the other side.The views of the other legal scholars were pretty consistent with the above, that far from seeking to indoctrinate his students in some kind of leftist ideology, Barack Obama, as a law teacher, sought to expose his students to the best scholarship from all portions of the legal/political spectrum in order to deepen their powers of analysis. Naive me ... I always thought that's what great teachers were SUPPOSED to do!
Again, I highly recommend reading the entire offering from the NYT. It's well worth the time, and it will prepare you for responding to the crap that's coming.