Canceling the Classics

“The Western canon is, more than anything, a conversation among great thinkers over generations that grows richer the more we add our own voices and the excellence of voices from Africa, Asia, Latin America and everywhere else in the world. We should never cancel voices in this conversation, whether that voice is Homer or students at Howard University. For this is no ordinary discussion. The Western canon is an extended dialogue among the crème de la crème of our civilization about the most fundamental questions. It is about asking “What kind of creatures are we?” no matter what context we … Continue reading Canceling the Classics

Profound Weakness

I respectfully disagree with my thoughtful colleague, Greg Weiner, who just posted praise and elaboration for a recent piece by Matt Bai on the purported dilemma that faced Dr. Deborah Birx when she led the pandemic response for President Trump. She is described as wrestling with the problem of working for an incompetent and self-centered president while trying to advance public health and the common good. Her failure to tell the truth to the American people and to resign when sidelined by the president are depicted as a lack of prudence. That is undoubtedly true, but also so tame and … Continue reading Profound Weakness

Anarchy As Absence of Office

Melissa Lane at Princeton has written an insightful article explaining how the idea of anarchy better explains Donald Trump, and some of his followers, than do the notions of tyranny or autocracy. Anarchy captures the absence of office even while Trump was putatively the president. Lane also connects this idea to the phenomenon of democratic decay in ancient political thought. Continue reading Anarchy As Absence of Office

Academic Freedom

Academic freedom for university and college faculty has been a concern and a problem for the past century. In recent years this continuing problem has been met with less resistance from professional organizations and societies than in the past. Faculty who are demoted or fired for expressing controversial views face daunting legal as well as social and political challenges. Keith Whittington, a Professor of Politics at Princeton, and author of an important recent book on free speech, Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech, has formed a new organization to fill the institutional void. I am honored to be … Continue reading Academic Freedom

Legislative Oversight is Fine

Thanks to Greg Weiner for calling our attention to the recent provocative column by George Will on legislative oversight of the media ecosystem. I am a long time fan and a friend of George Will. The issues he raises here, and almost always, are worth taking very seriously. But there are two serious errors in this column. The first mistake is to stipulate in advance that there is no legislative oversight role for the problem of a polluted media ecosystem because it is hard to envision legislative solutions. Oversight hearings are useful precisely because they help the citizenry understand what … Continue reading Legislative Oversight is Fine

On Civic Education

Ben Kleinerman recently posted a link to an article about the Jack Miller Center, its programs, and its grants which include funding for this publication. The organization is a wonderful success story for American civic education and I am delighted to be affiliated with it and pleased that Ben has highlighted it. However, I don’t think that Ben does justice to the excellence of the Jack Miller Center effort or to our aspirations for this site. Ben’s description would likely resonate well with many affiliated with these efforts — so my criticism is not of Ben, personally, but of the … Continue reading On Civic Education

The Limits of Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell’s speech after the vote to acquit Donald Trump was astounding. It was so damning and unequivocal in endorsing the case that Trump had indeed abused his office by inciting an insurrection that many of us stared at the television in disbelief. How could a Senator vote to acquit if he was so prepared and persuaded to make an argument as compelling the House manager’s own closing speeches? The fact of McConnell’s speech will help render the historical meaning of this impeachment different from all prior presidential impeachments. Trump may have been acquitted. But he lost. He lost big. … Continue reading The Limits of Mitch McConnell

There is no intelligent first amendment defense to Trump’s impeachment

It is hard to believe that First Amendment protection for free speech would be a cornerstone of a president’s defense to incessant lies, mobilizing pressure on Congress to act unconstitutionally, inciting a mob to violence, and dereliction of duty as violence ensued — but Donald Trump’s lawyers are making such an argument. I was pleased to join a large group of constitutional scholars and lawyers pushing back. The obvious arguments are made in a letter and summarized in the New York Times piece today about it. Continue reading There is no intelligent first amendment defense to Trump’s impeachment

House Managers’ Case for the Impeachment Trial

Ben Kleinerman and I participated in an interesting roundtable/debate with John Yoo on the upcoming impeachment trial, sponsored by the Constitutional Studies program at Notre Dame and James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia. It was recorded by Notre Dame and should be posted soon. John Yoo argued that the Article for inciting insurrection was crafted too narrowly and legalistically (read it yourself and you will see that it is a broad political charge of gross abuse of office beginning with events well before January 6, and I argue also bolstered by evidence of dereliction of duty on January 6) and Yoo … Continue reading House Managers’ Case for the Impeachment Trial