Lessons from Professor Barack Obama


The New York Times has a very interesting article on Barack Obama's teaching career at the University of Chicago Law School. There's a lot to chew on, though this quote from libertarian legal scholar Richard Epstein certainly jumped out:

Because he never fully engaged, Mr. Obama "doesn't have the slightest sense of where folks like me are coming from," Mr. Epstein said. "He was a successful teacher and an absentee tenant on the other issues."

This runs counter to the "Obamacon" narrative, where disgruntled libertarians and conservatives not only prefer Obama to John McCain, they explicitly see him as sharing some of their own concerns (and values). Epstein's quote suggests that Obama's right-leaning fans might be in for something of a letdown this fall.

But Obama's marks from faculty liberals weren't that much higher:

In his voting rights course, Mr. Obama taught Lani Guinier's proposals for structuring elections differently to increase minority representation. Opponents attacked those suggestions when Ms. Guinier was nominated as assistant attorney general for civil rights in 1993, costing her the post.

"I think he thought they were good and worth trying," said David Franklin, who now teaches law at DePaul University in Chicago.

But whether out of professorial reserve or budding political caution, Mr. Obama would not say so directly. "He surfaced all the competing points of view on Guinier's proposals with total neutrality and equanimity," Mr. Franklin said. "He just let the class debate the merits of them back and forth."

Whole thing here.