January 1st, 2013

Louis Michael Seidman: the con law professor v. the Constitution

Yesterday there was a big brouhaha over an op-ed of Louis Michael Seidman’s that appeared in the New York Times.

It was the type of piece that, on first reading, appears to be some sort of ironic Onion-esque parody—but sadly, it’s not. It’s also the sort of thing you’d expect from a leftist college student with no knowledge of history and no understanding of the Constitution.

But author Seidman is a well-known professor of constitutional law at Georgetown, one of the most elite law schools in the nation. He’s also a baby boomer, which is probably no coincidence, given his views (and I say this as a full-fledged, card-carrying member of that tiresome generation).

Seidman writes:

As the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions…

Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

Read the whole thing if you can stomach it, just for the flavor, and the exposure to the strangely tortured logic (and lack of historical accuracy) of this particular law professor. Seidman not only shows a lack of knowledge (actual? or strategic?) of the true position of most of the Founders regarding slavery, he also expresses the typical leftist position that we should throw away the wisdom of the past (wisdom? how can that be; they’re just a bunch of propertied white guys—just like Seidman, by the way) because we want to do something, and that pesky old white-guy document stands in our way.

There were many takedowns of Seidman published yesterday, such as this one by John J. Vecchione, who says Seidman’s op-ed “reads like a parody of liberal thinking”—although, unfortunately, he’s not joking. Vecchione also has a counter-proposal:

What he more seriously proposes, the radical rejection of binding any polity, is not only silly but unworkable. But we should take a small step in a very small universe and test it anyway: Get rid of tenure, and job security more broadly, at Georgetown Law. Every year, nay every minute, each faculty member should be judged on how they are doing at that instant of time. If they are found wanting by the standards of the hour they should be fired. Surely deep, radical thinkers like Professor Seidman and his confreres at Georgetown would not sacrifice the new and untried for the old, stolid, and hidebound edifice that is tenure? Why should current students suffer under the methods that were deemed acceptable by a faculty panel 30 years in the past, all of whom abjured same-sex marriage and none of whom used the Internet?

In his piece, Seidman goes on to cite instances in the past where he believes the letter of the Constitution was violated, and says we’re doing just fine nevertheless: “Our sometimes flagrant disregard of the Constitution has not produced chaos or totalitarianism; on the contrary, it has helped us to grow and prosper. ” So, which is it, Professor Seidman? Is our government broken, as you say at the outset, or are we doing just peachy-keen?

Seidman then states which parts of the Constitution we should preserve—the parts Seidman likes, of course—and the parts we should jettison (the ones he doesn’t like).

Glenn Reynolds calls our attention to this:

This editorial makes a lot of good points about Seidman’s piece. There’s also a good old-fashioned rant about it here. And Carl Scott has a question for Georgetown Law School regarding Seidman, the very same one I’d like to ask them:

Now, granting that it is impressive, as your website indicates, that “After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1971, Professor Seidman served as a law clerk for J. Skelly Wright of the D.C. Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall,” do you not think that a professor who professes that he no longer believes his area of expertise matters, should be obliged to step aside? How can constitutional law be seriously taught by a man who thinks it is a kind of “divination?” Surely you are aware that along with Carl Eric Scott, there are 5,631 eager young professors without tenure in the nation capable of teaching constitutional law, both conservative and liberal ones, who nonetheless all think that the subject is a real one? That one can arrive at a genuinely wrong or right answer as to whether something is constitutional? So if you will not call upon the law faculty to fire Dr. Seidman, and replace him with Carl Eric Scott or another of those 5,632 (much less expensive, incidentally) professors, can you explain why you won’t? Is Georgetown University in the habit of handing the teaching of key subjects over to those who think they are worthless ones?

Not that Georgetown would ever think of doing such a thing. Steven Hayward notes that attitudes such as Seidman’s are not unusual in constitutional law professors:

I frequently bait the law professoriate with the axiom that if you really want to understand constitutionalism, and the U.S. Constitution in particular, don’t take constitutional law at an elite law school. There you will only receive systematic mis-instruction in the subject.* Joe Knippenberg reminds me that my AEI colleague Walter Berns always said that the problem with law professors is that they taught constitutional law, not the Constitution. Hence most constitutional law professors treat the Constitution as a plaything from which to extract whatever outcome they want.

He adds the one good thing we can say about Seidman’s essay:

…[I]t is helpful when a liberal’s impatience with constitutionalism yields to the impulse to rip the façade away and declare their contempt for the Constitution. Georgetown Law School professor Louis Seidman thus does us the favor of candor with his New York Times op-ed today…

As for why the Times decided to publish this piece right now, one can only conclude they see the time as ripe for delegitimizing the Constitution in order to further the leftist agenda, and seek to use Seidman’s credentials to make the argument from authority. The ground has been well prepared for this by our president, the MSM, and our educational system, so their calculations may indeed be correct.

60 Responses to “Louis Michael Seidman: the con law professor v. the Constitution”

  1. DaveindeSwamp Says:

    Typical over educated, over credentialed Communist teat sucking dirtball. Sorry Professor, too many of us bled for that document and all it stands for. You, Seidman, are a pig.

  2. expat Says:

    This is what happens when you allow academics to isolate themselves from the real world. Seidman should spend a few years doing some real jobs: fixing cars and plugged up plumbing, guarding inmates in a state prison, milking cows at 4AM during a blizzard, preparing tax returns for small businesses in a small city, changing diapers in a nursing home. Laws are suppposed to give some sort of dependable framework for all these types of workers to lead their lives as freely as possible. Maybe the law schools should rethink their concepts of sabbaticals.

  3. rickl Says:

    The masks are coming off. Seidman and those like him are totalitarians, plain and simple.

    And they wonder why people are panic-buying guns?

  4. physicsguy Says:

    I think it’s a good thing that the NYT has published this piece. It’s now all out in the open. They are finally making their true agenda public and in full view. They have been hiding in the shadows for too long with their ever changing rhetoric. Now they are saying what they really mean.

    Maybe this will finally wake a few more people out of their stupor.

  5. Occam's Beard Says:

    I’m beginning to suspect that Constitutional law instructors are the legal profession’s answer to education majors.

  6. rickl Says:

    Also, is it any wonder why we have so many activist judges, with professors like this?

  7. Sgt. Mom Says:

    Words fail me … what a loathsome, disgusting little man. And the NY Times actually published it, too, which is even more disgusting. It appears that certain of our media and our intellectual elite can hardly wait to get down on their knees and lick the boots of an oligarchy.

    My daughter gave me a Kindle reader for Christmas. This morning I downloaded four of the six volumes of Gibbon’s history of the fall of the Roman Empire. Seems fitting, somehow.

  8. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    Seidman falls into that same category as Paul Krugman.

    He’s either a over-accoladed imbecile, or a lying charlatan with an axe to grind and absolutely ZERO scruples about how many lies he’ll tell to advance his agenda.

  9. Occam's Beard Says:

    Seidman apparently lacks the intellect to grasp that the whole point of the Constitution was to impart guidance and wisdom to later generations, to provide some intellectual ballast that would help them to resist the stormy passions of the moment and the siren call of expediency.

    That it was written 200 years ago is a virtue, not a vice. Temporal remove allows time for a sober and realistic assessment of merit; the Constitution and a forteriori the Bible have withstood that test, whereas, e.g., Marx and Rousseau have not.

    In this connection, it is noted that the Founding Fathers were well-acquainted with the foibles of mankind, against which they made provision, and those foibles have not changed. Power still exerts a powerful draw to many who should not have it, and no one should have too much of it. The Founding Fathers understood that. Seidman, unfortunately, does not.

  10. Occam's Beard Says:

    absolutely ZERO scruples about how many lies he’ll tell to advance his agenda.

    I suspect that both are subject to knowing what conclusion they want to draw, and reasoning backward from there.

  11. M J R Says:

    IGotBupkis, 3:46 pm — “absolutely ZERO scruples about how many lies he’ll tell to advance his agenda.”

    Isn’t there something in the Holy Koran that encourages muslims to have/do the same?

    Interesting confluence of approaches to fundamentally transforming the nation/world, sez me.

  12. parker Says:

    In a nutshell: loathsome.

  13. OlderandWheezier Says:

    Just goes to show it’s no “Fluke” that GU is turning out such dimwitted law grads.

  14. chuck Says:

    If medical ethicists see their job as justifying killing people, and I think they do, then I suppose it makes sense for con law professors to see their job as justifying discarding the constitution. All of which leads to the conclusion that academics should be ignored, they don’t have anyone’s interest in mind other than their own. It’s an old story, neither progressive nor original, but very human.

  15. James Says:

    They think themselves Caesars and they believe the Rubicon beckons.

  16. Jan of MN Says:

    “In his piece, Seidman goes on to cite instances in the past where he believes the letter of the Constitution was violated, and says we’re doing just fine nevertheless: ‘Our sometimes flagrant disregard of the Constitution has not produced chaos or totalitarianism…’”

    That the Constitution will be violated will happen from time to time — we’re seeing that now — should not be construed to mean the Constitution is worthless or that “we’re doing just fine”. Men are flawed and our nation is flawed, but that doesn’t mean our Constitution should be tossed, or that today’s legal minds are capable of designing a system of government that would be an improvement. The Constitution is a deceptively simple yet brilliant document, so far the best there is.

    The President has sworn to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Will he? Or will his presidency be defined by his flagrant violations?

  17. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    }}} Interesting confluence of approaches to fundamentally transforming the nation/world, sez me.

    LOL, yes, there is, and yes, it’s been noted. Dr. Sanity covered the topic a number of times. She also noted the connection between an honor/shame culture and a guilt culture — Islam, and most Lefties, are the former. Americans and Christians are mainly the latter.

    This piece, from 2006, gives a nice overview

  18. Promethea Says:

    Seidman would probably have been happier in Czarist Russia. They had a legal system that resembles the one he is advocating.

  19. KLSmith Says:

    Prediction: an all-out effort to void the necessity of repealing the 22nd amendment. Starting in about a year or two.

  20. thomass Says:

    “Seidman goes on to cite instances in the past where he believes the letter of the Constitution was violated, and says we’re doing just fine nevertheles”

    Somehow I’m guessing, without reading the article, they all had something to do with getting us to the fiscal cliff….

  21. Oldflyer Says:

    The Constitution is a serious impediment to Statists. They hate it, and will attack it anyway they can.

    Who will defend it?

  22. thomass Says:

    anyway, its nice the mask is slipping. That is always one of the most annoying things about the left-democrat axis. They never admit what they’re really about…

  23. Occam's Beard Says:

    They think themselves Caesars and they believe the Rubicon beckons

    How did that work out for Caesar?

  24. parker Says:

    I agree that it is a good thing to see the kabuki mask removed, but what percentage of our fellow citizens will realize the ramifications of this noxious professor’s ultimate goal? The movie Man for All Seasons has remained clear in my memory over the years. “This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, man’s laws, not God’s. And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

    Where indeed will there be solid ground if the leftists succeed in the goal to usurp the Constitution!

    “And Caesar’s spirit, raging for revenge,
    With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
    Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
    Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
    That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
    With carrion men, groaning for burial.”

    I hope we don’t have to go down that road.

  25. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: Oh, I think Seidman understands it all too well.

    He just thinks that he and his leftist buddies will be the ones with the power, so it’s A-ok.

  26. Promethea Says:

    But fools and cads like Seidman are located in such concentrated areas. They should be somewhat concerned about their chances for survival.

  27. parker Says:

    “But fools and cads like Seidman are located in such concentrated areas. They should be somewhat concerned about their chances for survival.”

    They are not welcomed in flyover country.

  28. parker Says:

    “And they wonder why people are panic-buying guns?”

    No gun buying panic where I reside, but reloading supplies (presses, primers, powder, bullets, and cases) are moving off the shelves quickly. Learn to reload or die! ;-)

  29. davisbr Says:

    We’ve seen his kind often enough before. The professor is an out-of-the-closet fascista.

    …who believes himself safely numbered amongst the self-actualized elites of the imperium.

    I wonder if he’s truly able to realize that about himself.

    I also wonder if …should he get his wish and the Constitution falls …he’ll give panicked pause for a slight moment of recriminitive** reflection during that period a few minutes later, right after the shootin’ starts?

    I got some good advice fer yez, Perfess’r: keep your powder dry, buddy.

    **yeah, I know. But it should be, lol.

  30. Paul W Says:

    It’s nice to know who the enemy is in such stark shades of black & white, isn’t it? This elitist pig suits up well in his redcoat. No accident that the Communists were also red, as are today’s NeoCons. Can’t wait for our counter-revolution.

  31. James Says:

    Occam,
    “How did that work out for Caesar?” I fear not for Caesar, but for the Republic. I do think it will end like Cataline. Even though they may not realize it they have passed the point of no return. The only way for them to continue will be by control, confiscation, and overt oppression. We’ve already had our Pompey (Romney), will there be a Sulla?

  32. Leo Katzenstein Says:

    The link to the Vecchione link is broken.
    Here is an updated one.
    http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/336668/no-constitution-we-re-progressives-john-j-vecchione

  33. physicsguy Says:

    “They are not welcomed in flyover country.”

    In general that’s true. However, go on to any university campus, even places like Kansas State, or OU; find the English, History, Sociology Departments, and you will find those rats quite comfortably situated spreading their poison to the flyover youth.

  34. rickl Says:

    Victor Davis Hanson understands the gravity of the situation:

    2013: Welcome to Very, Very Scary Times

  35. MollyNH Says:

    (shudder, too horrific to contemplate this)
    But I counter propose to the facist professor & his ilk, “A bloodless Civil War” ! We have a vast nation, let us divide it in half. Lets give sincere people the opportunity over a few years time to *settle* in which particular half they prefer,
    the half with the Constitution, the half with the construct of academic Utopia. I will even concede to the Utopians the already existing glamour sites they are so enarmoured of:
    Hollywood, NTC, they can even have our very beautiful capital, DC. We, Constitutionalists can take more of the hard scrabble sites, the high plains states, Texas, the deep south, though I imagine they will demand lovely Florida (at least the lower half) I’d give it to them petulant children that they are. Then we can step back and see it all for ourselves ! How the Constitutionalists will ultimately triumph. How we will take the lesser ( in terms of treasure) part of America & make it great ! How it will rival & exceed what we left to the Utopians !

  36. MollyNH Says:

    Opps, NTC is supposed to be NYC !!!

  37. Artfldgr Says:

    Victor david hansons four pager on this n other things leads to where i said we would be over five years ago without any real opposition. His last sentence as to the new society…

    I have seen their future and it is almost here right now. Scary times, indeed. VDH

    Almost?? Only if you dont realise the rest of the way cant be stopped now at all!!!!!! And as a spectator vdh measures almost. But the final nail is in…. and just cause you cant lay the lanscape out and combine it w their writings methods and other things doesnt mean its not so.

    A few billion people failing to come up with relatvity does notdisproove the one who does…. though in our new collectivism we cant side w one who is right meritocratically as the many were right about tulips relatvuty weather biology etc

  38. holmes Says:

    It’s all illegitimate because slavery! That’s basically the crux of the argument, and it’s not much of one. It’s why the Tea Party and Republicans have to be racists. “You’re wrong because racism!”

    I wonder if they find the constitutional fixes, like the 14th amendment, and then the statutory enforcement through the Civil Rights Act, also illegitimate because of the archaic methods by which they were passed.

  39. holmes Says:

    By the way, I did notice a trend amongst aged secular academics in my years of schooling to become basically nihilists. They were in the grip of post-modern despair, basically, and felt the need to project that onto us all.

  40. Drogo Bunce Says:

    At this point I have to seriously wonder if the NYTimes is so desperate that they’ve implemented The Howard Stern Strategy, i.e. publish something shocking just for the attention. Howard Stern’s rating were typically higher amongst those who despised him, but circulation number and pageviews are all that advertisers care about.

  41. Sam L. Says:

    He is in favor of the dictatorship of the professoriate. They will kill him when they come to power.

  42. Occam's Beard Says:

    Occam’s Beard: Oh, I think Seidman understands it all too well.

    He just thinks that he and his leftist buddies will be the ones with the power, so it’s A-ok.

    Neo, you’re probably right. Lefties always think that they’ll be the ones with the power. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg probably were looking forward to the time when niceties would be no longer observed. Unfortunately (for them), the Freikorps shared that perspective.

  43. Occam's Beard Says:

    We have a vast nation, let us divide it in half.

    Lincoln’s quote of the Bible is apposite here.

  44. bob r Says:

    They think themselves Caesars and they believe the Rubicon beckons

    How did that work out for Caesar?

    For Julius, not so good. For Augustus (aka Octavian), not so bad. I’m sure they picture themselves Augustus while they prod someone else to be Julius.

  45. Paul in Boston Says:

    I still remember Archibald Cox’s question when he was fired by Nixon as the first Watergate special prosecuter, “Are we going to have a government of laws or a government of men?” The Democratic Party and the left in general appears to be voting for a government of men these days.

  46. thomass Says:

    Occam’s Beard Says:

    “Lincoln’s quote of the Bible is apposite here.”

    That aside; they need people like us to do the work. They’re not going to let us go if they have the upper hand and/or we won’t be able to take our savings with us.

  47. Occam's Beard Says:

    That aside; they need people like us to do the work. They’re not going to let us go if they have the upper hand and/or we won’t be able to take our savings with us.

    I agree. Reds always need a new host once they’ve bled the previous one white. That’s why even if the U.S. partitioned, they’d still be coming after our part.

  48. MollyNH Says:

    thomass & Occam’s : In this divided USA senario
    I do not envision all the workers leaving the anti constitution side or having only productive citizens in the Constitution side but have it be a
    situation that exists naturally, some independent people some people that require assistance.
    In the* Constitution* side there will be no need to look for people to bleed, because government will be restrained by mandate. On the *No Constitution* side the have nots will continue to have prosperous Leftists to bleed.

  49. AG Says:

    My conlaw professor had a story about a student complaining about a closed book exam. The student asked if they could at least bring in the constitution, to which he responded “You clearly haven’t been listening.” His lectures were a brilliant dissection of how the constitution, other laws, facts, and basic logic are ignored in most SCt decisions.

  50. Louis Michael Seidman: the con law professor v. the Constitution « News World Wide Says:

    [...] Louis Michael Seidman: the con [...]

  51. is it 2016 yet Says:

    I have to wonder if Seidman realizes that the very document that he is putting down, protects him from being arrested by the government for these very comments. Obviously without it, what he is saying here would most likely be construed by the type of government he seeks as treason.

  52. timothywgray Says:

    In other related news…..

    A chemistry professor at Georgetown is encouraging his students to study alchemy….A biology professor is instructing his students to learn creationism….and a mathematics professor has told his students that 2 +2 = 3.

    And to think I honestly considered attending that university at one time….and I had the grades to make it in! But not the money. Aw shucks….

    The most ironic thing about the entire piece? Seidman is blatantly abusing the rights enshrined in the document he clearly despises. Does he really, seriously think that he could function as a journalist, or law professor, if the Constitution were abandoned?

    If there were no Constitution, and he printed a piece like this, how long would it be, before he was locked up for sedition? The over/under is 5 minutes.

  53. GPM Says:

    If the British system of government was so great why didn’t our Founding Fathers adopt it?

  54. njersey5389 Says:

    It is hard for me to believe that these so-called Jewish intellectuals don’t realize that it is the Constitution and the freedoms and protections that this document guarantees to all Americans is exactly why our ancestors came to this Country. My people were murdered and abused by the rest of this horrible world, so we came here to have peace and to practice our religions without interference. What the hell is wrong with some people for not recognizing this and embracing America. We deserve better than a Barack Obama or a Michael Siedman.

  55. Randy Smith Says:

    In 1988, I joined the Air Force and swore to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Even though I am retired, I still take that oath to heart. All I can say is that everyone needs to check out Oathkeepers.org. You do not need to be a veteran or first responder to join. The only requirement is that YOU believe in the Constitution.

  56. javapoppa Says:

    The good professor needs to take an afternoon off and visit the Hillsdale College Kirby Center for Advanced Constitutional Studies in DC. They will be able to fill in the vast gaps in his knowledge as to what this document is all about. He might do well to acquaint himself with the Federalist Papers while he is at it.

  57. Laughable Says:

    The one sure way to succeed in an arguement with a liberal/progressive is to use their own argument against them, thus displaying their inherent hypocrisy. Then once their hypocracy is revealed they resort to what I like to call emotional gymnastics.

  58. JDB Esq Says:

    That is an excellent observation — teaching the Constitution as opposed to teaching Constitutional Law. That could encourage quite a reformation.

  59. CharlesP Says:

    It is GUTLESS Americans, who are too afraid to face the HUGE number of corrupt government officials. They try and blame all the nations problems on inanimate objects, like guns or the Constitution.
    They have no balls, and will not say that the CIA and the FBI are guilty of widespread criminal activity. They conspire with various criminal organizations, and have corrupted the news media!
    Or that the whole anti-gun movement is financed by the CIA, with their plan to turn America into a CIA dictatorship!
    Lets blame the laws of the land, rather than blame all the criminals in government, who openly violate all of these same laws.
    It would be like a murderer wanting to legalize murder, or a rapist wanting to legalize rape.
    Sure their lives as criminals (government officials) would be easier, if they destroyed all of the laws!

  60. ms Says:

    It is ironic that Louey is using an argument that was first put forth by old propertied white men that died long ago.

    The argument of old out-dated doctrine, archaic document, etc… has been used for centuries.

    If louey doesn’t like America then why doesn’t he move to a different place. There is a very diverse set of countries in the world and I’m sure one of them will have the legal structure louey likes.
    Why do people like louey always want to infect America with their hate-filled sickness

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