February 14th, 2014

Jonathan Turley, principled liberal

Jonathan Turley is a liberal star, a constitutional law professor with impeccable credentials:

Turley holds the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School where he teaches torts, criminal procedure, and constitutional law. He is the youngest person to receive an academic chair in the school’s history. He runs the Project for Older Prisoners (POPS), the Environmental Law Clinic, and the Environmental Legislation Project.

Prior to joining the George Washington University, he was one of the youngest professors to be offered tenure at the Tulane University Law School.

But Turley has an interesting quirk that makes him unusual in another way: he thinks for himself. Sometimes he agrees with the liberal line and sometimes not. Turley has been relentless lately on the topic of Obama’s power overreach (see this, for example). He’s one of the very few liberals these days who is not so focused on content (the end justifies the means because of the goals) that he ignores process (wait a minute – tyranny is dangerous even if I happen to agree with the goals).

As such, I salute him. It’s sad that perspective and courage like his has become so rare, but it has.

Here is Turley on Wednesday, telling it like it is:

42 Responses to “Jonathan Turley, principled liberal”

  1. Mr. Frank Says:

    I guess Diogenes can put the lantern down. Looking much longer is unlikely to reveal another honest liberal.

  2. T Says:

    Is the distinction that Turley is a “liberal” star (in the classical sense of “liberal”) rather than a “Progressive” star? I simply do not know enough about Turley’s work to make that distinction.

  3. T Says:

    One other thought about Turley. While better late than never certainly applies, where was Turley at Obama’s first legislative power-grab? The most recent rewriting of the ACA is only the latest in a long string of executive legislative fiats (27? 28? And that’s just counting the ACA). The twenty-eighth usurpation of power is no less heinous than the first. That’s when Turley should have raised the issue and he should have done so stridently.

    Thanks Michael Ramirez:


  4. Don Carlos Says:

    All of a sudden it’s Turley Time. Fox News, Mark Levin last night, and Neo today.
    So What? To whom is Turley talking, and who will listen? Right-wingers? Biden has a phrase for that, “Big f*****g deal.”
    I am less than impressed with his academic standing, especially being the youngest to be offered tenure at Tulane. Another BFD. I was one of the youngest to be tenured at a professional school of a BigName U, and what does that tell anyone? Squat. As in Who Cares? It matters not.

    There are better ways to try to make a difference than being a turtle safe in its shell and sticking its head out with a squack now and again.

  5. neo-neocon Says:


    Actually, Turley has been singing this song, and variations on the theme, for several years.

    Take a look at this column of his from June of 2010. It’s not specifically about Obama, but it’s definitely different from the usual liberal line, and in tune with what he’s been saying lately.

    Turley has been writing a blog since 2007. If you go back in time, you’ll find he’s been against Obama’s power grabs for years. For example, see this. Turley also was upset about the Obama cult of personality early on (see this).

  6. neo-neocon Says:


    Turley is a liberal, but he has libertarian tendencies as well.

  7. n.n Says:

    With a perfect morality and infinite resources, there would be no reason for concern. Unfortunately, in our world, the establishment of monopolies, especially authoritarian monopolies, is a cause for civil and human rights abuses. Perhaps we need a refresher course.

  8. KLSmith Says:

    It matters when someone calls out their own side. He can’t be dismissed as a right wing wacko bird. People need to be reminded that there are principles that should matter more than blind party loyalty.

  9. DNW Says:

    As someone who has been “exchanging views” with leftists for years, the only thing that shocks me is that anyone is shocked – as Turley professes to be – at “liberal passivity” in the face of nascent collectivist dictatorship.

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    Exactly. Turley’s saying it means more than our saying it. If there are any liberals who are persuadable, he is more likely to be able to reach them.

  11. Don Carlos Says:

    I repeat: To whom is Turley talking? Can’t reach them if they don’t hear.

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    How many times did Turley vote for Obama? 0? 1? 2? 5?

    Look, if the overseers get put over the slaves and they don’t like the human atrocities put on the slaves… what’s the point then?

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    I think that Turley believes he is talking to other liberals such as himself, who care about the balance of powers and power grabs by an executive out of control. He is assuming that there are more people like him, or potentially like him. I believe there are some, but how many? Perhaps vanishingly few. He may believe otherwise. But that is who he seems to be addressing.

    I think he’s also speaking up because his own conscience and integrity dictate that he do so.

  14. neo-neocon Says:


    From a quick glance at Turley’s blog, I would guess he voted for Obama once, in 2008. I am almost certain he did not vote for him in 2012 (at least, I would be very surprised if he did), because he had been quite critical of him for years by that time, and hardly ever praised him. I don’t know whether he went for Romney, but I would strongly guess he did not vote for Obama that year.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    It tends to reaffirm a type of cult of personality that we have seen with some prior presidents like George W. Bush and now Obama.

    Surely this overseer is playing with a full deck. But if he goes out of the circle to see the truth, the Left has its own character assassination profiles. Democrats are not immune.

    If they don’t get targeted, it’s because what th y are saying is meaningless. If they do get targeted, they are neutralized and no longer overseers.

  16. neo-neocon Says:


    Yes, on a post about Turley at Ace’s blog, there were tons of humorous comments to the effect of: “will it be the IRS audit for him, or worse”?

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    The primary problem with Turley is that he was conned in the years before 2008, but thinks he has seen the light now about Obama, which he thinks is consistent with the Democrat propaganda he sucked in years ago to vote for Obama.

    That’s like libs believing a person conned by the con men. Not even directly conned, but conned second hand.

    That kind of person, conditioned heavily in Leftist propaganda, is like Horowitz. They have psychological weaknesses and triggers. The Left merely has to touch them and they will collapse in various ways.

  18. Don Carlos Says:

    Turley may have the same audience access problem we do. Who in the MSM is going to give him air time?
    Has he persuaded any law students at GWU?
    Is he more or less impactful than Dershowitz?
    Do either of them matter, or are their voices merely lost in the howling gales of rabid Leftism?

    Making us on the Right feel a wee bit better is not tilting any political balance.

  19. Ann Says:

    Turley did an interview with the actor/activist John Cusack in September 2012, in which they both pretty strongly indicated they wouldn’t be voting for either Obama or Romney that year. Turley has posted the interview here. Interesting reading. War crimes, torture, etc., seem to be their biggest concern.

    Turley also discloses that he and Cusack grew up together in Chicago and are still close friends. Maybe that will give him some protection against stuff like an IRS audit.

  20. T Says:


    Not following Turley’s blog I stand corrected. I might add, however, that this admission reinforces the second part of my criticism. If he had been vigorously pursuing this criticism, his latest comments would seem less like a surprise. And if, as I noted above, the twenty-ninth infraction is no less an issue than the first, did he not have a responsibility to be more vigorous than he was in his criticisms early on?

    Then again, perhaps it just took this long to get a media ear to listen.

  21. neo-neocon Says:


    I have written before about Turley, so he got some press on it earlier because I was responding to articles I’d read in which he was quoted.

    That said, I think he’s become even more alarmed lately. More importantly, other people have become more alarmed. So maybe that’s why he’s getting more press? I also think that perhaps it has something to do with Megyn Kelly’s interviewing skills.

  22. T Says:

    Frankly, I hope that Turley takes his message “on the road” much in the manner of a book tour. It would also be good to see him ally himself with other influential attorneys to build a critical mass. Nicholas Rosenkranz of Georgetown comes to mind. He also decries Obama’s power grabs. I was also introduced to him the other night on the Kelly File. (Kelly’s name seems to be consistently surfacing lately; I don’t think it’s coincidence.)

  23. neo-neocon Says:


    Among other things, Kelly is a lawyer. She speaks lawspeak; I think lawyers are comfortable with her.

  24. Mike Says:

    The exception proves the rule that Liberals are malicious diabolical tyrants or ne’er do wells or both.

    He’s the one in a million that casts relief on what the others are.

  25. T Says:


    I agree. Still, I think there’s something else going on and IMO it’s not just Kelly’s very thinly veiled disgust with the Obama administration. When I think of her in comparison to some of the other Fox TV attorney personalities (Geraldo Rivera, Andrew Napolitano), especially the women (e.g., Lis Wiehl, Kimberly Guilfoyle, both of whom are former prosecutors) all of whom are of above-normal intelligence, her critical thought process seems to be a cut above the competition . Perhaps her doggedness and determination are, too.

  26. Don Carlos Says:

    As well as her looks.
    Still find humor in spelling of her name: Me gyn.
    What was mama thinking?

  27. Ymarsakar Says:

    Well, nothing has happened to him yet. From the last time Neo blogged about his on air message. Does that mean the Regime doesn’t consider him a problem equal with the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, or Republican donors?

  28. Mr. Frank Says:

    I’m guessing Turley will find the faculty club a bit chilly for awhile.

  29. waitforit Says:

    “The problem is that our institutions are not full of Canadian budgeters, Finnish school administrators, and Swiss train conductors. They are full of Ray Nagins.” -Kevin Williamson


    Thank God for as many Turleys as we can get. Turley has a great brain and a good heart. Integrity. More important than brains.

  30. waitforit Says:

    What were it Tocqueville said?
    I can not know everything, see.
    I hope my heart knows my head.
    And how greatness of goodness be.

    Benjamin Franklin what said?
    I can pray like he prayed, see.
    I know his heart knew his head.
    How greatness of goodness be.

    George Washington, what he said?
    We do not give like he gave, see.
    Of himself, knew heart and head.
    How greatness of goodness be.

    Man can make his country free!

  31. Tonawanda Says:

    I cannot cite chapter and verse, only a memory of having followed what the man has said throughout the years. So the following is just guess work and can be ignored.

    Turley (as I remember) says some good objective stuff in the beginning of an issue but always ultimately veers off into the predictable Leftist pov.

    At some point in years past he came to some conclusion which was absurd in light of his previous statements on an issue (Clinton’s objective criminal behavior?) and I realized that he was a Leftist religious believer who could not extricate himself regardless of what his mind was telling him.

    Turley strikes me as a highly intelligent man of very weak character.

    Who really knows.

    Turley is a Juan Williams type of man (in my perception). A good man who is a weak man, a man who prefers his status to his integrity.

    There is a segment of Leftist acolytes who will not wear the vestments, but they are rigidly Leftists in the end.

    Maybe the most amazing fact of human existence is the implanted ability and necessity of logic. Logic is categorically dependent on truth.

    Logic is not easy.

    The Turleys are conflicted men, aware of logic and truth, but weak in character.

    Like American political culture, they cannot leave high school.

  32. waitforit Says:

    Very insightful Tonawanda, but Turley isn’t done yet, so maybe he will escape his programming, his upbringing, sort of like Rosa O’Donnell’s kid who is training at the Citadel. Nice that.

    I must admit to a surprise at the non-Christian view that seems to dominate here. Men and women are fallible and not only need but demand forgiveness. And forgiveness does not mean an escape from consequences, but, upon better words and behavior, an acceptance and support that could not formerly have been given is required, christian wise, to be given. It’s what saves us from the cycle.

  33. waitforit Says:

    Oh, most important:

    A good man most definitely values his integrity over his status.

    How very great, and how little valued, is that word, good. The balance can only be made in the next world.

  34. waitforit Says:

    America the free, currently lost, but in rural areas, still going.


    Washington D.C., we hate you. You are not us. Obama. Reid. Pelosi. We wish and work for you to be gone. And you will be. You will be the ignominy of our national history. You will not last, and we will triumph over you.

  35. waitforit Says:

    Against the win power of Carrie Underwood place the win power of dickless Obama. Mr. Queer.

    How have we fared in the Olympics?

    This is your President you elected America. Mr. Bow to You, Please.

    I hope you are happy, Mexican immigrants, Somali immigrants, and all non-American imported bastards. It’s all you are going to get because Americans hate second place.

    You have awakened a sleeping giant.

  36. waitforit Says:

    And you feminists!


    Thanks for acknowledging the glory of Carrie Underwood!


    And how about the females in Islam?

    Yeah, you have a lot of credibility, don’t you?

    How about that Hillary?


  37. waitforit Says:

    Arise with me Tonawanda.
    Arise with me and find a
    little piece of Americana.

  38. waitforit Says:


    Want to give up?
    Want to fail!
    Easy that way;
    Make go away.

    But your body
    It remains, and
    your brain it seems
    becomes a naming game.

    Can not get rid
    of it, can you?
    Want to? Will you?
    Can not. Sorry.

    Not your choice
    In a Word
    of choral voice
    and legged colored swirl.

    Tell the children
    Not to do, What
    the world and man,
    said, you

    must not


  39. Ymarsakar Says:

    Tonawanda, while I wouldn’t say Turley has independent judgment, he does tend to flip his switches on and off concerning thinking. However, as you noted with Juan, just because they might happen to say the same things as we would like to hear 50% of the time, doesn’t mean they are 50% independent thinkers. Because the switch could be flipped off and was, the level of independent judgment is actually closer to 0%.

  40. Nanna Says:

    Lepords do not change their spots,Turley is She reall handled being Secec seperating himself from Onama because he will be trashing Obama’s policies to taunt how much better H.Clinton will and would have been as President. “we The People” must remember Mrs. Clinton tried to push “Clinton Health Care” down our throats and she wasn’t even in power! She has no more experience at running anthing than Obama had. Do our citizens desirve another “NO BODY” in our White House? She was a do nothing NY Congress woman and what did she accomplish as our Secetary Of State?

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  42. Obamacare | deadline extension | April 15 Says:

    [...] question this administration’s commitment to the rule of law, and why conservatives and Jonathan Turley (strange bedfellows) realize that he has [...]

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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