Opinion: Right-wing bogeymen located! Influence and power over Chemerinskygate undetermined


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The big news for us Chemerinskygateologists is that some anti-Erwin right wing bogeyman have now been identified. Actually, they were identified as early as Sept. 12 in the Orange County Register, but I failed to fully notice. From the first OCR story:

Yet as early as Aug. 29, Republican political consultant Matt Cunningham said he received a forwarded e-mail in which Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich asked fellow Republicans how Chemerinsky’s appointment could be stopped. [...] Attorney Scott Baugh, chairman of the county GOP, said Chemerinsky shouldn’t have been picked in the first place. ‘It’s not because he’s a liberal,’ Baugh said. ‘It’s because he’s polarizing. You wouldn’t hire Jerry Falwell to be the dean of religious studies at Berkeley.’


The Associated Press then got the best quote of the scandal so far (I’ll bold it):

A conservative Los Angeles County politician asked about two dozen people in an e-mail last month how to prevent the University of California, Irvine from hiring renowned liberal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as its founding law school dean, a spokesman for the politician said Friday. Making Chemerinsky the head of the law school ‘would be like appointing al-Qaida in charge of homeland security,’ Michael Antonovich, a longtime Republican member of the county Board of Supervisors, said in a voicemail left with The Associated Press. He was not available for further comment on why he was getting involved in the situation at a campus located outside his jurisdiction in Orange County. Antonovich’s e-mail ‘expressed his dismay with the choice for the dean of the law school and suggested that this was the wrong decision and it should be changed,’ said Tony Bell, a spokesman for the supervisor. Antonovich, a local GOP stalwart, was first elected in 1980. He is a staunch conservative who has supported crackdowns on illegal immigrants, and voted against tax increases and HIV-prevention programs that distribute free syringes. He clashed with Chemerinsky in the past when the professor supported the removal of a cross from the county seal.

And then today’s L.A. Times story puts more details on the Republican anti-Chemerinsky efforts:

Michael Schroeder, one of Orange County’s most powerful GOP political players, said a group of 20 prominent Republicans organized against Chemerinsky in recent weeks, believing him to be a ‘longtime partisan gunslinger’ and too ‘polarizing’ for the job. Another member of the group, who asked not to be identified, said Drake’s cellphone number was distributed so the protesters could call the chancellor. Antonovich said he too worked to derail the appointment by sending an e-mail to a small group of supporters and urging them to contact the university.

And finally, from the same LAT story, is this question-begging section about how California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George, a Pete Wilson appointee, expressed to Chancellor Drake his dismay at Chemerinsky’s fateful Aug. 16 op-ed:

The criticism included a letter from the California Supreme Court criticizing a Chemerinsky opinion piece in The Times. In an interview Friday, George said Chemerinsky made a ‘gross error’ that was ‘very troubling’ to the court in an Aug. 16 article that criticized U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales. Drake offered him the job that same day. George, an appointee of Gov. Pete Wilson, said that Chemerinsky wrote incorrectly that only one state, Arizona, provided lawyers for death row inmates who want to file a constitutional challenge, known as a habeas corpus petition, to have their sentences or convictions overturned. George said he was surprised Chemerinsky would make such a mistake. The court asked Court Clerk Frederick K. Ohlrich to write a letter to the editor to The Times to correct the piece. ‘None of us could understand how somebody, let alone someone who is very bright and a fine legal scholar, could get that wrong,’ George said. ‘It had nothing to do with his philosophy. I certainly feel he is an outstanding legal scholar and a fine advocate.’ The Times has no record of the letter being received as a letter to the editor or as a request for correction. George gave a copy of the letter to [Prominent Orange County attorney Tom] Malcolm. Malcolm said he gave the letter to Drake. ‘It disturbed him, but I don’t think it was the reason for his decision.’ Chemerinsky was angered by the letter when told about it by The Times. ‘If the justices sent a letter to UC Irvine with the goal of influencing the dean process, that’s inappropriate,’ he said. He also stood by his article. ‘My op-ed was accurate in saying California does not comply with the federal standards for providing counsel to those on death row in their post-conviction proceedings, and Arizona is the only state deemed in federal district court to have met the federal standards.’


What does it all mean? What the hell was Antonovich thinking? And did the Republican anti-Chemerinsky lobby actually have any power over Drake’s decision? Who knows! But there’s lots of embittered commentary after the jump.

First, some cheap jokes at Antonovich’s expense, starting with Jim Henley:

Ah yes. ‘like appointing al-Qaida in charge of homeland security.’ Antonovich should have a bright future in national Republican politics.

Claudio, from The Orange Juice blog:

Well Mr. Antonovich, I am glad to see that all of LA County’s problems are solved. At least the jails are not overcrowded, the schools are successful, foreclosure rates are non-existant, and King-Harbor Medical Center is the most successful hospital in LA County. Oh wait, you mean none of these issues are solved. Well I am glad to see that Mike Antonovich can take time away from trying to solve these problems so he can worry about what little ole Orange County is doing.

Armen, from Nuts & Boalts:


Dear Mike, the only reason you’re not the worst County supervisor is because of Yvonne Burke, Gloria Molina, and Zev Yaroslovsky. If I knew more about Don Knape, I’d throw him in there somewhere too. You are a member of the most useless body of local government.

Brian Leiter, whose blog has been a must-read on this scandal from the get-go:

Those who thought that brainless neanderthals were strictly a phenomenon of ‘fly over’ territory ought to take note of the really remarkable performance by Michael Antonovich

So what exactly is the right-of-center case against Erwin Chemerinsky? Let’s have a look. First up, a link-rich Sept. 13 post from local prosecutor Patrick ‘Patterico’ Frey entitled: ‘Chemerinsky: Gravely Wronged by the University of California ... But Still a Shameless Partisan Hack Who Gets It Wrong All The Time.’

But Chemerinsky really is an intellectually dishonest weasel and a shamelessly hypocritical hack. And if the school had rejected him -- not backed out of a signed contract, but simply rejected him outright -- on that basis, I’d be hard pressed to get too upset about it. [...] Chemerinsky set himself up as an expert on the LAPD, and was just as hypocritical and deceptive in discussing those issues. It’s no surprise that he’s a big fan of convicted felon Stephen Yagman. Chemerinsky wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on the Michael Newdow Pledge of Allegiance case — which conveniently omitted any disclosure of his own role as an advisor to Newdow on that very case. Is this the sort of honest disclosure he brings to his teaching? What’s more, he suffers from the Laurie Levenson syndrome: by trying to be an expert on everything, he often ends up overextending himself and looking foolish — at least to people who actually know what they’re talking about. Our own Justin Levine caught him doing this in 2003, on a First Amendment issue. (Justin out-analyzed Chemerinsky again in 2004.) Chemerinsky screws up basic facts so often I once asked, with good reason: does he ever get tired of being wrong?

Rick Moore, who thinks UCI ‘clearly mishandled’ the case, and hopes Chemerinsky ‘turns them down’ on any offer to come back because it would set bad precedent for freedom of expression, nonetheless has his criticisms too:


Secondly, Erwin is not only a lefty, but a highly partisan one. An ideological lefty will make decisions based on his politics, but will also show signs of common sense now and again. A partisan lefty will make whatever decision will bring about victory for his side, regardless of how much sense it makes. I have to put Erwin in the latter category based on two cases (and I’m sure there are more). First of all and most recently, he chose to represent Valerie Plame in her lawsuit against President Bush and Vice President Cheney in the bogus CIA leak case. Everybody, including Erwin, knew that case had no merit and yet he persisted in attempting to prosecute it. That decision was not based on common sense and logic, or even good legal scholarship. Secondly there was the famous ‘butterfly’ ballot in Palm Beach County, FL. Thanks to confusion caused by a Democrat-designed ballot which apparently resulted in some old people voting for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore, the Gore campaign lost a good number of votes in Palm Beach and therefore lost Florida and the presidency. I can clearly remember hearing Erwin and his ‘Smart Guys’ partner John Eastman talking with Hugh Hewitt about this situation and what should be done about it.

Campus-lefty-baiter David Horowitz inititally condemned the unhiring as ‘an outrage’ and ‘a violation of the principle of academic freedom,’ but then modified his tune when he learned that Chemerinsky represented the family of killed anti-Israel protester Rachel Corrie:

The Professor’s role in the Rachel Corrie suit against Caterpillar was news to me, but would also explain the reason UCI rescinded its offer. Again, this is not a conservative versus liberal thing. Many true liberals found Corrie’s and the ISM’s campaign opposing Israel’s self defense against suicide attacks appalling. UCI has come under severe criticism from both conservatives and liberals for anti-Semitism among its Muslim students (one such student even held a workshop titled ‘Israel, the Fourth Reich’.) Having a Dean who represented someone sympathetic to the International Solidarity Movement and associated with Replacement Theology would only add to concerns about anti-Semitism. I looked up this case on Google and found that Chemerinsky’s argument is that Caterpillar is liable for the death of Corrie because it should have known that the Israelis would use the bulldozers to violate international law. This argument is reprehensible on several grounds. First the right of self-defense is the primary principle of all international law. Even Jews get to have it. Second, setting a precedent which makes companies liable for doing business with Jews who are defending themselves from genocidal attacks would make the success of the Arab/Muslim genocidal war against the Jews more likely.

Other right-of-center types noted with some bitterness that the Chemerinsky affair is producing disproportionate handwringing about ‘academic freedom,’ the likes of which you rarely see when the shoe is on the other political foot. For instance Richard Reeb at the Claremont blog The Remedy:

[T]he outrage of this New York Times editorial may strike many as selective. [...] There is no equal Times outrage at the systematic exclusion of academic dissenters from liberal politics for the last three decades or more, but perhaps that is only because there is not enough room in a newspaper editorial to cover that broader ground.

Blogger Bill Quick -- he coined the word ‘blogosphere,’ did you know that? -- sheds not even crocodile tears over the Duke University law prof:


[C]alls for the right to do what the left would never, ever dream of doing - that is, support the intellectual freedom of a conservative - end up ringing hollow. After a few decades of turning the other cheek and showing how high-minded you are, and getting kicked in the teeth for it, you begin to wonder why you bother. And even though, theoretically, you know you should because by your own standards it’s the right thing to do, doing the right thing tends to lose its attractiveness. Thus does leftist hypocrisy degrade everything it touches. I personally wouldn’t lift a finger to help Chemerinsky. The meta project of leftist intellectualism is to grab total control of academia, and in service to that cause they’ve trampled every intellectual standard of freedom they claim they support. They can go to hell, and take Chemerinsky with them. I count his firing as a victory for intellectual freedom in the larger sense, just as I would count Stalin being unfairly fired for sexual harassment the same way.

Glenn Reynolds -- who has a very interesting podcast interview/transcript with former Bush Administration Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith here -- points to what he calls ‘another dumb McCarthyish political decision at the University of California’: this bit of routine silliness at UC Davis:

After a group of UC Davis women faculty began circulating a petition, UC regents rescinded an invitation to Larry Summers, the controversial former president of Harvard University, to speak at a board dinner Wednesday night in Sacramento. The dinner comes during the regents’ meeting at UCD next week. Summers gained notoriety for saying that innate differences between men and women could be a reason for under-representation of women in science, math and engineering. ‘The regents’ dinners have always been informal, social occasions,’ said UC spokesman Trey Davis. ‘Chairman (Richard) Blum and Dr. Summers talked yesterday, and agreed that UC would locate a different speaker. Susan Kennedy, the governor’s chief of staff, has this morning graciously agreed to speak at the dinner.’

To which Don Surber adds:

I don’t mind that American colleges are left of Russia now. That pushes conservatives to work harder while building overconfidence among liberals. It shows on the Internet. Most liberal bloggers cannot write a 200-word post without swearing. Foul mouth, foul thought, foul brain. Anyway, I’ll lift a finger for Chemerinsky when the left defends the academic freedom of Larry Summers.

More interesting and politically diverse reaction from Omri Ceren, Internet Ronin, Belle Lettre, and Eugene Volokh (make sure to click on the links at the bottom of his post). And the prize for making a case that Chancellor Drake is a GOP-suckup goes to Scott Horton of Harper’s. UPDATE: As pointed out by alert reader Mitchell Young, Horton has substantially revised his post, so I’m taking down the excerpt here.