NYT scoop: Barack Obama's law students really liked him

Not a jot of actual news here but plenty of character insight, which makes it worth reading in full. The line near the beginning about Professor Obama keeping people guessing about his precise positions made me laugh aloud. Our Barry? Slippery on the issues?

“I don’t think anything that went on in these chambers affected him,” said Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague who says he longed for Mr. Obama to venture beyond his ideological and topical comfort zones. “His entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which he’s always been a thoughtful listener and questioner, but he’s never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.”…

While students appreciated Mr. Obama’s professorial reserve, colleagues sometimes wanted him to take a stand. When two fellow faculty members asked him to support a controversial antigang measure, allowing Chicago police to disperse and eventually arrest loiterers who had no clear reason to gather, Mr. Obama discussed the issue with unusual thoughtfulness, they say, but gave little sign of who should prevail — the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the measure, or the community groups that supported it out of concern about crime.

“He just observed it with a kind of interest,” said Daniel Kahan, now a professor at Yale.

Nor could his views be gleaned from law review articles or other scholarship; Mr. Obama has never published any. He was too busy, but also, Mr. Epstein believes, he was unwilling to put his name to anything that could haunt him politically, as Ms. Guinier’s writings had hurt her.

“He figured out, you lay low,” Mr. Epstein said…

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.”

How long has Obama had his eye on higher office? If you believe Epstein, it must be a decade at least. If you subscribe to the “political expedience” theory of why he joined Trinity after he got to Chicago (as opposed to the “nutty kindred spirit to Jeremiah Wright” theory), it’s at least two. So much for being a new breed of politician. Lots more at the link, including a selection of Obama’s final exams; be sure not to miss the exchange between him and a colleague about gubernatorial candidates.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023