MY THOUGHTS ON ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Alan Dershowitz has been picked to be on Donald Trump’s legal team in the U.S. Senate’s upcoming impeachment trial. Here are my thoughts on this high-profile legal celebrity.
I keep on hearing that Alan Dershowitz is a great legal scholar. Yet, what I’ve observed over the past 25 years is an artfully-crafted illusion, the concatenation of a media-obsessed subterfuge of publicity willing to argue *any* side of *any* legal controversy, no matter how ridiculous, so long as he gets to appear on television and reinforce his own mythology. I haven’t seen nor heard Dershowitz argue *anything* convincingly since the Von Bulow trial, and that fabrication four decades ago was spun by a movie.
First, let’s get one thing out of the way. I have no issue with any attorney taking any case to provide the best legal defense possible. I need not explain that to readers. If you don’t understand it or disagree, then please stop reading. We have zero common ground. What I take exception to, and hereby question is Dershowitz’s presumed commitments to justice when he’s so often been on the opposite side of is own arguments. Moreover, I’m not casting aspersion to the legal defense of murderers and scumbags, rather — I’m stating Dershowitz has demonstrated an appalling lack of ability to persuade and be effective, despite countless opportunities to argue in dozens of settings and cases.
Dershowitz’s willingness to play the provocateur of persuasion is certainly good for theatrics. He’s a master ringleader of any political circus once he enters the big tent. Yet, he’s become so soiled with personal and professional contradictions, it’s now impossible to take him seriously, on anything. Especially anything with a political connotation. Go back and watch Dershowitz’s commentary on the Clinton impeachment during the late 90s, or his countless appearances in defense of murderer O.J. Simpson. They’re cringeworthy.
Do you want a better example of Dershowitz as a legal and political failure? I’ll give you three, each off the top of my head:
1. Years ago, ESPN did a mock civil trial on Major League Baseball and the battle between big-market and small-market teams. The question was on baseball’s competitive balance. It was a bold three-hour experiment on live television. Dershowitz argued on behalf of small-market teams, a view which I was vociferously in agreement with. Yet, Dershowitz was destroyed by opposing counsel Bruce Cutler. It was a major league ass-kicking. I had several arguments swirling in my head while watching, which Dershowitz failed to bring up. It was an embarrassing performance and the first hint that Dershowitz wasn’t nearly as smart or gifted as we thought.
2. Following the 2000 presidential election debacle (the Florida results went to the Supreme Court), Dershowitz wrote a book titled How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000. Entirely sympathetic to Dershowitz’s argument, I was seeking supporting material on my own for Gore’s case. So, I bought and read the book. Rarely has any text ever swayed me in the opposite direction, but somehow this legal scholar managed to do exactly that. This book, written for laypeople (non-legal people like me, was an appalling misfire. How does an author manage to defeat his own argument within his own text? I vowed never to waste $25 on another Dershowitz book again.
3. A few years later, Dershowitz wrote The Case for Israel, supposedly a defense of the Jewish state. Eager to expose myself to opposite points of view, I cracked open the book at a Barnes and Noble and spent an entire afternoon suppressing disbelief at how poorly-constructed Dershowitz’s written arguments were, both morally and politically. Any contributor to Foreign Affairs could easily have deconstructed and destroyed Dershowitz’s so-called “defense” of Israel. Once again, he managed to move a reader *away* from his side of the argument.
In fairness to Dershowitz, I’ve seen him debate numerous times (twice in person). Once, he debated Alan Keyes on the topic of religion in government. Predictably, Dershowitz took the secular side and mopped the floor with Keyes, which wasn’t exactly saying much. More recently, Dershowitz (I thought) won a heated debate about BDS (sanctions against Israel) against Dr. Cornel West, who appeared woefully unprepared in the back and forth. Those are the only two moments of Dershowitz’s lengthy career when he advanced his case in any way, and both wins were softballs.
Now, Dershowitz somehow gets pegged for Trump’s legal defense. Call me unimpressed.