In Defense Of Alan Dershowitz

For decades, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has been known as a lion of the American Left.

A principled civil libertarian, staunch rights advocate, and registered Democrat, Dershowitz has always been associated with the liberal camp - and one of its most prestigious members.   

Dershowitz recently penned an op-ed in which he laments how former friends and associates have distanced themselves from him and are systematically excluding him from social circles.

Why has Dershowitz received the cold shoulder? Because for the past year, he has appeared as the primary defender of President Trump on the issue of the Special Counsel of Robert Mueller.

Dershowitz has been on television interviews, he’s written articles on the subject, he even wrote a book explaining what he sees as the dangers of Special Counsels in American politics. Since being rebranded as a new member of team Trump, Dershowitz is now apparently being ostracized.

Admittedly the op-ed was an easy piece to make fun of, and Dershowitz's opponents jumped on it.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough mocked Dershowitz for complaining that he has no more friends in Martha’s Vineyard. “As my grandmother would say, Alan, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas,” Scarborough concluded. Chris Hayes suggested that if Dershowitz can’t find anyone to associate with in his usual spots, “Mar-A-Lago is lovely this time of year.” Some went so far as to set up a Go Fund Me campaign to buy Dershowitz new friends.

If the cynics could put aside the jokes for a moment and pay attention to the actual content of the article, they would see that Dershowitz's point was not to complain about his lack of invitations to dinner parties. Rather, Dershowitz's main message was to lament the trend of Americans becoming extremely intolerant of opposing political views. He mentions the rants of Maxine Waters and Sarah Huckabee Sanders being kicked out of the Red Hen restaurant as examples. The bit about Martha’s Vineyard was of course only to speak to his own experiences of politically motivated discrimination.

The most recent attack on Dershowitz is only the latest in a long trend of attacks. It highlights a disturbing trend in American politics of resorting to all-out character assassination against political opponents.

Interestingly, this trend - as it relates to Dershowitz at least - started with a totally separate saga, that only recently came to a close.

Back in 2014, Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative author and political commentator, was arrested and indicted on charges of campaign finance fraud. The indictment alleged that D'Souza made more than $10,000 worth of contributions under the names of other people to the Senatorial campaign of Wendy Long, who ran on the Republican ticket in the 2012 election. D’Souza was sentenced to eight months in a community confinement center, forced to pay a $30,000 fine, and put on five years of probation. Dershowitz at the time was one of the strongest voices protesting D’Souza’s prosecution. No other first offender had ever received such a high penalty. Dershowitz asserted that the whole episode smacked of a political prosecution. Due to some of the very reasons laid out by Dershowitz, Donald Trump decided to pardon D’Souza in May.

Just as when Dershowitz spoke out in support of a political opponent and ended up articulating the intellectual “justification” for Trump, so too is the case with the ongoing Special Counsel. The famed lawyer is simply speaking out on what he thinks is a weaponizing of the political system.

Alan Dershowitz is a principled person. Accept his policy positions or not (I certainly have my fair share of disagreements with him), it is disingenuous to portray him as anything but intellectually honest.  

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