Professor Obama on gender, gay issues, and health
by iamold, Fri Aug 01, 2008 at 09:37:27 PM EDT
Must reading for all law profs - the NY Times has published eight of the exams (scroll to bottom of link) given by Barack Obama while he was teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, together with two sample answers, one course syllabus, and commentary by Akhil Amar, Randy Barnett, John Eastman, and Pam Karlan (all at the same link).
Obama did not produce any legal scholarship - he was after all, simultaneously with adjunct teaching, also a practicing lawyer, state senator (for part of the time), and, perhaps even then, a presidential wannabe, and like his colleagues did not want any political hopes dashed from opponents who could possibly use this against him. But the legal academy is clearly the loser, as the University of Chicago even admits openly that even right wing colleagues attempted to persuade him to leave his political career and return to academia.
His exams and especially his model answers reveal a cool, critical intelligence applied to the trickiest legal issues.
Naturally, since sexuality, gender and health are my primary fields, I looked for questions relating to these issues.
I was not disappointed.
Almost every exam includes a question that involves sexual orientation or reproductive rights or a combination:
+ + Sexual Orientation: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/ 07/30/inside-professor-obamas-classroom/
+ + Reproductive Rights:
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pd f/politics/2008OBAMA_LAW/conlaw3.obama.2 002.fall.pdf
+ + Both Sexual Orientation and Reproductive Rights:
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pd f/politics/2008OBAMA_LAW/conlaw3.obama.2 003.fall.pdf
His 2001 con law exam, a few months after September 11, contained a question involving bioterrorism:
The model answers are elegant and supple, with no easy outcomes. This is clearly a professor who would give an A for an analysis with which he personally disagrees.Indeed, his model answers are too smooth to give away what position he would himself endorse.
Most readers of these materials will probably nonetheless search them obsessively for clues to what Obama really believes. To me, the most important aspect of this window into his thinking lies not in his answers, but in which questions he found intriguing and rich enough to build an exam around. Consider the 1996 con law exam (Part I):
in which students had to analyze a "Preserving Family Values Act (PFVA)," that prohibited furnishing infertility services to homosexuals. This was seven years prior to Lawrence v. Texas, although even today the Equal Protection Clause analysis would be centered on Romer v. Evans, then only a year old.
Read Professor Obama's analysis of that aspect of the hypothetical statute (pp 5-6):
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pd f/politics/2008OBAMA_LAW/conlaw3.obama.1 996.fall.memo.pdf
Not bad. He passes my test for presidential mental acuity and intelligence.
Required Reading for anyone who wants to know More about Obama as teacher of con law:
"What the University of Chicago right thinks of Obama"
"Obama Takes His Own Law Exams: How did he do?"
Meanwhile, even the McCain supporting AP and WSJ are starting to ask themselves "Is John McCain Stupid?":
And while democrats have to walk on eggshells on every issue, the Republicans win because they can pander to women, blacks, latinos, evangelicals, etc and somehow look honorable doing it, and say "no new taxes" as if that would at all solve the budget crisis (hint: it doesnt!).