Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama at Chicago Law

The NY Times profiles Barack Obama's record at the University of Chicago Law School. A couple of things struck me: he taught there for 12 years, and he never published. Professors publish because they want to burnish their reputation in academia. But Obama always knew that he did not want a career in academia, so he didn't bother publishing. Instead, he concentrated on teaching. In retrospect, this was a great move, because this was how he first built a following. His students were some of his best first volunteers and fundraisers. That's a brilliant strategy.

He was teaching at the same time that he was practicing law at a law firm, and while he was in the Illinois State Senate. Talk about combining theory and practice.

There is one comment from a former colleague of his with which I must take issue:

“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.”

I think running for President constitutes "taking a full swing." I think running for President is also a good way of venturing beyond your "ideological and topical comfort zones."

The article seems a little harsh on Obama for not sharing his views more widely at the school, but that might be in part because the man himself did not talk about it on the record. That's too bad, I wish he would have. I think that would have been a good move on his part. Otherwise, tho, it's a good piece.

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