Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jonathan Turley

An Intellectually Honest Liberal Academic

During the period of the impeachment of Bill Clinton, there were few intellectually honest liberals to be found. George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley was one of them.

Professor Turley is a liberal who was deeply troubled by President Clinton’s abuse of power and violations of federal law. I recall having had lunch with Professor Turley and William Bennett during that period, and being mightily impressed with Turley’s independence of judgment.

Some 15 years later, I still am.

Professor Turley appeared on FNC’s The Kelly File to discuss his concerns about President Obama’s willingness, even eagerness, to “rewrite or ignore or negate federal law.” Mr. Obama’s repeated and unilateral actions amount to “the usurpation of authority that’s unprecedented in this country.” The liberal “cult of personality” that has grown up around the president worries Professor Turley, who says we are “turning a blind eye to a fundamental change in our system.”

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During the period of the impeachment of Bill Clinton, there were few intellectually honest liberals to be found. George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley was one of them.

Professor Turley is a liberal who was deeply troubled by President Clinton’s abuse of power and violations of federal law. I recall having had lunch with Professor Turley and William Bennett during that period, and being mightily impressed with Turley’s independence of judgment.

Some 15 years later, I still am.

Professor Turley appeared on FNC’s The Kelly File to discuss his concerns about President Obama’s willingness, even eagerness, to “rewrite or ignore or negate federal law.” Mr. Obama’s repeated and unilateral actions amount to “the usurpation of authority that’s unprecedented in this country.” The liberal “cult of personality” that has grown up around the president worries Professor Turley, who says we are “turning a blind eye to a fundamental change in our system.”

“I think many people will come to loathe that they remained silent during this period,” according to Turley.

For now I don’t want to go into the merits of what Turley is arguing (which are certainly important). I simply want to point out that he is someone who is willing to make arguments that cut against his political predilections. In that sense, he’s an impressive exception to those who engage in “confirmation bias” (a topic that Jonathan Haidt has written about often and eloquently). He is not blind to the failures of those whose politics he’s in agreement with. Rather than simply pushing a partisan political agenda, Professor Turley is willing to call out his own side for violations of basic constitutional principles–and to do so in a thoughtful, informed, and civilized manner.

In that sense, Jonathan Turley is a model for the rest of us.  

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