Monday, October 10, 2005

The Volokh Conspiracy

Some 24 years ago this summer, I went to a conference. In fact, I won an "all expenses paid" trip to Dallas, Texas. Trouble was, I already lived in Dallas, but they still put me in the fancy hotel for the weekend. The event was called the American Academy of Achievement, and I got to meet all sorts of fascinating people. I got to talk politics with Ed Asner, the famous Lou Grant from television. (I have always been tremendously impressed that he took a bunch of teenagers seriously and genuinely listened to what we had to say. I didn't get an autograph to sell on eBay, but I value our conversations far more.) I got to sit down with the co-founder of Genentech. I got to meet LeRoy Collins, who helped draft a new constitution for the state of Florida. William K. Coors almost broke into tears telling a group of us kids to follow our own individual dreams, not to allow ourselves to be, for example, railroaded into the family business. Larry Hagman, [I Dream of] Jeannie's astronaut master before becoming J.R. Ewing on the CBS television series Dallas, showed up just long enough to collect his plaque, and never mind if anybody wanted an autograph. I met L. Bruce Laingen, the chargé d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran — the senior diplomat of the Americans taken hostage in 1979 for 444 days — and I also met Kenneth Taylor, the Canadian ambassador who helped smuggle several Americans out of Iran. I met a man who literally took a bullet for President Ronald Reagan, Secret Service Agent Timothy J. McCarthy. I met the man who would later teach me both freshman physics and quantum mechanics, Nobel laureate Val Fitch. I met the Hon. Sam Ervin and James F. Neal, two key figures in the Watergate investigation. I met the Hon. Samuel R. Pierce, Jr., who was named by President Eisenhower as Undersecretary of Labor, and later by Ronald Reagan to be the first African American in the Cabinet. I also met Roger Staubach and Jim Plunkett and Bob Carpenter and Wayne Gretzky, not to mention Harlan Smith and Fred Whipple, William R. Hewlett (as in Hewlett-Packard), and General David C. Jones, Colin Powell's predecessor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And then there were the other kids. I didn't really keep up with any of them for more than a couple of years (Hi, Lori, Paul Alan, and Maren, all from NoDak, and Becky W. from Iowa!), but I also met some of the young award winners, including Stephen Baccus, Kenneth Weiss (from Bowie, Maryland; several other Kenneth Weisses popped up in Google), Miller Maley, Gregory Dubois (I'm guessing the one who does BaBar, not the prize-winning shepherd or the non-expert in arson cases), and a recent Soviet émigré, 13-year-old Eugene Volokh.

Even though he had been in the United States less than six years, Eugene already not only spoke fluent English, but had his own software company. Remember, this was only a couple of years after two guys named Steve started making little "Apple" computers in a garage in Sunnyvale, California. In 1981, Eugene told me and anyone else who would listen that the Soviet Union was teetering on the brink of total collapse. The United States could easily march in a small contingent (maybe a couple hundred thousand) of ground-based troops, sweeping across the Iron Curtain. The people would greet us as liberators, and we would waltz all the way to Moscow almost without firing a shot. I didn't take him seriously, and neither did Ed Asner or Ken Weiss. In fact, we all just raised our eyebrows at the heretical view that the Soviet Union would fall, even within my lifetime.

Ten years later, the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist.

Here's what Eugene Volokh wrote in my yearbook, 1981-06-27 +/–:

to [Lincoln], a 'concerned moderate' whose reasoning power would best be used to aid us NCPAC conservatives.

Eugene Volokh,
a 'neoconservative' capitalist running-dog Imperialist pig.
Interesting — I hear the word neoconservative a lot more now than I did in 1981. The single quote marks above are Eugene's, by the way.

Imagine my shock and surprise when I found out that Eugene Volokh, now in his late 30's, is a law professor at UCLA (for our Continental friends, it's pronounced "yu-si-el-ay" not "oo-klah") and the lead conspirator of a web site that bears his name. I mean, you'd think you'd at least see him on PBS occasionally, talking about the Second Amendment or something.

On a personal note, Eugene, congratulations on the 30th anniversary of your arrival in our capitalist running-dog Imperialist country.

Back to business, though, what exactly do you think conservatives should do about the Miers nomination?
I don't want to speak in this post about what people should do about the Harriet Miers nomination. But as a matter of principle, I surely sympathize with any man who wants to be a problem. — Eugene Volokh, 2005-10-06
Myself, I'd rather see someone like Eugene Volokh on the Supreme Court than someone like Harriet Miers, and for better or for worse we'd probably be stuck with Eugene for a half century. Eugene has lived under the excesses of "leftist" ideology — the very real Союз Советских Социалистических Республик — so he would not be at all friendly to the interests of the nanny state, and neither would he accept lightly any foreclosure of individual rights in the name of some amorphous "common good." I haven't the slightest idea where he stands on the issue of abortion, but if he were to rule on a challenge to Roe v. Wade, I think it's fair to say that his views would be backed with impeccable legal reasoning.

I grew up right in the same neighborhood where Harriet Miers lived in Dallas, and I've got to tell you, the woman scares me to my bones. She scares my liberal side and my conservative side at the same time. Most especially, she brings up scary memories of being a 10-year-old boy in north Dallas, watching Watergate unfold on my television as my President destroyed not only himself but the very dignity of his office. Indeed, among my greatest objections to the nomination of Robert Bork was the simple fact that his personal allegiance to Richard Nixon, along with his reading of the special prosecutor law, allowed him to let Nixon fire the man who was supposed to be investigating him. He let the crook fire the detective. There is no doubt in my mind that Harriet Miers would extend exactly that courtesy to George W. Bush under similar circumstances, and that is why I must oppose her.

[P.S. Я не говорю по Русский, and I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party, but I do know the man who became Harry Hay's lover after Grandpa Walton dumped him to prevent their homosexuality from reflecting negatively on the Party.]