“How could a former con law professor (Obama) be so ignorant?”


Rob Natelson

Quite a few people have asked me how President Obama, as a “former constitutional law professor,” could prove so ignorant about the Constitution.

This former con law professor suggests two reasons:

* Obama was not a “professor” in the sense that most people use the term—that is someone who becomes an expert in the subject through years of teaching a range of related courses and producing books and articles. He was a term-to-term adjunct or contract teacher who, insofar as I am aware, never produced any constitutional law scholarship at all. He was called “professor” even though his actual title was “lecturer” (i.e., instructor). But this expression of egalitarianism is fundamentally misleading to the average person. (Incidentally, Bill Clinton was, albeit only briefly, a tenure-track law professor.)

* Obama taught two courses, “Racism and the Law” and “Constitutional Law III.” The former, obviously, was mostly about race. The latter was an upper-level course that, based on several years of examinations, also appears to have focused mostly on race (although there were also some questions on other trendy issues such as homosexual rights and in vitro fertilization). However, such issues involve only a fairly narrow sliver of constitutional law. Obama appears to have never taught the structure of the Constitution nor the history behind it, nor any of the other areas of doctrine that constitutional scholars must master—standing, justiciability, Commerce Clause, Tax-and-Spending Clause, Contracts Clause, separation of powers, international relations, First Amendment (a huge area by itself), the rest of the Bill of Rights, etc. etc.

Incidentally, as I observe briefly in The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant, Obama’s basic constitutional ignorance also shows up in his book, The Audacity of Hope.


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