All RAs are Not Created Equal

At least, not for Larry Tribe:

Both allies and critics sometimes concluded that Mr. Obama was too gifted, or in too much of a hurry, for the tasks that consumed others.

“I thought of him much more as a colleague” than a student, said Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard for whom Mr. Obama worked. “I didn’t think of him as someone to send out on mechanical tasks of digging out all the cases.” Other students could do that, Professor Tribe added.

I love Larry Tribe. He is a gifted teacher, and amazing scholar, and, so far as I can tell, a genuinely decent person. (He brought a huge basket of granny smith apples to every conlaw class. When I was at HLS, this made him the most student-friendly professor at the place.) But this is a bad quote. Bad for Obama. Bad for the other RAs Tribe hired that year. And bad for those of us who think that digging out the cases is an act invested with a dignity and meaning all its own. Without the cases, after all, we’d be nothing more than history or philosophy professors! What did Larry and Barack do? Chat about the how to define “one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”?

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6 Responses

  1. Someday perhaps we’ll get concrete evidence of the so-called briliance that elevates him above the rest of us; ’till then, I guess we’ll just have to take the noted unbiased say-so’s of Prof. Tribe, the NY Times and Michelle Obama.

  2. Someday perhaps we’ll get concrete evidence of the so-called brilliance that elevates him above the rest of us; ’till then, I guess we’ll just have to take the noted unbiased say-so’s of Prof. Tribe, the NY Times and Michelle Obama.

  3. Mitch Guthman says:

    This quote from Tribe does nothing to increase my comfort level with Obama. The impression that Tribe gives is that while Obama was happy to have the prestige of being Tribe’s RA he apparently felt that actually doing doing legal research was somehow beneath him. At the same time, it feeds the impression Obama is a fragile candidate, a hothouse flower that isn’t hardy enough to flourish except under highly favorable and closely controlled conditions. Not good. I wish Tribe had just left it alone.

  4. John C says:

    “The impression that Tribe gives is that while Obama was happy to have the prestige of being Tribe’s RA he apparently felt that actually doing doing legal research was somehow beneath him.”

    How did you get that from the quoted language? The most the article can show is that Tribe preferred to give Obama different responsibilities from the other RA’s. It says nothing about what Obama felt was his proper role. You just made that up.

    “At the same time, it feeds the impression Obama is a fragile candidate, a hothouse flower that isn’t hardy enough to flourish except under highly favorable and closely controlled conditions. Not good.”

    Again, how did you get this from the article? Even assuming that your impression of Obama not wanting to do the peon work is correct (which is apparently is not), how does that translate into “Obama the delicate flower”? He obviously did flourish in the role in which he was given by Tribe – and there is no reason to believe from this article that Obama could not have done the peon-RA work had it been assigned to him.

  5. John C says:

    “The impression that Tribe gives is that while Obama was happy to have the prestige of being Tribe’s RA he apparently felt that actually doing doing legal research was somehow beneath him.”

    How did you get that from the quoted language? The most the article can show is that Tribe preferred to give Obama different responsibilities from the other RA’s. It says nothing about what Obama felt was his proper role. You just made that up.

    “At the same time, it feeds the impression Obama is a fragile candidate, a hothouse flower that isn’t hardy enough to flourish except under highly favorable and closely controlled conditions. Not good.”

    Again, how did you get this from the article? Even assuming that your impression of Obama not wanting to do the peon work is correct (which is apparently is not), how does that translate into “Obama the delicate flower”? He obviously did flourish in the role in which he was given by Tribe – and there is no reason to believe from this article that Obama could not have done the peon-RA work had it been assigned to him.

  6. John C says:

    “The impression that Tribe gives is that while Obama was happy to have the prestige of being Tribe’s RA he apparently felt that actually doing doing legal research was somehow beneath him.”

    How did you get that from the quoted language? The most the article can show is that Tribe preferred to give Obama different responsibilities from the other RA’s. It says nothing about what Obama felt was his proper role. You just made that up.

    “At the same time, it feeds the impression Obama is a fragile candidate, a hothouse flower that isn’t hardy enough to flourish except under highly favorable and closely controlled conditions. Not good.”

    Again, how did you get this from the article? Even assuming that your impression of Obama not wanting to do the peon work is correct (which is apparently is not), how does that translate into “Obama the delicate flower”? He obviously did flourish in the role in which he was given by Tribe – and there is no reason to believe from this article that Obama could not have done the peon-RA work had it been assigned to him.