Alan Dershowitz is no stranger to Charleston. In fact, he’s married to a Charleston native (Carolyn Cohen) and has spent time in the Holy City on multiple occasions over the years.
It’s a pleasure listening to Professor Dershowitz being interviewed because one gets an immediate grasp of his very keen intellect and ability to deftly and cogently analyze the most complex legal theory and application with instantaneous and flawless articulation. Although she’s a historian, he reminds me of Doris Kearns Goodwin and vice versa in that sense; the words just seem to come forth with effortless spontaneity. On some level, it’s very irritating if for no other reason than we’d all like to be able to speak like that.
Lawyers are like the French: They love to discuss and argue. And, as everyone has probably heard by now, that particular love has gotten Dershowitz, who is essentially a liberal Democrat, a bit sideways with some of his friends on Martha’s Vineyard over the issue of President Donald Trump. According to a front page story in the Boston Globe by Mark Shanahan, Dershowitz’s seeming support of Trump has infuriated certain members of his Vineyard coffee klatch, who like to gather on the porch at the Chilmark General Store and solve the world’s problems.
Specifically, Dershowitz’s vocal (and now written) opposition to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate President Trump’s ties to Russia and condemnation of Democratic talk of impeachment based on allegations of collusion have not gone over at all well in one of the most liberal enclaves on the East Coast. Dershowitz insists that — among other things — the legality of impeachment based strictly on collusion does not pass muster, regardless of one’s political leanings. It’s certainly an interesting discussion that’s outlined in greater detail in the professor’s latest book “The Case Against Impeaching Trump,” which is hot off the press.
But sadly, when it comes to Trump and those have such great antipathy toward him, civil disagreement isn’t possible. The Globe’s July 4 article details a series of e-mails that followed an op-ed written by Dershowitz for The Hill "in which he complained that his island friends were 'shunning him'" because of his relationship with Trump.
According to the Globe, Walter Teller, an entertainment lawyer and a longtime Vineyard resident, sent a circulated e-mail contending that Dershowitz had embarrassed himself. “You … gave Trump an opportunity to use you and your positions in his own defense, to wave you like his pom-pom. How unfortunate for all of us …,” Teller wrote. And then he got personal, asserting that Dershowitz has a quenchless appetite “to be in the public eye, to have a seat at the table, even if the table is at Fox News, Mar-a-Lago, the White House, with Bibi (Netanyahu).”
Within a few hours Dershowitz fired back: “You admire my stance on civil liberties when it supports your policies, but now that my consistent position may help a president we all oppose, you shun me. Please,” he wrote.
Things got even more adversarial between Dershowitz and Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT media lab and creator of the nonprofit One Laptop per Child. In an email shared with the Globe by an island resident, Negroponte blasted Dershowitz for “aiding and abetting and dining with” Trump, and accused him of being “complicit” with the president. Continuing: “Well-known 20th century dictators enjoyed the support of public intellectuals. Rather than ruin parties, porches, and beaches, let’s just not talk because there’s no issue to discuss.”
Dershowitz then pointed out that One Laptop per Child received at least $2.5 million from Robert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News and a “major Trump facilitator. … Please don’t lecture me about complicity,” he wrote, and later telling the Globe, “I was never lamenting or whining about the fact that people are trying to punish me. I was exposing it. I stand by my principles. I’m very proud of it. I challenge them to have a conversation with me.”
I’m sure Mr. Dershowitz has long since understood that these people were not acting like true friends, who will figure out a way to get along based on shared experiences, trust, genuine affection and the realization that life’s too short for this sort of foolishness. And maybe the conversations have resumed. One of the news channels reported that coffee club has started patching up some differences and is back out on the porch.