Thursday, 19Nov09, the Federalist Society’s student chapter at the University of Kansas hosted former Clinton-era Independent Counsel and current Dean of Pepperdine School of Law, Ken Starr. The topic for his guest lecture was the Constitution, specifically the Amendments. He stated at the beginning of his lecture that he was not really there to address specific, current political issues, and he did not, despite a few attempts during the Q&A session to corner him. His talk was that of a professor delivering a course overview to students, and his attitude was that of a rather jovial professor.
He was at his most passionate when he pulled out his “sentimental” copy of the U.S. Constitution from his pocket and read to us from it. I used to carry around a copy of the Constitution myself, a pocket sized version printed by the Cato Institute. Maybe I should add it to my pocket knife, watch and handkerchief combination that I hardly ever leave the house without? Anyway, I was surprised to learn that the average for proposed amendments to the Constitution is normally around a few hundred per decade, with the exception of the 1960s and 1970s, which had 2,598 and 2,014, respectively. Interesting stuff.
Dean Starr mentioned several interesting things, such as “the perfidy of Aaron Burr” (something I still need to look into to understand) and the writings of Professor Sanford Levinson, author of Our Undemocratic Constitution, apparently a book about how much better our country would be if we didn’t have a 2cnd Amendment or Executive veto powers. I guess.
Of more interest to me was Dean Starr’s discussion of the authority of the Supreme Court regarding the Constitution. It’s my suspicion that this is the primary reason he was lecturing there, given that it was a Federalist Society event. He quoted an interesting exchange that made me wish I had taken better notes, but the gist of it was one early American politician saying that a Supreme Court judge should strike down laws he felt were “against the natural order”, and another one responding with what amounts to “go piss up a rope”. Man, I wish I had taken better notes, because I’m sure the actual quotes are more interesting than that…
During the Q&A session, the president of the KU College Republicans asked Dean Starr if he believed that the Constitution allowed for the current administration’s plan to force people to purchase health insurance. Dean Starr gently corrected an error in his Constitution citing and then went on to say that compulsive goods purchasing was unprecedented, but that Congress had “broad powers”, and basically didn’t say one way or the other. Another student asked about whether terrorists (“you mean ‘alleged terrorists…'”) were guaranteed the same rights as U.S. citizens, in a question I gathered was in regards to the directive the President had issued that the Guantanamo prisoners be moved to the U.S. and tried in a regular court. Dean Starr unequivocally stated that he believed that Constitutional rights applied to anyone, not just U.S. citizens. He further went on to comment that he was a supporter of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, something that honestly surprised me until I found out that it doesn’t mention specific civil rights for LGBT folk (Dean Starr was on the anti same sex marriage side of California’s Proposition 8 legal battle).
Yet another interesting trip down the hill to Green Hall. I got better pictures of my event this time, but took poorer notes. I can’t even read most of what I scribbled out. Dean Starr is more or less someone from a t.v. show I watched on the t.v., if you’ll excuse such a vulgar metaphor. I only knew the name from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, something I never really cared about, the only politics that interested me at the time relating to whether or not I would be deployed (I was with the 101st Airborne at the time, and frankly had more important things going on). He certainly wasn’t the boogey man that he was made out to be, but then again I was not facing him in a court room. I guess I should stop being surprised that politicians can be charming and likable in real life, even if I vehemently disagree on fundamental issues with them. After all, if they didn’t have a certain level of personal charm and charisma, their careers in politics wouldn’t have even got off the ground. Even Bob Dole had his funny erectile dysfunction commercials. But I digress…