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The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.

A Quick Note on Goodwin Liu



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My friend and colleague Ed Whelan has done a superb job of covering the Goodwin Liu nomination, which is not my beat. I’d just like to observe that much of the anguished reaction you’ve seen to the news that his confirmation battle has ended in defeat comes from people who know him personally and like him very much. I have to assume that this has colored the debate. For example, how could serious people dismiss the following?

Despite the fact that he was compiling his dossier for a judicial nomination within weeks of Barack Obama’s election as president in November 2008, Liu somehow failed to disclose in his Senate questionnaire response the very presentations at which he made some of his most controversial and incendiary comments. 

This strikes me as far from trivial. I’ll put aside the claims that Liu’s scholarly writings have been misrepresented, as Ed has thoroughly debunked them. The basics are this: Liu left out crucial information in his Senate questionnaire. He practiced law for less than two years and was presumably nominated on the basis of his scholarly work, yet he is now distancing himself from the conclusions advanced in his scholarly work. I am convinced that Liu is a terrific teacher and that he was an outstanding student. He is clearly a gifted networker, having secured prominent roles in the Clinton administration and a judicial nomination from the Obama administration. And he might even be a terrific public servant. Liu is and deserves to be a role model. But I think we can safely leave it at that. 

I’d like to thank Ed Whelan for trying to seriously engage with his critics, and for presenting his arguments thoroughly and carefully, leaving his readers to decide whether or not he is being fair-minded. This transparency is a welcome contrast to the hand-waving used by many other legal commentators. I don’t always agree with Ed, but I always get the sense that he isn’t pulling the wool over my eyes or using condescension as a substitute for argument. 



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