The New York Times hands conservatives a dreydl:

“Look!” one shouts, “Obama’s socialism is evident in every question!”

“Actually,” another says, “it seems to me that the bottom line is not the questions he asked, but how he evaluated the answers. He asks for strengths and weaknesses of different possible positions in regard to gay marriage. That’s actually (both pedagogically and philosophically) a pretty fair way of testing. It not only gets at the student’s views, but also his ability to argue the question. But–”

“But what?”

“–but am I paranoid, or just appropriately suspicious, of the care he took to avoid taking positions, not publishing, questioning but not answering?”

“Exactly!” they enthuse.  “Come play now let’s begin!”

The dreydl bounces on the formica and settles into a smooth spin.


Gimmel it is.


The entire pot is theirs. They can on-the-one-hand this:

There’s little for someone hoping to exploit an image of Obama as any kind of radical academic: His responses are two-sided, finely balanced, sober. He seems the typical disinterested law prof to me, perhaps worthy of congratulations for keeping his aloofness intact, despite an incendiary subject matter.

On the same hand as this:

[C]onsulting his own answer sheet, Lecturer Obama seems a lot like Candidate Obama, saying he has no right answer and not volunteering his own opinion.

Had the dreydl not been loaded — had they spun a nun — they still would’ve won the pot. If Obama had presented himself as a “radical academic” or evidenced an itch to indoctrinate, it would’ve been proof of Secret Socialism. All evidence aside, it would’ve confirmed his status as the most liberal Senator Congressperson in the history of America.

So because Obama took his position as a teacher seriously and graded with respect to the quality of instead of the ideology behind an argument; because he kept his personal politics out of the classroom, as these very same conservatives so adamantly desire; because Obama’s behavior accorded with their ethical standards, he shouldn’t be trusted.  That there’s no conceivable scenario in which Travis Kavulla and his ilk would deem Obama trustworthy doesn’t mean his argument is intellectually dishonest.

Wait a minute now — it does.  Tendentious arguments are intellectually dishonest.


Ante up already!  Who knows?  Maybe this time they’ll spin shin!