Alan Dershowitz Is Unhappy That People Misunderstood His Garbled Remarks

For God's sake, will you *please* just shut up?Stefani Reynolds/CNP via ZUMA

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A friend writes to me this morning: “A lot of folks on the left are mischaracterizing Dershowitz’s argument, which they don’t need to do — it’s awful enough already.”

Crap. Does this mean I have to figure out what Dershowitz said and then decide if he’s been misquoted? For a wacko has-been, he sure does know how to keep the spotlight on himself, doesn’t he? But I guess with a wacko has-been in the White House, it’s good times for these guys. Anyway, here is Politico’s summary:

Responding to a question about how presidents conduct foreign policy, Dershowitz asserted Wednesday that “every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest.” Therefore, he continued, “if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected — in the public interest — that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

But tweeting Thursday, Dershowitz insisted that he “did not say or imply that a candidate could do anything to reassure his reelection, only that seeking help in an election is not necessarily corrupt.” Concluding his string of posts, he wrote: “Critics have an obligation to respond to what I said, not to create straw men to attack.”

Well . . . “cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment” is strong language. I’m hardly surprised it got interpreted the way it did. Still, I guess Dersh is just making the same argument that I’ve made several times myself, namely that presidents do stuff all the time with one eye on their reelection. Should I establish diplomatic relations with Cuba? Should I keep troops in Iraq? Should I take a chance on killing Osama bin Laden? These are all legitimate foreign policy issues, and they’ll inevitably be viewed favorably by some voters and not by others. Presidents can hardly be unaware of this, and as Dershowitz says, making a decision that will be good for reelection isn’t necessarily corrupt.

But applying this to the Ukraine matter is just willfull distortion. This wasn’t a common issue of, say, “What will voters think of getting tough on aid to Ukraine?” In fact, Trump very much hoped that voters would never even learn what he was doing. Hell, it wouldn’t have worked if voters knew he was behind it.

No, this was a secret decision to defy the will of Congress and then lie to them about it, all in return for a foreign leader agreeing to lie in a very explicit way about a single campaign opponent. In Dershowitz’s list of presidential motivations (national interest, corruption, or some mix of the two) this was pure corruption. There was zero national interest involved in Ukraine announcing an investigation of Burisma Holdings. It’s possible that Trump himself didn’t understand that, but only because his narcissism is so off the charts that he literally conflates “good for Trump” with “good for the country.” That’s how his company worked, after all. The rest of us, however, understand that this is a ridiculous standard.

Now can we stop talking about Alan Dershowitz? Come on, folks.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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