I stand with David French.
I don't stand with him on social issues, at least not most of the time. I don't stand with him on many geopolitical issues — though I note that he's willing to back up his views by volunteering for military service rather than merely sending other people to risk their lives to advance them.
I stand with him as someone I respect, admire, and trust.
I met David in 1991 at Harvard Law School. He stood out. In a class awash in people from Princeton and Stanford and Yale, he came from a small private college in Nashville, but was manifestly intellectually qualified to be there. He was open about his faith in a positive and friendly way. He was unapologetic, firm, but polite about his political views, which were very substantially to the right of Harvard's rather unreflectively lefty ethos. These were the days of the Clarence Thomas hearings and the run-up to the 1992 elections, and political discourse mostly consisted of expressing disdain and disbelief at the existence of different viewpoints. David got hissed in class — that's what people did before there was Twitter — by the usual suspects.
Yet David, unlike some people with strong political beliefs, was generally well-liked because his strong beliefs were accompanied by an air of decency, humility, and friendliness. Friends — people with a wide array of political beliefs and social, ethnic, and religious backgrounds — used to joke that David was the reasonable man of legal lore. When we studied the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress — which traditionally imposes liability when someone's conduct is so terrible that it would cause a reasonable member of the community to exclaim "outrageous!" — we relied heavily on David. We'd explain the facts to him, and if he exclaimed "OUTRAGEOUS!" we felt comfortable in concluding that's how a decent, normal American would react.
Since then, David has led FIRE, one of my favorite organizations, to fight for the free speech, assembly, and worship rights of students. Faced with a war he believed in, and faced with the sacrifices of others, he joined and served honorably in a war zone rather than supporting conflict without personal sacrifice. Like me, he adopted a child into his family, and like me recognized that the opportunity to adopt a child is an incredible blessing upon the family that should inspire parents to feel profound thankfulness.
I disagree with David quite often. For instance, I think he's too uncritical of our international military agenda. I think his criticisms of the cultural left too often characterize the whole based on the bad behavior of the few and too often indulge in the sort of gratuitous rhetoric that doesn't live up to the rest of his persona. But I respect him because I know he got where he is based on principle and that, if I argued with him over it, he'd listen to me and discuss it with me like a grown-up (and perhaps give me more attention than my antics deserved). I trust him more than I trust the vast majority of politicians, even when I agree with those politicians' apparent stated positions of the moment.
This week's attacks on him annoy me. They annoy me because so many are careless, puerile and uninformed. They annoy me almost (almost) to the point of reflection — is that how I sound when I reject candidates out of hand?
I don't know if David will decide to tilt at this windmill. I do know that it would be a pleasure to vote for someone whose integrity and decency I trust, and for whom I have abiding respect, even if I don't share all of his views.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- No, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Shouldn't Sue Over "Fake News" - February 20th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: The Eleventh Circuit Protects Doctors' Right To Ask About Guns - February 17th, 2017
- Eleventh Circuit Revisits Florida Law Banning Doctors From Asking About Guns, And I Can't Even - February 16th, 2017
- Erdoğan and the European View of Free Speech - February 10th, 2017
- Still Annoying After All These Years: A Petty Government Story - February 9th, 2017