Tuesday, September 18, 2007

'Fess Up?

Los Angeles Times blogger Matt Welch uncharacteristically borders on hyper-ventilation while writing about the hiring, firing, and rehiring of Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of the new law school at the University of California at Irvine:
The climate for free speech will remain chilled, and the political atmosphere poisonous, for as long as we don't know why the UC Irvine leader unhired Erwin Chemerinsky in the first place.
After composing a lengthy reply to Matt's post, and his discussion question, (Do you want to hear the real reason for the Chemerinksy hiring/rehiring snafu, or would you settle for just never having to hear about Chemerinskygate again?), I discovered that the Times limits comments to 650 characters, so I'm publishing my original answer here instead, although I doubt Matt will see it.

Matt: Even though I am sitting about 400 miles away at the moment, it is pretty damn easy to connect the dots, so I'm not going to lose any sleep over Michael V. Drake's refusal to publicly admit he was "shocked & awed" by a couple of dozen inconsequential know-nothings armed with his private cellphone number. Chemerinsky is where he wants to be, and he's sitting in the catbird seat like never before. (He should send Mike Antonovich a thank you note.)

It seems to me that, your assertion to the contrary, Orange County comes out looking pretty good in this, given that most of the noise was generated by Angelenos not locals, and the many local pooh-bahs (& local GOP donors) who stood up for Chemerinsky. The next Lincoln Club meeting there ought to be really interesting. Unlike you, I seriously doubt that anyone within the UC system is genuinely frightened or intimidated by this controversy. On the contrary, the fact that Drake's decision generated such a tremendous amount of publicity, near-universal approbation, and a humiliating public retreat by the chancellor, the lesson learned is undoubtedly to not to cower in silence, but like Chemerinsky, speak loudly to anyone who will listen.

True, Drake behaved like like a nit-wit, but he's first and last a UC bureaucrat, so that pretty much comes with the territory these days. Giants like Clark Kerr, CharlesYoung, and Dean McHenry are long-gone. Drake's reputation may be in tatters, but that law school received a tremendous gift in the end, and Chemerinsky now has an incredible amount of good will, easier access to more deep pockets than he would have otherwise (given his well-known political activism), and something of a free pass for an undefined period of time. If it is true that there is no such thing as bad publicity, the law school received massive in-kind donations from across the nation. While I admit that it might be fun to know what answer Mike Antonovich is giving to his friends when they ask, "Could you possibly have screwed this up any more than you did?," I have a pretty good idea what it may be: unprintable.

So, in the end Matt, making Michael V. Drake bare his soul or further admit his failings as a human being doesn't really interest me. There is enough information already available to figure it out. That said, if you or others want to milk this for all its worth until it no longer pays off, I have no objection.

All the best to you,

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