Alan Dershowitz Wishes Maxine Waters Would Stop Murdering Him At Martha's Vineyard

Culture Wars

Alan Dershowitz, whose claim to notoriety these days is his self-inflicted role as a professional Donald Trump defender, has officially become a laughingstock after whining in an op-ed for The Hill that his fancy pants friends on Martha's Vineyard are "shunning" him on the orders of Maxine Waters.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) recently told her supporters to hound President Trump's Cabinet members wherever they find them: "They're not going to be able to go to a restaurant, they're not going to be able to stop at a gas station, they're not going to be able to shop at a department store. The people are going to turn on them, they're going to protest, they're going to absolutely harass them."

Waters does not speak for all Democrats or liberals. Nor do those who threw Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of the Red Hen restaurant. Neither do those who have harassed other members of the Trump administration. But these rude extremists are a symptom of the times. The divisions have gotten so bad that many on both sides refuse to speak or listen to those on the other side. Either you are for Trump or against him, and that is all some people need to know to make judgments about you.

I know this because I have experienced this firsthand on Martha's Vineyard

These "rude extremists" have grown in just a couple weeks from a few hecklers in an upscale Mexican restaurant and the staff of a farm-to-table spot in Virginia to the entire summer colony of Martha's Vineyard. Waters is building an army, and it's rising in strength.

Dershowitz goes on to list his Democratic "bonafides," which includes voting for and "contributing handsomely" to Hillary Clinton, but laments that this was still not enough to keep Trump's stench from clinging to him.

So they are shunning me and trying to ban me from their social life on Martha's Vineyard. One of them, an academic at a distinguished university, has told people that he would not attend any dinner or party to which I was invited. He and others have demanded "trigger warnings" so that they can be assured of having "safe spaces" in which they will not encounter me or my ideas. Others have said they will discontinue contributions to organizations that sponsor my talks.

This is all familiar to me, since I lived through McCarthyism in the 1950s, when lawyers who represented alleged communists on civil libertarian grounds were shunned. Some of these lawyers and victims of McCarthyism lived on Martha's Vineyard. I never thought I would see McCarthyism come to Martha's Vineyard, but I have.

McCarthyism, or the second Red Scare, kicked off in 1947 when President Truman signed Executive Order 9835, which was the first general "loyalty" program in the federal government. He'd hoped to quiet Republican critics who thought Democrats were "soft" on communism, which by the way never achieved the level of power in the US that Trump's GOP has. You'll recall that Trump also likes loyalty oaths. He demands mandatory expressions of patriotism from NFL players and twists the arms of team owners so there'll be penalties for those who don't comply. It's not a coincidence that Colin Kaepernick is described as having been "blacklisted" by the NFL. So, it's weird that Dershowitz can claim it's only the pushback against Roy Cohn's protege that reminds him of McCarthyism.

We always lose our heroes. I was once a big fan of Dershowitz or at least the person Ron Silver brought to life in 1990's Reversal of Fortune, a favorite movie of mine. Silver's Dershowitz was a precursor to later Aaron Sorkin protagonists in "The West Wing" and "The Newsroom": The temperamental, brilliant man always ready to passionately lecture women until they melted in his arms.

My younger self slightly envied Jeremy Irons's coolly sophisticated Claus von Bulow but it was Silver's rough and tumble Dershowitz that I admired. Yes, I understood that movies aren't real life, but I'd also read Dershowitz's 1985 book "Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bulow Case," upon which the film was based, so my opinion that Dershowitz was a non-schmuck felt reasonably well-informed.

It never bothered me that Dershowitz defended men such as von Bulow, O.J. Simpson, or even Trump. I appreciated that he advocated on behalf of larger legal principles, even if the accused might credibly fit the description of a slimeball. I felt he was doing a service, keeping us honest. It's important even now that in our zeal to stop Trump we don't shred civil liberties along the way and in effect "frame a guilty man," as one of Dershowitz's students in the film speculates happened to von Bulow.

No, my issue is with Dershowitz joining every other "snowflake" Trump supporter or enabler and playing the victim. The well-heeled who willingly associate with Trump not-so-ironically whine about banishment from the exclusive, much desired "liberal bubble." It's kind of pathetic. Imagine if Milton's Satan had said, "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven, I guess, but the other angels don't even invite me to their parties anymore."

It's especially depressing when you contrast this pity party with the ending of Reversal of Fortune: After successfully overturning von Bulow's murder conviction, Dershowitz rebuffs -- like a boss -- Claus's social overtures.

"One thing, Claus: Legally, this was an important victory. Morally, you're on your own." That's awesome. You'll notice that Dershowitz doesn't grudgingly accept the offer for lunch with von Bulow because he doesn't want to look like a "rude extremist."

I think what Dershowitz is experiencing socially right now isn't McCarthyism but more like what President Eisenhower called "McCarthywasm," the period after McCarthy's fall from whatever grace he ever had. In The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate, Robert Griffith describes how in the final years of his life, McCarthy's former colleagues actively avoided him and his speeches on the Senate floor were delivered to a "near-empty chamber."

I can let others debate the legal merits of Dershowitz's continued defense of Trump. But morally, Alan, you're on your own.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Seattle. However, he's more reliable for food and drink recommendations in Portland, where he spends a lot of time for theatre work. His co-adaptation of "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins runs from March through May at Pioneer Square's Cafe Nordo.

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