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Toobin talks election in rescheduled MSE

By FRANK BRANCATI | November 8, 2012

Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst for CNN and staff writer for The New Yorker, spoke last night at the fifth event of the 2012 Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Symposium, providing insight into the presidential election whose polls had closed just 24 hours earlier. The event, which drew a crowd of approximately 200 people to the Glass Pavilion, was rescheduled from Oct. 30 after Hurricane Sandy postponed the event.

“It’s always a treat for me to be around intelligent and engaged students, and obviously this is a time when people’s minds are very engaged with politics, so it’s fun to talk about the election,” Toobin said in an interview with The News-Letter. “And I think it’s a particularly interesting time to be in Maryland since Proposition 6 was such a big controversial and close question.”

“We really thought it would be great for the student body to hear a political expert right after the election, which is why we brought Mr. Toobin,” Chris Alvarez, co-chair of the Symposium, said.

The said political expert began his discussion extemporaneously.

“So here’s the deal. I have a whole prepared speech on the Supreme Court, which I’m not going to do, because this was just an epic day in American history,” Toobin said.

“The two things I want to talk about [tonight] are Obama and marriage equality, because I think both are of epic importance, both in immediate and historical perspectives,” he continued.

He went on to discuss the importance of President Obama’s campaign and reelection.  He elaborated on how Obama was unable to focus on the personal character that had elevated him to victory in 2008, having to run a more “conventional” campaign in order to a second term. The President’s victory speech, Toobin said, captured the spirit of the 2008 campaign and the essence of Obama’s character.

“He’s someone who wants to do big things and is someone who doesn’t like pettiness and who doesn’t like smallness.  I think he is now someone who is back to doing big things,” Toobin said.

He addressed the historical significance of the Affordable Care Act. It is likely, he said, that Obama will work towards making his health care bill something akin to Social Security -- marking a major accomplishment for the Democratic Party and making a crucial impact on those currently without health insurance.

Toobin then shifted his discussion to what he felt was the other major facet of Obama’s reelection: its social implications.

“The other part of what Obama is going to do as a second term president is really hasten the transition of the United States from one kind of society to another,” he said.

He clarified this statement by explaining how he felt that the Obama Coalition comprised a diverse group of people who in America’s past had been under represent, but are a growing part of America.  He also examined the important shift to a more liberal mentality across America.

From this point, he transitioned to the topic of marriage equality and the major accomplishments that have been made by this social movement.  Toobin cited that fact that of the four states who had the issue of marriage equality on the ballot Tuesday, all four voted in favor of pro-marriage equality.  He talked about the thirty previous times marriage equality had been on a ballot in America and how it had been voted down, and that these four states mark an amazing shift in the countries social views.

“The country is changing so fast in this one area,” Toobin said.

Toobin gave an anecdote dealing with the decision of Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that ruled interracial marriage as something states couldn’t ban.  He paralleled this decision with the current state of affairs, arguing that the results of the previous night’s election mark a major step towards a “tipping point moment” -- attributing the term to his New Yorker colleague Malcolm Gladwell -- with regards to gay marriage.

Toobin closed his speech with some remarks on the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, better known simply by the name of the appellant, and the impact of Tuesday’s election thereon. He expressed how he felt that the outcome of the Citizens United case has a major impact on the country as a whole.

Regarding its effective claim that “money is speech,” Toobin explained how the ability for corporations to give unlimited donations poses a danger to politics. i

“The only way I think its going to be cut back is if a president appoints Supreme Court Justices who will elect to cut it back.  Now we are going to have a president for the next four years who is opposed to Citizens United and if he has the chance will appoint justices who are likely to cut back on it,” Toobin said.

During the question and answer period that followed, Toobin answered a wide range of questions.  He addressed the nature of politics within the Supreme Court, the Electoral College (calling it “awful at all times,”), the National Popular Vote Compact, Puerto Rican statehood, and personal nature of the Supreme Court Justices.  One of the questions that elicited a very lively response for Toobin dealt with his time covering the O. J. Simpson case, inquiring about a theory that Jason Simpson, son of both the murdered and accused, had committed the crime.

“The technical term for that is ‘a load of shit,’” Toobin said.

This was met with a wave of laughter from the audience, as were his comments about his “favorite” Supreme Court Justice, David Souter.

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