NORMALLY A SCHOLAR IS PLEASED WHEN HER THEORY IS CONFIRMED...

NORMALLY A SCHOLAR IS PLEASED WHEN HER THEORY IS CONFIRMED... Mark Graber passes along this chilling story from the eminent political scientist Walter Murphy, author of the classic Elements of Judicial Strategy and many other major works (including a bestselling novel about a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who becomes Pope to boot!). As Murphy details the incident:

"On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving."

"When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years."

"I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said."

Fortunately, he finally got a boarding pass, although after a warning that his luggage would be ransacked it was lost (coincidentally or not) on the flight home. Graber points out that Murphy is nobody's idea of a doctrinaire liberal, but in some sense this is beside the point. Given the importance of air travel in this country, using it to harass and deny access to people who have been critical of the government is appalling, period. As Murphy concludes:

"I confess to having been furious that any American citizen would be singled out for governmental harassment because he or she criticized any elected official, Democrat or Republican. That harassment is, in and of itself, a flagrant violation not only of the First Amendment but also of our entire scheme of constitutional government. This effort to punish a critic states my lecture's argument far more eloquently and forcefully than I ever could."

--Scott Lemieux

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