Saturday, June 9, 2007

Benjamin Wittes

Benjamin Wittes is a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for The New Republic Online, and a former editorial writer for the Washington Post specializing in legal affairs. He is the author of Starr: A Reassessment, (Yale University Press, 2002) and Confirmation Wars: Preserving Independent Courts in Angry Times, (Rowman & Littlefield and the Hoover Institution, 2006). He is a contributing editor for the Atlantic Monthly.

Before he joined the editorial page staff of the Washington Post in 1997, Wittes covered the Justice Department and federal regulatory agencies as a reporter and news editor at Legal Times. His writing has also appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines, including Slate, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, Policy Review, and First Things.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
It's an eclectic mix actually. I read a steady diet of legal opinions, since I write almost exclusively about law. As we are coming up on the end of a Supreme Court term, I am spending a fair bit of time -- and will be spending more in the coming weeks -- keeping up with the institutional output of the courts.

I am also currently working on a book about the legal architecture of the war on terror. As a result, I have been reading the rather voluminous literature that has developed around that. Specifically, I've been reading the documentary compilations, The Torture Papers and The Torture Debate in America -- along with Joseph Margulies's recent book, Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power and John Yoo's two books on the war. I have a long stack of thematically-related literature to read, and I expect this will occupy most of my reading time for the next several months. The most interesting book on this general subject I have read recently is James F. Simon's Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney -- which deals with many of the same liberty-in-wartime themes Americans are fighting about now but as they played out during the Civil War.

Other recent legal reading includes Jan Crawford Greenburg's new book, Supreme Conflict -- about which I wrote in a column some time back -- and Richard Posner's The Little Book of Plagiarism.

On a less contemporary note, a friend and I have been contemplating reading (or rereading, in some cases) the St. John's College book list as a way of gaining a deeper knowledge of classical and canonical literature -- my facility with which is spotty. We hope to begin that soon and proceed in a leisurely pace over several years.

Finally, on a lighter note, I have been reading the Bonfire of the Vanities, which I somehow missed in the 1980s and which remains uncommonly good fun. And, of course, I am eagerly awaiting Harry Potter VII, while pretending my excitement on this score is all on my kids' account....
Read Wittes's recent article, "The Supreme Court's Shift on Abortion is Not What You Think," The New Republic, April 30, 2007.

--Marshal Zeringue