Monday, November 24, 2008

Robert Tsai

Robert L. Tsai is associate professor of law at American University, Washington College of Law. His new book is Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture.

Earlier this month I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm teaching a course in the spring on presidential leadership on rights, so a good deal of my reading at the moment is focused on finding well written journalistic, historical, or political science treatments of the matter. To that end, I am reading Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, a gripping account of the Bush administration's efforts to rewrite legal frameworks having to do with the detention and interrogation of individuals suspected of terrorism or other crimes.

I recently re-read Robert H. Jackson's The Struggle for Judicial Supremacy, written while he was U.S. Attorney General and published the same year he was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In it, Jackson looks back on the transformative New Deal years as part of a constant struggle in American politics between judicial supremacy and popular government. Although he is obviously a partisan--someone who participated actively in the making of history and law during these formative years and would continue to do so--he tried to put events in historical context. The book is highly accessible. It demonstrates that the issues intellectuals struggled with during the war years are much the same as the ones we struggle with now: how to reconcile the rule of law with rule by the majority; and how to reform government to render it more accountable to the needs of average Americans.

Because a good deal of my existence involves reading rather dense and dry law review articles, I have developed a knack for scanning for basic ideas. I feel the countervailing need to read literature to force my mind to slow down and regain a sense of pleasure in good writing. At the moment, I am reading Murakami's, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. His writings are always evocative and whimsical.
Learn more about Robert Tsai's teaching and research at his personal website.

Read an excerpt from Eloquence and Reason, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit the Eloquence and Reason blog.

--Marshal Zeringue