TIMOTHY NOAH OCTOBER 3, 2011
A new poll of 1,005 registered Massachusetts voters conducted Sept. 22-28 shows Elizabeth Warren in a statistical dead heat with Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, 38-41. That's pretty remarkable considering the fact that 37 percent of those polled still don't know who she is. The Boston Herald poll follows a Public Policy Polling survey released Sept. 20 that also showed her in a statistical dead heat, in that instance with a slight edge, 46-44. Just a few weeks earlier Brown was leading Warren by nine points.
How is the Massachusetts GOP responding to this emergency? By asking Harvard to dump Warren. Warren is teaching at Harvard Law School while she runs, and that's unethical, the Bay State Republicans claim. "For Harvard to continue to employ her as a candidate is inconsistent with the academic mission of the college; detracts from the work that she would be expected to perform as a member of the faculty; and creates the impression that Harvard endorses, supports and is in fact subsidizing her campaign," Nate Little, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican party, wrote in a letter to Harvard President Drew Faust, according to a Sept. 22 report in the Harvard Crimson. The Boston Globe seems to half-agree. In a Sept. 20 story, it reported, "Professors rarely run for major offices, and when they do, they typically drop their academic positions." John Silber, the Globe said, took a leave of absence as president of Boston University when he ran for governor in 1990, and President Obama stopped teaching law at the University of Chicago when he ran for Senate in 1994. A "rare exception" is Robert Reich, who was teaching at Brandeis while he ran for Massachusetts governor in 2002.
But had the Globe looked back a little further, it would have discovered that Daniel Patrick Moynihan continued teaching at least one class at Harvard during the fall of 1976 while he was running for Senate in an entirely different state. I know because I audited it. I was a freshman and curious about Moynihan, who had just completed a controversial term as U.N. ambassador. The class was about public policy and it was full of interesting and funny stories about his time in government and I was a little bit star-struck. In one of them he commented that Ralph Nader had started an important citizen's movement even though he was completely wrong about the Corvair. In another he talked about mayors during the summer of 1967 or 1968 begging the White House for federal money because, they said, they were sure their city would erupt that summer in riots, and Moynihan recalled saying, "if you're sure you'll have riots then we aren't going to waste money on you. We only want to give money to cities where riots might be preventable." Once a TV cameraman poked a lens through the door of the Harvard Hall lecture room and Moynihan bellowed, "OUT!" Moynihan won the New York Senate race in November. I can't remember whether he continued to show up for class or whether he roped in a substitute at that point. I think maybe after election day I lost interest, or got more caught up in the classes I was actually taking for credit.
Anyway, that strikes me as more than sufficient precedent for Warren to keep teaching contract law.