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Vying To Be Rutherford B. Hayes, Jr.:

The New York Observer reports that, if Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is elected President, he will be the first Harvard law school graduate to become President since Rutherford B. Hayes.

Justin (mail):
Rutherford B. Hayes! Aim high! :)
3.7.2007 1:11pm
Stating the Obvious:
Harvard law school graduate. For most of America, this is just one more reason to not support Obama or Romney... :->
3.7.2007 1:16pm
Bruno (mail):
Interesting. I always thought that Kennedy was a Harvard Law grad. One would just as soon forget Hayes since he wasn't elected by either the popular or the electoral vote. He was chosen by Congress after some dirty deals were made with the Democrats, including rolling back Reconstruction, which ushered in a hundred years of legal discrimination against the black population. A classic example of appeasement--land for peace (i.e., someone else's land for one's own economic benefit). In this case, it meant the black's land and peace for the white north's cotton mills. He's near the top of my list of "bad presidents"--number one is Nixon, of course.
3.7.2007 3:00pm
Justin (mail):
JFK audited some classes at Stanford Business School but never started any real path to a graduate degree. Robert F. Kennedy graduated from Harvard undergrad (after starting at Bates) and UVa for law school. Ted was Harvar/UVa as well. Patrick Kennedy went to Providence College, no grad degree. JFK Jr. was Brown/NYU Law, and Caroline is Harvard/Columbia Law. I am unaware of any Kennedys who graduated from any of the Harvard graduate schools, although I assume one of them must have.
3.7.2007 3:11pm
blackdoggerel (mail):
Ugh. This article made me nauseous, not because of Obama (who I like), but because of the unctuousness of the students described. I recall many of their type from my own HLS days -- the politicos, the back-slappers, the glad-handers. They are thankfully in the minority -- most students just want to learn law and go practice it -- but their overbearing earnestness is just too much. You can bet, of course, that they are all angling for ladder-climbing positions if Obama wins. Or, rather, top-of-the-ladder positions; paying dues doesn't do for this crowd.

Yecch. I have to go wash my hands.
3.7.2007 3:16pm
blackdoggerel (mail):
Justin,

That's because it's a lot easier to get into Harvard undergrad on the basis of legacy/family name than Harvard Law, which is FAR more merit-based in its admissions process than the College.
3.7.2007 3:18pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Wait a minute. They let black people into Harvard? When did that start?
3.7.2007 3:36pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Since you asked, the first black Harvard alumnus graduated in 1869. My guess is that they let him in a few years before that.
3.7.2007 3:50pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Good Lord. Next you'll be telling me they admit gays, too.
3.7.2007 4:05pm
jp2 (mail):

if Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is elected President, he will be the first Harvard law school graduate to become President since Rutherford B. Hayes.


Doesn't everybody know this?
3.7.2007 5:20pm
Ramza:
How many supreme court justices overall are Harvard Law Grads? I am too lazy to compile the statistics. I know the current justices from Harvard Law are Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, and Breyer. (Thomas and Alito are Yale, Ginsburg is Columbia, and Stevens is Northwestern)
3.7.2007 5:37pm
anon123:
Ramza, using Wikipedia as a reference, a quick check of the justices appointed after 1900 shows the following attended Harvard Law in addition to our 5 current members:

Powell (masters from Harvard Law)
Blackmun
Brennan
Burton
Frankfurter
Brandeis
Moody
Holmes

its possible I missed one or two (ie the bio did not list a law school), plus whatever justices prior to the 20th century may have attended. So 13 of the past 52 by my possibly inaccurate count.
3.7.2007 6:44pm
alkali (mail) (www):
I am unaware of any Kennedys who graduated from any of the Harvard graduate schools, although I assume one of them must have.

The only one who comes close that I can think of is Joseph Jr., a Harvard Law student who left before his final year to serve in WWII. He was killed in action (and, it follows, he didn't graduate).
3.7.2007 7:13pm
Ragnar:
I thought it said viking to be Rutherford B. Hayes, Jr. I was hoping it was a viking. It's past time that a member of the Viking-American community had the same chance to be Rutherford B. Hayes, Jr. that Rutherford B. Hayes, Jr. himself had, all those many years ago. This would be a crucial step forward.

But no. Hopes dashed again. Damn you, Rutherford B. Hayes, Jr.
3.7.2007 7:28pm
Frank_B:
I think the only 19th century justice to have attended HLS was Benjamin Curtis, who is also the first justice to have attended any law school.
3.7.2007 7:36pm
DaveN (mail):
Between Caliban Darklock and Ragnar, I haven't laughed this hard at a Volokh thread in a long time. Bravo to both.
3.7.2007 8:09pm
Tulkinghorn:
Don't forget Mike Dukakis <s>was</s> is a HLS grad. Barney Frank, too.
3.7.2007 9:33pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Frank B.,

Now that you mention it, I wouldn't mind if the Supreme Court went back to the pre-Curtis days. Surely my father, a blue-collar guy, for example, could read the Constitution and get the issue of eminent domain correct, unlike the 5 on the Court who like imposing their unelected will on us.

And, let's hope we got another century or so before we get another Harvard law grad as President.
3.7.2007 10:37pm
Allen G.:
Harvard, bah... when we next get a graduate of Princeton Law School, *then* I'll be impressed.
3.7.2007 10:50pm
Guest44 (mail) (www):
ginsburg is 2/3 HLS, never forget
3.8.2007 12:08am
Visitor Again:
Ugh. This article made me nauseous, not because of Obama (who I like), but because of the unctuousness of the students described. I recall many of their type from my own HLS days -- the politicos, the back-slappers, the glad-handers.

One day in my second year at HLS back in 1966-67, I got to taxation class a few minutes early and got to small talk with the fellow who sat next to me. I asked him what he wanted to do with his life. He said he wanted to be President. It took me quite a few seconds before I realized he was actually serious.

I found it difficult not to laugh out loud. I think I maintained a straight face although the fellow had absolutely nothing special going for him and was obviously deluded about his prospects. He wasn't at all outgoing; he wasn't a glad-hander; he wasn't even unctuous. In fact, he had no discernible personality. He wasn't particularly bright as far as HLS students went; he never said anything in class. He was, well ... nothing but another second year law student, albeit one who thought very highly of himself with no apparent justification for thinking so.

Perhaps I underestimate the egos and ambitions of young American males who have gone through high school and college with good marks, but the thought struck me that HLS must be one of very few places where one could meet a 23-year-old who has as his career goal becoming U.S. President and is not hesitant about saying so. Not to my surprise, I've heard nothing about this particular classmate in the 40 years that have passed since our little talk. He'll now be about my age, 63, and so I think it may be assumed he will not become another Rutherford B. Hayes, Jr. We are safe on that score at least.
3.8.2007 11:15am
Waldensian (mail):

One day in my second year at HLS back in 1966-67, I got to taxation class a few minutes early and got to small talk with the fellow who sat next to me. I asked him what he wanted to do with his life. He said he wanted to be President. It took me quite a few seconds before I realized he was actually serious. I found it difficult not to laugh out loud. I think I maintained a straight face although the fellow had absolutely nothing special going for him and was obviously deluded about his prospects.

Something tells me any number of presidents didn't have anything special going on for themselves at the age of 23. I suspect W, in particular, wasn't very impressive at that age. Of course, he probably didn't want to be president at the time, either!
3.8.2007 4:48pm
Mark Field (mail):

I suspect W, in particular, wasn't very impressive at that age.


Biting my tongue...
3.8.2007 6:59pm
Visitor Again:
Something tells me any number of presidents didn't have anything special going on for themselves at the age of 23. I suspect W, in particular, wasn't very impressive at that age. Of course, he probably didn't want to be president at the time, either!

The point of my little anecdote wasn't that Presidents must have something special going for them at 23 or even that at 23 this fellow had as his career goal becoming President, although the latter is pretty peculiar. It was that he had that as his career goal AND was not hesitant about saying so--at age 23 when he had nothing special going for him.

Think of the odds against becoming President even if you put aside all the unquantifiable factors that constitute electoral viability. You have to be 35 to be President. Rarely is a President older than 60 when first elected. But let us say 71 is the limit on the other end. That is 36 years during which one is theoretically available for election as President--a maximum of 10 elections assuming one turns 35 in the same year as a Presidential election (one less if one turns 35 between elections). So that's 10 shots at becoming President and that puts aside the added advantage incumbent Presidents running for re-election have. So it might be only five real shots at becoming President.
3.9.2007 10:43pm