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Ted Sorenson is best known as the writer who filled the speeches of John F. Kennedy with wit, humor, and elegance. Today, Sorenson is 81 and bothered by failing eyesight. But he shows penetrating vision in a speech delivered last week at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska Law School in Lincoln. Addressing a class of newly minted lawyers, Sorenson raised a loud note of concern about what has occurred to the legal profession in the last eight years. In particular, his subject is the lawyers who betrayed their calling by implementing the Bush Administration’s torture policies. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports his remarks:
“Most of you as new lawyers will soon find it easy to make a buck but find it hard to make a difference. Yes, torture gets results. It has resulted in easier, swifter, more successful recruitment for terrorist organizations among the millions of young Islamic fanatics who are willing to use the one weapon against which an open society such as ours has no sure defense — suicide bombing. It also resulted in a sharp decline in America’s standing among allies who might otherwise have provided intelligence and other forms of help. It has cost us the respect of other countries that we enjoyed, which protected us against attacks from abroad.”
“Intellectually and morally dishonest lawyers (in the Department of Justice) disgraced not only their country but their profession. In a country based on the rule of law, in which no man is above the law, whatever his rank or title, no man can undertake, authorize or immunize unlawful conduct. Our current wonderful president cannot promise the CIA practitioners of torture that they will not be prosecuted. With all those now exposed of complicity in torture pointing fingers of blame at each other, it is clear that the guilty include political ideologues, cowardly bureaucrats, and inexperienced psychologists, all of whom plead ignorance of the law. But what about the lawyers?”
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”