Charles Lipson

Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus

University of Chicago

Frequent contributor: 
Real Clear Politics,
Spectator| World, Newsweek, Discourse Magazine, American Greatness, Wall Street Journal

Can DeSantis clear the giant orange roadblock?

To win the Republican nomination, you have to knock out Donald Trump. That’s no easy task — polls currently show him leading by over thirty points among Republican voters. But the task is even harder because anyone who defeats Trump must win over his supporters to win the general election. That is Ron DeSantis’s double challenge: beating Trump without alienating his voters.

Trump will make both tasks as hard as possible. He is not just the least graceful loser in modern American history, he has

If Hunter Is Indicted

What will President Biden do if his son is indicted by the federal prosecutor in Delaware? That’s one of three questions looming over U.S. Attorney David Weiss’ fateful choice. The second is whether the indictment will go after a larger, coordinated family scheme of influence peddling or confine itself to smaller, tightly-confined issues like lying to get a gun permit and not registering as a foreign lobbyist. The third is whether Attorney General Merrick Garland will approve Weiss’ proposed cha

Trump or Biden? A dreadful choice

“What a revoltin’ development this is.” That catch phrase from the 1950s sitcom The Life of Riley succinctly describes America’s political morass today. It sums up Washington’s diddling over the debt ceiling, the administration’s inability to close the southern border and, most of all, the dismal quality of the two presidential frontrunners.

The phrase, “what a revoltin’ development,” was Chester A. Riley’s description of his woeful situation at the end of each episode — sitting on his front st

Dangerous Overreach in Manhattan and Tennessee

To sustain a constitutional democracy, public officials must do more than obey written laws. They must respect the unwritten ones that have cumulated over the years. Together, they are the cement of our society. Unfortunately, in recent weeks, we’ve seen two disturbing cases of elected officials smashing those unwritten rules. One was a Democrat, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg; the other was Tennessee’s Republican legislature.

The new mayor of Chicago's ruin

Adam Smith once wisely remarked that “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” There is much less room for ruin in a city, as Portland, San Francisco and Seattle have proved in recent years, and Detroit, Memphis and Gary, did even earlier. Now, Chicago has decided to join that dismal parade.

The Windy City was already marching toward the abyss under its outgoing mayor, Lori Lightfoot. She was elected four years ago with over three-quarters of the vote. This year, she got so few votes in the

Trump indicted: Alvin Bragg’s malicious prosecution

You don’t have to like or support Trump to find the impending indictment very troubling. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s defenders will say, rightly, that “no one is above the law,” or at least no one should be. That standard is fundamental to a fair system of justice. But so is another, though it is stated far less often. “No one is beneath the law, either.” In our democracy, that means no one should be subject to political prosecution. That’s exactly what is happening here. That’s not just an attack on one person who has been indicted. That’s an attack on the fairness and legitimacy of our system of justice.

DeSantis sets Trump’s hair on fire

Donald Trump faces legal jeopardy about payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, but his Republican opponents face political jeopardy about how to handle the issue. Ron DeSantis’s powerful response shows why he’s such a formidable candidate and why Trump fears him.

Most Republicans have opted for the easy answer to the hush-money story: criticize Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg for pushing a politically driven agenda. That agenda centers on snagging the former president on a minor, long-fo

How to stop law students from blocking free speech

There is a straightforward way to stop this mischief, at least in law schools like Stanford's, and to underscore the importance of free speech on campus. If students are found to have disrupted a speaker (after a fair hearing, in which they can defend themselves), they should face a simple penalty: disclosure of their behavior to prospective employers and the state bar associations.

Disclosure means that information should be included in a student’s record and available to anyone who legitimately seeks it. If a law firm requests the student’s record, for example, the firm should be informed that the student was found guilty of obstructing free speech on campus, in violation of the speaker’s First Amendment rights and the university’s own rules. The same disclosure should be provided to state bar associations, which seek those records as part of their licensing requirements.

Code Red: Downplaying Academic Excellence in Med School Admissions

America’s top medical schools, worried they have too few minority students, are doing something about it. They are lowering academic standards for admission and trying to hide the evidence. Columbia, Harvard, the University of Chicago, Stanford, Mount Sinai, and the University of Pennsylvania have already done so. The list already tops forty, and more are sure to follow.

Of course, the universities won’t admit what they are doing – and certainly not why. All they will say is that their new stan

Lori Lightfoot gets the boot

When Chicago went to the polls on Tuesday, the voters made one thing abundantly clear: they wanted to see the back of Lori Lightfoot, the current mayor. She had come into office on a landslide in 2019, winning some three-quarters of the vote against a well-known, well-liked opponent. Four years later, all that support was gone. She received only 17 percent in 2023, a distant third in a race where only the top two candidates enter the runoff (since none received 50 percent).

When Chicago went to

Putin's inhumane war strategy is backfiring

The war in Ukraine changed fundamentally after Vladimir Putin failed to capture Kyiv and decapitate the regime there a year ago. His army settled into Russia’s traditional way of war: a slow, brutal, relentless slugfest. That strategy necessarily expends countless Russian lives. Human-wave attacks rely on untrained troops, dragooned from prisons or off the streets. The idea is to use these expendable men to weaken Ukraine’s front-line defenses and then follow them with more sophisticated attacks

Can Democrats Solve Their 'Kamala Harris Problem'?

Kamala Harris is a living embodiment of the Peter Principle, where people keep getting promoted until they reach jobs for which they are clearly unqualified. More and more Americans think that describes our current vice president.

Harris is deeply unpopular with independents, who are essential for electoral success (fewer than one in three voters view her favorably), and she is losing popularity among Democratic Party leaders. They see her ineptitude, listen to her word salads, and watch the po

The ever-shifting excuses about Hunter Biden's laptop

Hunter Biden’s defense about his incriminating laptop sounds like an old joke about a trial lawyer who was accused of letting his dog bite a stranger. The lawyer’s first line of defense was that “it couldn’t happen because my dog was tied up that night.” When told there were witnesses who had seen him walking the dog, he said, “Okay, we were out walking but my dog doesn't bite.” If that fails, then, “Well, yes, my dog did give you a little nip, but it wasn't a bad one.” Then, “Granted, you had t

How to stop politicians from taking classified documents

National security law doesn’t distinguish between the accidental and deliberate mishandling of classified documents, but the public does. They know the president and vice president bear heavy, official burdens until the moment...

It should be obvious by now that too many classified documents are floating around Florida, Delaware, and Indiana. They were removed without authorization and stored improperly under Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Mike Pence respectively. Most of them, it seems, were hur

The think tank implicated by Biden's classified documents

Joe Biden has become the Typhoid Mary of classified documents, spreading them as he goes. They keep turning up in batch after batch, everywhere but the floor at a Wilmington Starbucks. The president has said almost nothing about the mess, except to reassure us that “people know I take classified documents seriously.” That defense has since taken on a slight change of punctuation: “People know I take classified documents. Seriously.” He certainly does. He takes them everywhere.

What you need to know about Biden’s documents caper

We are still in the early stages of discovering what the documents discovered in Joe Biden's office at the University of Pennsylvania contain and how highly they were classified, so we don’t yet know how dangerous the violation was. But there are things to keep in mind as the story unfolds. 1. Biden’s lawyers did him a huge favor by instructing him not to ask about the documents It’s the last stand of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Still, as one tabloid used to proclaim,“Inquiring minds want to know.”

What 2023 will bring for the war in Ukraine

The second is how Western political leaders have failed to explain to their citizens why the war matters. Taxpayers are naturally tiring of footing the bill for an unending flow of equipment and ammunition, and they need to be persuaded that their...

As the fighting in Ukraine slows for the winter, three things stand out. The first is the most obvious: a small, highly motivated country, equipped with advanced weapons and intelligence, is slowly but inexorably defeating what used to be called th

Kevin McCarthy's war of attrition

House Republicans are engaged in what military analysts call a "war of attrition." The winner is the side that can hold out the longest, or convince its opponent that it can. The reason the balloting for speaker has continued for so long is that both sides are trying to convince the other that they won't give in. In wars of attrition, firm resolve wins, but you have to convince your opponent that your resolve is stronger. That is exactly what is happening on ballot after ballot.

House Republica

The FBI Has No Business Trying To Suppress Free Speech

We are beginning to find out just how bad it was. The FBI and other government agencies worked hand in glove with Twitter’s old management to suppress legitimate speech they didn’t like and shape a narrative they did. They did so repeatedly and secretly. Government agencies like the FBI, DHS, CDC, and CIA have absolutely no business trying to suppress public discussion that is permitted under the First Amendment or hide evidence they have done so.
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