Alan Dershowitz is one of the sharpest legal minds of all time.
The renowned civil rights and criminal defense attorney and Harvard Law professor emeritus has helped defend such high-profile clients as Claus von Bülow, Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst, O.J. Simpson, Harry Reems, and Jim Bakker.
An expert on constitutional law, Dershowitz, 79, is a political liberal who backed Hillary Clinton for president, but has been a fierce defender of President Trump against the special investigation of Robert Mueller. Dershowitz is also known as a champion for the state of Israel.
The Brooklyn-born lawyer and best-selling author — his latest book is "Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy" — is married to Carolyn Cohen, and is the father of three children. He has even been portrayed in hit movies and TV shows and is a frequent contributor to Newsmax.com and Newsmax TV.
Here, he spends five minutes talking about his career, his hobbies, and what he really thinks about the state of politics and law in America today.
Newsmax: What is the most common misunderstanding people have about you?
Alan Dershowitz: People confuse my support for the rule of law with substantive approval of those whose rights I defend. This is currently true of my claim that President Trump has the right not to be charged with obstruction of justice for merely exercising his constitutional authority. I am not a Trump supporter. I voted for Hillary Clinton. I have made a similar point about people who tried to criminalize Clinton’s lawful actions. People should understand the difference between neutral support for the rule of law and partisan support for a particular political figure.
NM: The political landscape is increasingly polarized. Do you see it improving in the next 10 years?
AD: I see it getting worse. Both the center right and the center left are being pushed out by extremists. The primary system encourages center right people to move to the hard right and center left people to move to the hard left. America has been blessed historically by the absence of extreme movements. We have been a centrist country. We are in danger of losing that blessing to extremism.
NM: What person in politics today would be your “ideal” future president?
AD: Among the centrists would be Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Mark Warner, Andrew Cuomo, and Kamala Harris. That list is certainly not exhaustive but it reflects my position as a centrist liberal.
NM: What gives you the biggest hope for the future?
AD: The fact that young people mature and with maturity comes rejection of extremes — sometimes!
NM: What worries you the most and "keeps you up at night"?
AD: The current situation on university campuses in which voices of moderation are drowned out by censorial extremists. A significant number of university students today do not believe in the open marketplace of ideas and would censor speech that offends them or others. These are our future leaders and some of them will maintain those tyrannical views. Hopefully, most will not.
NM: Looking back, who is the greatest president of your lifetime and why?
AD: There have been no great presidents during my lifetime. Each has been deeply flawed, some personally, others politically. A composite president would be one with Johnson’s domestic successes, Clinton’s foreign policy successes, and Kennedy’s aspirational successes. Our last great president may well have been Abraham Lincoln.
NM: You’re a liberal who defends Donald Trump. Any blowback from friends?
AD: I am a liberal who defends the rule of law, even when it is misapplied to someone like Trump, whom I do not support. I lost seven pounds on what I have called “The Trump diet” because some of my liberal friends no longer invite me to dinner.
NM: The president hates CNN. Is he right?
AD: No. I do think CNN has not always presented a balanced approach to Trump’s legal issues, but neither has any other media. Almost nobody is unbiased when it comes to Trump. I try to be.
NM: When you tune into cable news, what’s the network you turn to first?
AD: I flip channels. So whatever was on last comes up first.
NM: Outside of news, do you have a favorite TV show or channel you watch for fun?
AD: I like several series including "Homeland," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Shameless," "Dexter," and "The Big Bang Theory."
NM: You were raised orthodox and love Israel. Have you thought of making Aliyah?
AD: No, I am an American. I love this country to which my grandparents immigrated. I visit Israel often, but I turned down an opportunity to represent Israel at the United Nations because I am an American.
NM: Looking back, do you have regrets working on the O.J. Simpson case?
AD: No. There are a few others cases that I regret working on, but primarily for personal reasons. The job of a defense lawyer is to take the most difficult cases and do the best possible job.
NM: If O.J. called you today, what would you tell him?
AD: What I told him when he was acquitted: “Stay out of public view.”
NM: You have cut a wide swathe in Boston, New York, and Miami. Name your favorite restaurant in each city.
AD: Miami – Mare Mio; New York - Katz’s; Boston – Legal Sea Foods.
NM: What book or books are you reading these days?
AD: These days I write more than I read, but I still read a lot. I just finished "Fire and Fury." I read “What Happened.” I’m reading “Destined for War.”
NM: You're 79 and your mind is still so sharp. Any tips for keeping the brain healthy?
AD: Never retire your mind. Have a good enemies list that keeps you on your toes. Always work on several projects at the same time. Exercise as much as possible. Have a great wife and family.
NM: What actor would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
AD: Not Woody Allen.
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