Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Cousin Vinny Gambini for President?

Today I met with my freshman honors class, "Law and Lawyers in Song and Story." Students discussing the movie "My Cousin Vinny" got off on a thread about the value of having a lawyer whom you like and can relate to versus a lawyer who is more sophisticated and authoritative. I couldn't help but make the parallel to the discussion that has been going on since the 2000 Presidential election about Bush garnering votes because he is "the kind of guy you can see yourself sitting down with and having a beer." (see this editorial for example) In 2000, Gore was portrayed as wooden. In 2004, Kerry was cast as an elitist. The McCain campaign has attempted to cast Obama as an elitist as well, choosing Palin for her "you betcha" folksiness as a contrast. The problem is, in theses times of economic crises, we turn to serious people to solve serious problems. Likability is trumped by competence. I think that without realizing it, my students were fleshing out these issues in the context of the law movie. When you are in serious legal trouble, competence probably trumps likability; and the traits are not necessarily mutually exclusive - in lawyers or politicians.

And it all reminded me of one of my favorite movie clips - one that I use when discussing the decision in Texas v. Johnson. This is from The American President. I hope that you enjoy it.

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