Edits: ADB, kz, WL, LM
Headline: Jeffrey Toobin makes appearance at UC Davis
Layercake: Gives thoughts on presidential race, journalism
By RICHARD PROCTER
Editor in Chief
Acclaimed journalist and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin visited the UC Davis campus on Oct. 10, giving two presentations.
One was held in 126 Voorhies and the other was a public speech at Jackson Hall in the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.
Toobin’s question-and-answer session in 126 Voorhies covered a broad range of topics, from his beginnings as a journalist to his thoughts on the upcoming presidential election.
“I don’t even think this election will be very close,” he said.
Toobin also expressed his opinion on both presidential candidates, noting Barack Obama’s charisma and John McCain’s conservative values.
“Calling [Obama] the greatest political talent of his generation doesn’t do him justice. He’s really the greatest political talent of several generations,” he said.
“Really in terms of popularity and ability to generate interest, the only person I think you can really compare him to is John Kennedy,” he said.
Toobin also spoke of McCain’s political views.
“John McCain is really conservative. The Republican Party is really conservative,” he said, emphasizing that any interpretations of McCain as a moderate Republican were probably exaggerated or misinterpreted.
“Politicians usually mean what they say,” he said.
The discussion then turned to how each candidate would interact with the Supreme Court should they be elected. Toobin, a graduate of Harvard Law School and author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, said that each court nomination would most likely be in line with the candidate’s party.
“If McCain wins, Roe v. Wade will be overturned. End of story,” he said. “A McCain victory could also mean overturning affirmative action in college admissions and employment situations and an increase in the use of the death penalty.”
A democratic victory would be a different story.
“If Obama is elected, the court should stay pretty much the same, as he will be replacing the moderate-liberal justices,” he said. Toobin would have liked to go into more detail about Obama’s potential decisions.
“I’ve been trying to do a story on what Obama will do with the Supreme Court for five months and, as you can see, it hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully it happens in the next three and a half weeks,” he said.
The Obama for America campaign did not answer a media request as to whether such an interview would take place by press time.
Toobin was also asked about the role the media has played during the current presidential race, especially in relation to Senator Hillary Clinton.
“I think that certainly institutional sexism played a part, but I think the primary reason [Clinton lost] was because she ran a poor campaign and Obama ran a sensational one,” he said.
As to the future of media, Toobin was hopeful but reluctant.
“I think TV will be fine,” he said. “Magazines should also be okay actually, and continue to be fine. Newspapers are different…. There is still a tremendous demand for their product, people still want the news, but it’s hard to find someone under 40 who buys the carbon copy newspaper.”
Toobin also gave advice to young writers and aspiring journalists.
“The way you tell complicated stories is through people,” he said. “You have to humanize it.”
Other advice included allowing a story to develop on its own.
“That’s one of the great joys of what I do: following a story where it goes,” he said.
After his appearance in Voorhies, Toobin appeared at the Mondavi Center. His talk about the Supreme Court and UC Davis sold approximately 1,400 tickets, said Camille Spaccavento, director of marketing at the Mondavi Center.
SARA JOHNSON contributed to this story. She and RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.