Dershowitz: 'Very Strong Argument That What Ted Cruz Is Doing Is Deeply Unconstitutional'

October 15th, 2013 10:38 PM

UPDATE AT END OF POST: Mark Levin responds.

Ted Cruz's former law professor at Harvard had interesting words for the Texas Senator on CNN's Piers Morgan Live Tuesday.

After calling his former student "among the brightest" he's every had, Dershowitz said, "I think you can make a very strong argument that what Ted Cruz is doing is deeply unconstitutional."

PIERS MORGAN, HOST: See, you taught Ted Cruz at Harvard.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Well, I’m not sure how much I taught him, but I sat in the front of the class while he was in the class raising his hand, always his right hand, making very intelligent points, and really winning debates all the time in the class including winning debates with his professors.

MORGAN: One of the best students you've had?

DERSHOWITZ: One of the sharpest students I've had in terms of analytic skills. I’ve had 10,000 students in my 50 years at Harvard. I write all about that in my book “Taking the Stand,” and I write about my great students. He has to qualify among the brightest of the students.

MORGAN: So we have to assume from that, just in the extraordinary piece of insight into him - because he's come really from nowhere to many people – we have to assume from that this is all part of a strategy. What do you think his strategy is?

DERSHOWITZ: I think he deeply believes what he's doing. I don't think of him so much as a tactical or strategic thinker. He’s deeply principled. He thinks he's doing the right thing. That doesn't mean it's the right thing, and he’s very hard to get off that principled argument. I saw that years ago when he was a student. He was not a compromiser. He was not somebody who tried to make friends by accepting what was then the political correctness of the day. If you want to defeat Ted Cruz, you have to appeal to his principles not to his tactics.

MORGAN: Right, but the final point on that. You're a top lawyer. When he is basically taking an established law like ObamaCare - whether you like parts of it or not, or even the whole thing - and you're using that as a stick to shut down the American government, that's taking it a bit far, isn't it principle?

DERSHOWITZ: Not only that, but I think it raises very serious constitutional questions of the kind that Ted Cruz should be interested in. Could you imagine Hamilton and Madison sitting around and drafting the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. They’re talking about how the government has to pay its debts, how it has to secure the credit of the United States, how the House of Representatives to originate bills on revenue. Nobody in a million years would have contemplated the power of Congress to shut down the government, to create doubts about our creditworthiness.

I think you can make a very strong argument that what Ted Cruz is doing is deeply unconstitutional. Whether a court would accept that or say it's a political question is another issue, but Cruz is a principled man. He ought to look at the Constitution and look into his heart and ask himself, “What would Alexander Hamilton have done?”

*****Update: Reached for comment via email, conservative author and constitutional attorney Mark Levin strongly disagreed with Dershowitz:

"Dershowitz is dead wrong. We don't have to imagine anything. Congress and only Congress can authorize borrowing under Article I. The president must first pay interest on the debt under the Fourteenth Amendment. The federal government collects ten times as much revenue each month as it needs to cover those payments. As long as the president complies with the Constitution there can be no default. This is basic stuff. Even a Harvard law professor like Dershowitz should comprehend it.

"We are where we are because Obama is an imperial president who has contempt for the Constitution. Imagine what Madison and Hamilton would say about that."