Epstein also said Obama wasn’t primarily a constitutional law professor, but added that he had nothing to say that would reflect poorly on the president.
Obama was interested in “public interest law” and courses on race, he said, and was trying to “keep his head down” after a national controversy erupted over another member of the law school’s faculty because of her interest in racial issues.
President Bill Clinton nominated fellow professor Lani Guinier in 1993 for the post of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. He later withdrew her name from consideration after critics charged her scholarship was replete with endorsements of strict racial quotas in college admissions and local elections.
Epstein, Kantor wrote, said Obama was “unwilling to put his name to anything that could haunt him politically, as Ms. Guinier’s writings had hurt her. ‘He figured out, you lay low,’ Mr. Epstein said.”
But Obama was not deterred, she wrote, and “taught Guinier’s proposals for structuring elections differently to increase minority representation.”
Obama was a lecturer and then a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School beginning in 1992, and ending in 2004 when he ran for the U.S. Senate.
“When we hired Obama, we didn’t think we’d be hiring a future president of the United States,” Epstein recalled during a separate phone interview. Obama was given a “senior lecturer” position, Epstein said, but “[we] were trying to do right by Mr. Obama.”
Obama taught one two-hour seminar each semester and had no scholarly publications, Epstein said, noting what he called a lack of interest on the future president’s part. He saw Obama as having one eye fixed on academia and the other on politics.
Professor John Yoo of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, who was a visiting professor on the University of Chicago campus in the fall of 2003 while Obama was employed there, never recalls seeing Obama, though his office was across the hall.
This article was corrected to reflect that Obama did teach a course on constitutional law while a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, but that he wasn’t primarily a constitutional law instructor. His most often-taught course, the university informed The Daily Caller, was “Current Issues in Racism and the Law.” TheDC regrets the error.