Judge Posner Likes Taylor Swift, But Thinks William F. Buckley was a “real loser”

December 2nd, 2014

From part of 3 of Ron Collins’s excellent interview with Judge Posner, we learn learn that Justice Brennan deferred Richard Posner from the draft:

Deferment was automatic in my day (before the Vietnam War heated up) while one was a student. My first job after graduating from law school was as a law clerk at the Supreme Court. Justice Brennan, my boss, wrote a letter to my draft board before I started the clerkship asking it to defer me for the clerkship, which it did (it didn’t have to). During my clerkship year my wife had our first baby, and at the time (1963) that was an automatic deferment. I never heard further from anyone about the draft.

Although Posner “wasn’t particularly interested in clerking:

He was an informal adviser to the law review so I got to know him pretty well, though I never had him in class. I was the president of the law review and the highest-ranking student by grades, so I was a natural pick for a Supreme Court clerkship. I didn’t apply—he just picked me. I actually wasn’t particularly interested in clerking.

Posner was very critical of Thurgood Marshall, who viewed the SG as a “stepping-stone job.” Ahem, Elena Kagan. Posner also thought Marshall was best-suited for the trial court, not the appellate court.

He was a good boss in the sense that he backed the staff, which of course was all I cared about, but had rather little interest in the job. It was just a stepping-stone job. He had been a great trial lawyer, and I don’t think appellate law interested him particularly. Before becoming SG he was on the Second Circuit briefly, and after he was S.G. he, of course, was on the Supreme Court. I don’t think any of those jobs drew on his strengths, which as I say was as a trial lawyer.

Judge Posner agrees with Eric Cartman on at least one thing:

Question:     What is your sense of the 60s counter-culture?

Posner:         I hated it; I still hate it.

Question:     Why?

Posner:      Infantile, amateurish, at times violent, disruptive of colleges and universities — I could go on.

What is Judge Posner’s schedule? 9:00-11:30, 7 days a week.

Question:      What time do you begin your workday and at what time do you end it? And how many days a week do you work?

Posner:          I begin around 9 a.m., sometimes later, and end sometime between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m. I work seven days a week.

Question:     Do you ever go away for a vacation?

Posner:         No, not in recent years.

That’s about 100 hours a week. 52 weeks a year. 5,200 hours a year.

And, he shows no sign of running out of steam.

Question:   Eleven years ago you told Howard Bashman that “at some point I will run out of steam.” So, how are you doing? Is there still much steam left in your stacks?

Posner:       As long as my physical health holds up and senility holds off, I will continue to work as I have. I am one of those people who dread retirement. I hope I won’t overstay my welcome.

And, in a surprising aspect of the interview, Posner likes Taylor Swift, but not William Buckley who is a “real loser.”

Question:   What are your tastes in music? Classical (Mahler?), jazz (Miles?), other (Sondheim?).

Posner:       I like most classical music that was composed up until the middle of the twentieth century, ending, say, with Aaron Copland and Shostakovich. I like contemporary popular music a lot — Kelly Clarkson, Sara Bareilles, Taylor Swift,Adele, OneRepublic, Bruno Mars, etc.

Question:    Which two or three persons would you list as among the greatest public intellectuals of your lifetime and why would you consider them so? Perhaps William Buckley, or Gore Vidal, or what about Susan Sontag, or some three others?

Posner:         You’ve named three real losers. I wrote a book some years ago on public intellectuals. The book has long lists of them, based on number of references of different types. I suppose I would rank George Orwell number 1. There are many others.

Shake it off Gore Vidal. And in true Posner fashion, he responds to a question by citing a book he wrote.