Alan Dershowitz had already put himself outside the mainstream of constitutional legal thought with his claim that a president could be impeached only because of criminal or “criminal-like” (whatever that means) behavior. But that wasn’t enough; in his defense of Trump before the Senate he skirted the line that separates unorthodoxy from downright looniness: “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” (Dershowitz later claimed unconvincingly that this quote was taken out of context and didn’t mean what the media purported it to mean.)
I take Dershowitz at his word that he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, so what could possibly motivate this Harvard law professor’s unhinged defense of an unhinged president? I’m always reluctant to try to read people’s minds, but there’s an obvious, plausible explanation of Dershowitz’s motivations: Israel. A longtime fervent supporter of Israel, Dershowitz in recent years has become a wildly enthusiastic defender of Bibi Netanyahu and a lawyer for one of Netanyahu’s richest and most influential American boosters, Sheldon Adelson. Both Adelson and Netanyahu, of course, are grateful buddies of Donald Trump, who has given the Israeli right just about everything it ever wanted. Dershowitz may also be disillusioned by some prominent Democrats’ gradual move towards more critical views of Israel. Dershowitz was outraged by the Obama administration’s decision not to veto a UN resolution condemning Israeli expansionism, claiming that Obama had lied to him about his support for Israel. That UN vote came after the November election in which Dershowitz cast his vote for Clinton.
Maybe Dershowitz’s weird defense of Trump has nothing to do with his place in the Netanyahu/Adelson/Trump nexus. After all, we can’t read his mind. But we can speculate.