The Quest Ends: Why Alan Dershowitz Has Such Animosity Toward William Bulger

Billy BulgerFinally I discovered it. For years I’ve wondered about the apparent hatred Alan Dershowitz has for William Bulger. The bilious barrister’s bile blasts Bulger whenever he can. It sometimes seems that Bulger has stolen his first born when one reads of his frequent furious fulminations fired at him.

I always wondered about its genesis. It seemed to me that from an objective point of view one would think they would be best bosom buddies. They have much in common.

Both are height challenged. It can be said of people of their height that they have a Napoleon complex. Napoleon was about 5’ 2”. I think Bulger is somewhat taller than that. Dershowitz’s friend Howie Carr (Dershowitz wrote the inner flap of his book) frequently refers to Bulger as the “corrupt midget” a term he stole from Judge George Daher who double-crossed Bulger and got taught a lesson not to fight with one who controls your pay. Daher apologized for using the term whereas Carr thrives on using it.

Dershowitz although smaller than Bulger and hovering  around or below that Napolean’s height escapes Carr’s jibes at his height. This another example of the old saw: “an enemy of my enemy is my friend.” However since both are close to each other in height that would not be a reason for the animosity.

Eliminating that and looking for some other similarities one has to agree both are very smart. No one questions their intellectual ability. Few can match their abilities in the public arena for thoughtful ideas. Neither would win a Pultizer in the scientific fields but in the every day field of public oratory their verbal skills shine above their peers.

Their philosophies seem to differ. Bulger being Irish and Catholic graduated from Boston College and Boston College Law School. He has fond connections with Ireland. He adhered to a more conservative philosophy sticking to the more traditional values as taught by the Catholic church with a great emphasis on helping the down-and-outers; Dershowitz being Jewish whose parents were Orthodox Jews graduated from Brooklyn College and Yale Law School. He is a big supporter of Israel. His philosophy is more on the liberal end of things as one would expect from a life time in academia and his New York Jewish background which always seemed to produce many who pushed the envelope making America a better place.

The difference in their ethnic background should not have given rise to the animosity. The Irish and Jews like most people after the Civil War came to America for much the same purpose, to escape oppression and poverty. Neither group was particularly welcome; both groups were immersed in poverty. Many survived in slave-like working conditions until being able to form unions. Jews tended toward self-employment as we saw with the mom-and-pop type stores probably because they knew that was the only way to survive. The Irish shied away from that type work and toward public employment jobs or working for others as laborers perhaps because they were more welcome than the Jews.

A study done of Jewish and Irish kids in grammar school in the early part of the 20th Century showed that their intellectual abilities were equal. It was the home life that made a difference. The Jewish parents pushed education; the Irish parents pushed security. Jews, as wanderers, were more prone to risk; the Irish stuck to their land so found more safety in not venturing out. That too would account for the differences in philosophy – newness was to be feared or embraced.

What then was it that brought about this great loathing. Prominent Boston Lawyer Harvey Silverglate said of Dershowitz who he has worked with that: “He’s opposed to any form of tyranny” noting how he always wants to help the underdog. It seems to me that for Silverglate to be right he should have added “except when it comes to his own against Bulger.”

Dershowitz seems to want to have things he doesn’t have. He tells us that as a kid: I was always the designated fighter of my group. If we were set upon by people from outside the neighborhood, it was expected of me to be the one to get the bruises”  When I read that having been in many street fights I thought, “hardly.” The article went on to confirm my thinking. One of his buddies from that time said: “I can’t remember one scuffle he got into.”

Dershowitz was not the type who would be fighting. By the way those outside people were usually the Irish kids. Did you know the West Side Story was originally conceived to be a musical about “the conflicts between Jewish and Irish-Catholic communities in lower Manhattan?” Could that account for his feelings toward Bulger?

(3) dershowitzIt could be but it would not account for the level of hate. I’ve pondered this hostile relationship between Bulger and Dershowitz for a while now and I think it is more than this. I could never put my finger on it. I tried to think of the way both men communicate. I realized listening to Bulger talk is like enjoying a perfect spring day; listening to Dershowitz is like hunkering down awaiting a late fall northeaster. One is light; the other is darkness. One leaves you happy, the other leaves you angry. One lifts your spirits; the other gives thoughts of suicide.

Then right out-of-the-blue it came. Bulger has the one thing that I’d suggest Dershowitz would like more than anything else in the world: a quick wit defined as: ”a natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humor.”  It’s a good feeling to finally solve a puzzle.


20 replies on “The Quest Ends: Why Alan Dershowitz Has Such Animosity Toward William Bulger”

  1. William:
    Thanks for responding. There’s too much in your comment for me to cover all at once, but there are a couple points that I hope I can make briefly.
    First, I agree with you completely about Howie Carr. Completely.
    Second, can you clear up the disagreement between Matt and me about the story of the two or three black judges sent to influence Judge Daher?
    Were you working in Senator Bulger’s office at around that time? Were you aware of anything like that happening? I just don’t think it is likely that a sitting judge would do something like that, especially if the request was from a staff member.
    I’m not a lawyer and don’t expect to score debating points against an experienced litigator like Matt, but I still think he is trying to have it both ways.

  2. Matt: a guy from Saxton Street, who eventually got his Ph.D. in Far East Mysticism as a branch of linguistics (he was a Marine who majored in English and History in college) and for a few years worked at the Wire Factory before starting his post-graduate studies at B.U. and U.Mass.Harbor Campus. We all know whom I’m referring to. So, let’s agree to keep him anonymous, by calling him Timmy Y. Timmy Y used to say that Ming Ling was wrong and, in fact, Ming Lee was the true house of the ancient Lee Family’s first peacenik, so to speak. Of course, the historical consensus today, among those scholars who study ancient texts, is overwhelmingly in favor of Ming Ling, not Ming Lee. Timmy Y’s Theory on that one was not even close, but it was honestly held, and it is a good example of what we’re talking aout.

  3. Bob, be honest! I think Matt way out debated you, out facted you, and out reasoned you. too. 2. I understand you don’t follow Matt’s reasoning, but to me it’s crystal clear. 3. Some points: I knew almost all the guys in Bulger’s office (as a Savie-Southie guy I Theknew most personally before they worked for Billy.) The men and women who worked in the Senate Offices were highly intelligent, dedicated workers, committed to public service. They had integrity. Please don’t spread the Globe”s jihadists lies that people from Southie-Savie were racists. 4. The appointment of a black lawyer to the Clerk’s job would be perceived by black politicians as good P.R. for the black community, as when Marty Walsh of Savin Hill became Mayor, we all felt pride and like the whole Dorchester Community had taken a step forward; those in the Addiction-Alcoholism-Recovery-Fields as saw Walsh’s ascension as helpful to those in Recovery at large. 5. When an appointed judge defames the Commonwealth’s Second Most Powerful Elected Official by calling him a “corrupt midget”, that judge should expect some political or judicial or executive punishment: for conduct unbecoming a judge; I’m surprised the Governor didn’t ask him to voluntarily resign immediately; Judge Daher later apologized and was slapped on the wrist by the judiciary, as I recall. 6. Matt’s analysis is absolutely correct on several points in this blog: Dershowitz hated Bulger, he couldn’t believe he’d met his intellectual superior in an Irish kid from the projects, Southie’s Old Harbor Village. 7. The people you mention could not hold a candle to Bulger’s lightning fast fiery wit: Billy always was ever the gentlemen. 8. Billy never lied; he never had to. 9. Billy wrote what he wrote as honestly as he could write it; he valued, not lawyerly trickery, but honesty, integrity, good will and hard work. 10. In my book, The Fix, I RECOUNT THE original clash at the Governor’s Council when Billy publicly confronted and outdueled Allan, who’d come there to oppose the nomination of Mr. Paul Mahoney as a judge; all knew Billy won and Allan lost badly; WGBH had recorded and aired a good part of the proceedings including Billy’s punching the daylights of Allan Dershowitz; Billy had called the Harvard Law Professor of Free Speech Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law, names like this: “a murderer of reputations” “a conniver” “a manipulator” “a man lacking no moral constraints” a bad man bent on doing bad things to a good person, Paul Mahoney, who won a unanimous decision at the Governor’s Council, then went on become Chief Judge of some District Court, as I recall. Mahoney was a good man. Dershowitz, that day, using the attack tactics he did that day, acted as a bad man. 11. Having worked 20 years around the State House, I know as Matt knows and has written, that the guys on top don’t have to lift a finger to get things taken care of, or to get scorecards even. 12. I knew personally most of the McDonoughs; I count them among my friends; they are closest friends of one of my closest lifelong friends, Kevin Glynn; the McDonoughs came from a powerful political family; their dad, Sonny, landed on D-Day with the US Army Rangers (all special forces;) on South Boston’s World War II Memorial, dedicated to 220 who died in service to their country, 220 from Southie; and among those names are nine (9) McDonoughs. Like I said; good people; not necessarily perfect, for I think we’ve had only one of them perfect ones in human history. (12)It’s these good people from Southie and Savie that Howie “The corrupt fatso” Carr besmirches routinely. Howie thinks its funny that his self-picked friend and co-author, the serial killer and proven perjurer John Martorano, killed so many people from my neighborhood; it’s a big laugh to Howie! Allan D. never stooped that low or anywhere near it, but it’s hard to go as low as the biggest rat of all: Howie Carr. Finally, and without a number, maybe I follow Matt’s reasoning because I grew up in Southie-Savie and got to know people up close and personal and had hundreds of cousins and friends all growing up in closely-knit families; it seems all the young men back then in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s (before the Summer of Love) were two-fisted, stand-up, regular guys; an maybe Dershowitz is a bit envious he didn’t grow up in Southie-Savie in those years, but I’ll tell you what: I know plenty of kindred spirits, salt of the earth, hard nosed characters, good guys come from Queens and Brooklyn as from Southie-Dorchester, although there are ten times as many of these regular American good guys there as here. But whose to say whose neighborhood is better? We think ours were. Way better. But having been in the Service or done some traveling, we all know America is chock full of two-fisted, stand up guys from sea to shining sea. Billy Bulger is a good guy. John Connolly has been framed by the FEDs (prosecutors and higher-ups in the FBI) using the perjured testimony of serial killers. Howie “the corrupt fatso” Carr is a chronic character assassin who delights in people suffering; Allan Dershowitz is a brilliant lawyer and law professor, but we hope he lets go and starts enjoying the grandkids, lets slip a little joy into his life. We think all of these foregoing words of wisdom, these truths , these ideas of Matt and William and Ming Ling and others are self-evident.

  4. I hate to waste another nice morning on this old stuff but:
    1. It’s a contradiction to say that Senator Bulger knew about a deal, but was being truthful when he said there was no deal. It’s pretty simple.
    2. The reason I don’t believe the fearful black judges story is that it describes a Bulger camp that is ready to threaten an entire race over some crony’s promotion. “A setback for blacks”–what’s that supposed to mean? You can believe that the Bulger camp was that vindictive, and that unhinged, if you want but you’re not doing the Senator any favors.

  5. I have no opinion on Dershowitz vs Bulger, although from the comments you have gotten so far I think you are preaching to the choir.
    However, regarding your own comments on the Housing Court scandal, you still seem to be contradicting the Senator. He very publicly denied that any payback of any sort ever happened, directly or indirectly. You suggest that there was payback, but that it had some justification.
    Have you ever contacted Senator Bulger to rectify this contradiction? If you read Senator Bulger’s prepared remarks at the time of the scandal, he very pointedly accused his critics being vindictive and dishonest.
    You seem to be anything but vindictive toward Senator Bulger, but your version of what happened to the Boston Housing Court seems more in agreement with Alan Dershowitz than the Senator. What’s going on?

    1. Bob:

      I understand that I pretty much preach to the choir but occasionally some others walk by and hear the song and are affected by it. Most people go on the internet and read people who they agree with.

      I assume you understand politics and are familiar with President Clinton’s statement: to the effect that “it depends on what the meaning of the word is is.” Word can mean many things and many things can be done in strange ways. I am aware that Billy stated: “But I now brand as totally false , as a calculated, blatant lie, the charge reportedly made by Judge George Daher of the Housing Court that I sought to interfere with or influence administrative decisions of the Housing Court and that I made threats against him.” There are lots of ways to interpret that statement.

      It could be absolutely true. Others may have done the dirty work for him without his even saying a word about the matter other than something like, “it’s too bad Daher went back on his word to hire Sonny’s kid.” When one is in a position of power as Billy was at the time it takes little more than that to send the loyal underlings scurrying for ways to get back at someone who displeased the boss.

      It is said that Daher made a deal with people who knew that Billy wanted the first assistant clerk’s job to go to Sonny McDonough’s kid. Daher wanted it for a black lawyer so he sent word back that the kid would get the next opening. When the next opening came Daher gave it to another black lawyer. It was then that payback time occurred. It was common belief among many that Daher had apparently reneged on the deal and didn’t give the kid the job which Billy had been promised.

      In politics things are done when one relies on another’s word. Daher’s word was found wanting so he had to suffer the consequences. Billy could have been miles away from anything that happened. So when he says he had nothing to do with it directly or indirectly it could be true in the sense he took no actions himself. He didn’t need to. He had many people who were anxious to see that he not be disrespected.

      The attack on the Housing Court budget did not come from the blue. It came for a reason. The reason was the President of the Senate was unhappy. His displeasure was caused by what he saw as Daher’s backing down.

      How you suggest I end up in agreement with Dershowitz is puzzling. Dershowitz called the payback to the Housing Court corruption. I don’t see anything corrupt about it. I see it an integral part of the political system which depends on people making bargains and sticking to their word. It’s an everyday occurrence when one legislator says “you support my bill and I’ll support yours.” What is one to do when you support the person’s bill and the other reneges? Do you forget about it or seek revenge?

      1. 1. I met Pat McDonough: he was no kid. The people who had to rely on the Housing Court were better off with someone else being clerk, even if it was (shudder) “another black lawyer.”
        2. “totally false. . .a blatant calculated lie” seems unambiguous. It seems about as unambiguous as you can get. I can only wonder what would have been left for Senator Bulger to say if someone really did make up a blatant lie about him.
        Let’s keep this light. Say someone accused him of changing into a witch and flying over Boston Harbor on a broom every Thursday evening.
        What could Senator Bulger possibly say? “Why, that’s totally false and a blatant lie–just like what they said about me and the Housing Court.”
        You know what would happen the next Thursday. That’s right, crowds of people at Castle Island, with binoculars.
        3. I realize that your theory about Alan Dershowitz is tongue in cheek but I still think it’s faulty. I admire Senator Bulger’s wit a lot but he’s hardly unique. Robert Drinan, Mark Draisen, Kevin Fitgerald, Brian Lees . . . there is a long list of politicians who are either just as funny or just as quick-witted.
        More importantly, if Dershowitz hates wit so much how did he ever fall out with Mike Barnacle? Those two should have been BFF’s.

        1. Bob:

          1. I never met Pat McDonough or any of the McDonough people. Never particularly liked what I had heard about Sonny. I refer to Pat, whose name I didn’t know, as the kid in reference to him being Sonny’s kid who was the one to get the job not that he was a young man. As for your shuddering because I mentioned “another black lawyer”, for one who professes to know about these matters you should know in the context of the dispute that was significant because two or three black judges had gone to Daher as emissaries from the Bulger camp fearful that Daher’s refusal to give the spot to the kid would be as set back for blacks so Daher sent a message back to Bulger by upping the ante by appointing that lawyer that he was not to be intimidated.
          2. You seem to believe Billy lied about having a hand in the Housing Dispute. I’ve explained how I thought it happened without him lifting a finger or knowing about it. What facts can you assert to support your theory that he did? In fact after Billy made that statement Daher backed down and admitted Billy never had any conversations with him. As for your Castle Island example, you sort of lost me.
          3. How is my theory faulty if I suggest Dershowitz hated Billy because of his wit and you suggest that there are other people with wit out there. Maybe Dershowitz would hate them also if he knew them, or if they failed to show him a certain deference which Billy never did. As for Dershowitz falling out with Barnicle that happened a long time ago when Dershowitz alleged Barnicle put racist words in his mouth – that was back around 1990 and the war went on endlessly from that point forward.

          1. 1. You claim that Sen Bulger could have been disappointed and entitled to “revenge” over a deal that he was totally unaware of.
            Do you see the contradiction?
            2. I don’t know what to make about that story of two or three fearful black judges sent as emissaries from the Bulger camp. It sounds like a malicious invention from someone trying to make the Senator sound like a clueless ineffectual thug. For the record, I don’t believe a word of it.
            3. As far as Alan Dershowitz is concerned, I’m glad we agree that your theory about wit envy is inadequate. There has to be a better explanation for their mutual enmity. Your speculation about lack of deference is probably no worse than a hundred other uninformed guesses.

            1. Bob:
              1. There is no contradiction in my position. It is in your understanding or refusal to understand.
              2. Did you ever hear of the Globe archives. I suggest you go back and look at the writings in the paper at that time. That you refuse to believe what was reported by many sources amounts to no more than a demonstration of a mind that refuses to accept the truth.
              3. I find little we agree about.

  6. Matt — in point of fact, mr derschbag has long envied Bill Bulger’s superior intelligence (in spite of the fact he was not ivy-educated), quick wit, popularity, and political power. When the local press started to go after Bulger, derschbag courageously piled on.

    1. Louie:

      I agree. He thought he was the brightest bulb on the marquee then he ran into the President. He waited for his opportunity and then he got of all people Howie Carr to be his ally. They make a great pair but could be easily exchanged for a Bartlett pear.

      1. Matt, Louie, et al: In my second novel I have a nefarious academic character named “Alvin Dirtshtz”; in real life the real Mr. Dershowitz seems to revel in being revolting; he like Carr enjoy hurling Garbage, Dirt, Muck and the Kitchen Sink at others, especially the defenseless, I’ve observed. D’s gone as far as to call Billy Bulger in an article in Boston Magazine: “The real godfather of the Winter Hill Gang.” Billy whose never even ever been accused of a misdemeanor, whose been exonerated by Congress, two State Prosecutors and one Federal Prosecutors, and in his 40 years at the State House and as U. Mass. Prez, whose never been accused a violating a Rule or Regulation, and that very same Billy Bulger, with his 40 some honorary degrees from prestigious institutions across the Commonwealth, with his service to American and to various Charitable Boards throughout his lifetime, that self-same Mr. William Bulger, Howie Carr has the unmitigated Gall (rhymes with Gaul or Galway) to call “a corrupt midget” ceaselessly for 20 years and Allan Dershowitz has the unmitigated temerity to call “The true Godfather of the Winter Hill Gang.” Have these men no shame? I’d say no. Both hate Bill Bulger with a deep seated passion. Carr attacks not only all Bulger family members, but also savages persons whose second cousin once worked for Billy at the State House. Are both obsessed with the man? Do nightmares about the shades of Billy Bulger bestir their slumbers?

  7. Mr. C, for the record, Mr. B is one of a rare breed: a “triple Eagle;” that is (for the benefit of your readership) one who went to B. C. High, B. C. and B. C. Law.

    1. GOK:

      It is a rare breed for sure except in my family there are two triple Eagles; but one of them claims he is a quadruple Eagle having been in the Marine Corps whose emblem has the eagle on the globe over the anchor.

      1. Good one, Mr. C! I”ll have to count the number of that breed…some time in retirement !

  8. Mr. MATT, me thinks you might be on to something ….. Loved the alliteration early on in the piece !

    1. Gus:

      Thanks for noting I’m on a correct course. As for the alliteration there is nothing more enjoyable in writing than to play around with it.

      1. Matt, in my book Mac the Dog, the final chapter is titled: “The War of the Worlds’ Words.” Word play is fun! Bulger, too, loves the fun of the language when used in wit, story-telling, oratory, debate, writing, drama, or letter writing. Dershowitz too is an expert with language, a full Harvard Law Professor at age 26, but he uses Words less for the art and levity, but more to bully. Billy always tried to win people over; Dershowitz tried to bowl them over. Perhaps, forty years ago I recognized him as “An Intellectual Bully.” He’s made himself a character of himself; he’s become a twerp. Dershowitz deserves to have Howie “The Corrupt Fatso” Carr as a playmate. The two can take along Ann Colter, the strident blonde, and Chris Matthews, a truly hysterical person with itchy pants, on their next playdate. That’s a great foursome of serial mudslingers: Carr, Dershowitz, Coulter, Matthews who’d give any sane person the hebbie jebbies.

        2. THE absolutely BEST BOOK ON THIS SUBJECT (impact of ethnic origins among Americans) was written BY THE TRUE INTELLECTUAL, THOMAS SOWELL, PH.D.,WHO ALSO ROSE FROM VERY HUMBLE origins to achieve national recognition as an intellectual. I LOVE ALL OF SOWELL’S WRITINGS, including his letters. SOWELL’S BOOK? “ETHNIC AMERICA” CIRCA 1984. It tells the story of 10 ethnic groups: Blacks, Germans, Italians, Irish, Latinos, English, Scotch, French, Polish, Jews. I’m thinking back 20 plus years the last time I read it. He synthesizes American diversity and shows how it comes together and works.

Comments are closed.