In 2017 The Oxford Union hosted a talk by Marc Kasowitz. They do not tell us the precise date, but the video was posted on line in November.
The name was not familiar to me, but it took mere seconds to establish that he is a lawyer, and among his clients is President Trump. As expected, the comments below the posted video had its fair share of rudeness; but what shocked me was reference to Kasowitz being Jewish. I am at a loss to know what difference this is supposed to make.
He reads his preamble. He even reads the details of his birth. I mention this not to pour scorn on him but to highlight how so many believe that paper is an antidote to nerves. It isn’t: it is one way to battle The Hump, but not a very good one. Paper makes a lousy comfort blanket, but he is persuaded to play it this way.
He spends the first fifteen minutes speaking about his father, a scrap metal dealer. Had I been advising him, I should have tried to dissuade him from this because it is notoriously difficult to do without curling your audience’s toes. I’d have been wrong: he pulls it off. Although he makes no bones about idolising his father, he does so in a manner that is as comfortable, matter-of-fact, and unsentimental as can be achieved. He also manages to cast forward, explaining how following his father’s ethos in business helped his career as a lawyer. Perhaps obeying the Fifth Commandment comes so naturally to the Jewish culture that it requires no stage management. For my purposes this section does something even more important: it periodically lifts his eyes from that wretched paper so that he engages the audience and liberates his natural ability as a raconteur. More. I want more of that.
He begins talking about his legal career, swiftly moving to the founding of his own firm. My interest quickens when he promises to recount some case histories – more raconteuring!
The case histories are at least as interesting and absorbing as expected, and Kasowitz comes across as personable. His eyes do lift from the paper often enough to lift the spirit of the talk, but seldom enough to cause me severe frustration.
His talk concludes at 37:30, and he swings into Q&A. I wonder what they’ll ask about…