13 May 2010

More on Kagan

Republicans have a chance to do serious damage to the Obama administration in the upcoming confirmation hearings. Elana Kagan, while I'm sure a nice lady, should be viewed through the same crony-colored glasses as Harriet Miers.

What is Kagan if not an Obama crony? At least Miers was an experienced litigator. I'd venture a guess that I've seen the inside of a courtroom more than Kagan, and I've been practicing law for about 7 months.

We pointed out Tuesday that Kagan hasn't ever -- from the bench, in courtrooms, in the classroom, in scholarly journals, in public speeches or even private conversations -- given anyone an idea of her opinions on any meaningful constitutional issue. What's equally troubling is that we don't know how Kagan thinks of these things. As David Brooks astutely noted, her almost nonexistent scholarly record, plus the paucity of any public statements about anything meaningful, viewed in the context of her lifelong goal to be a Supreme Court justice, indicates a woman who has purposefully and meticulously avoided being tied to any sort of position. She's a blank slate, and that's by design.

And that makes these confirmation hearings all the more important. For the first time in my adult life, we have a nominee who we actually need to learn something from in order to determine whether she is qualified.

The nomination can be skewed another way: Remember when Obama said his next appointee's chief qualification should be "life experience"? By this standard alone, Kagan utterly fails. This is a woman who hails from a well-to-do family in New York's Upper West Side. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Princeton, her law degree from Harvard, taught at the University of Chicago with Obama, and then found a spot in the Clinton White House. After Clinton left office, she returned to Harvard Law, where she became dean. Life experience, Mr. President? In what? Elite liberal institutions?

Obama's standard was unquestionably met by Sotomayor, but Kagan is a different story entirely. This is a woman who has lived a life of incomprehensible privilege, who has stealthily moved her way up the institutional ladder by -- wait for it -- obfuscating her actual views.

What concerns me is not so much that I don't know what Kagan thinks, but rather that I don't know how she thinks, why she thinks the way she does, and most importantly, why she has so carefully avoided letting the public know things for the better part of two decades as she carefully put herself in position for this moment.

Back to the GOP: We will no doubt hear a lot of white noise about Kagan's supposed devotion to the gay rights cause. Frankly, other than the military recruitment episode at Harvard -- which, right or wrong, was echoed by literally thousands of other administrators nationwide -- I can't find a single shred of evidence supporting this charge. This is simple cultural resentment at its most debase. I've read a few too many comments from leading conservatives suggesting that she is an LGBT advocate in sheep's clothing.

Furthermore, the LGBT debate is a red herring. Let's attack the president based purely on his political failure here. Obama has utterly failed by his own standards, enunciated just months ago. He has appointed a career opportunist who has gotten where she is by intentionally taking the path of least resistance and keeping her views shrounded. Conservatives need to go after Kagan for the right reasons.

There's a pattern here.

Cabinet-level appointees who don't pay taxes. Shattering supposedly ironclad ethics rules. Breaking every conceivable campaign promise about bipartisanship. Snarky swipes at the other side during the State of the Union. And now appointing someone like Elana Kagan.

Change, indeed.

1 comment:

Mark @ Israel said...

I'm doubtful whether Kagan has the qualifications to become an associate justice in the Supreme Court. As you said, she has no experience as a judge in a courtroom. I believe she only knows more about academic law, but not in the actual courtroom scenario. Obama's nomination of Kagan seems to be because of politics and not on substance.