Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kagan: The Stealth Candidate

The last time a president nominated an unknown to the Supreme Court, David Souter went on to break the hearts of conservatives and delight liberals for nearly 20 years. In fact, when Souter was nominated, the left went ballistic while the right praised him: most the opposite of how his tenure was received at the end.

However, the difference between Souter and the latest stealth candidate for the court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, is that both the right and left have gone ballistic over her nomination.

Ms. Kagan is certainly too liberal for conservatives, who quickly criticized her nomination on Monday as a radical threat. But much like every other Democratic nominee since the 1960s, she does not fit the profile sought by the left, which hungers for a full-throated counterweight to the court’s conservative leader, Justice Antonin Scalia.
And the punditocracy is weighing in, with David Brooks comparing her to today's college students ("smart, impressive — and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing"), Glenn Greenwald saying she is a "principle-free careerist," and the NYT editorial board bemoaning the fact that Kagan "spent decades carefully husbanding her thoughts and shielding her philosophy from view."

For someone who no one supposedly knows anything about, she sure has pissed off a lot of people, hasn't she?

The fact is, we don't know any less about her than we did John Roberts or Sonya Sotomayor a day after their nominations, and we probably know more about Kagan than we did David Souter or Stephen Breyer (pssst...that's what "confirmation hearings" are for).

Color me surprisingly optimistic for a change, but the fact that her nomination has made cranks on both the left and right so apoplectic means Kagan is probably the best choice for the job.

She might be a sign of (gasp) judicial moderation, and in these polarized times that can only be described as a good thing.

UPDATE: Rumors are running rampant on the internets that Kagan's unknown sexual orientation (or, gasp, the fact that she might be a "stealth lesbian") is going to play a factor in her confirmation. While it might be natural for conservatives to latch onto it and unite the troops against her, one wonders if the "angry left" isn't fanning this kind of vile innuendo in order to sandbag the nomination as well.

Then there's the theory that Obama could be using Kagan's nomination as a Trojan Horse, setting it up to be torpedoed so he could then ram through a real hard-core lefty. There is precedent...Bush sacrificed Harriet Miers only to ram through the ultra-orthodox conservative Samuel Alito, with virtually no opposition.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see if, and to what extent, homophobia plays a role in this nomination.

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