Generally, when Supreme Court nominees are selected, pundits from
opposing parties begin painting vastly different portrayals of the
candidate. One side vilifies, the other sanctifies. With Solicitor
General Elena Kagan, however, there are conflicting themes. Some on the right grudgingly approve
of Kagan, while others criticize her decision to ban military recruiters at Harvard
. Some left-leaning pundits are concerned about her executive-power stance
, while others praise her intellectual and ideological similarities to Obama
. Yet one unexpected strain has emerged from critics on both the right and left: she's a careerist who shows more concern with advancing than with holding clear, principled views.
- A Brown-Noser? David Brooks at The New York Times likens
Kagan to other Ivy League "organization kids"--ladder-climbers who seldom challenge their
superiors: "If they had any flaw, it was that they often had a
professional and strategic attitude toward life. They were not
intellectual risk-takers. They regarded professors as bosses to be
pleased rather than authorities to be challenged... She seems to be
smart, impressive and honest — and in her willingness to suppress so
much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing."
- Institution-Bound, Careerist, writes civil libertarian blogger Glenn Greenwald at Salon: "It's
anything but surprising that President Obama has chosen Elena Kagan to
replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Nothing is a better fit
for this White House than a blank slate, institution-loyal, seemingly
principle-free careerist who spent the last 15 months as the Obama
administration's lawyer vigorously defending every one of his assertions
of extremely broad executive authority."
- Good at Advancing, but Where's the Scholarship? wonders Jonathan Zasloff: "Consider that
Kagan first got tenure at the University of Chicago based on two
articles — which usually is what that notoriously overachieving faculty
wants in one year from a junior professor. Then she got an academic
chair at Harvard based on one more piece, Presidential Administration.
She wrote nothing else for more than two years at Harvard. And then she
was appointed Dean. This shows that Kagan may not be a great scholar,
but she is enormously skilled at impressing older colleagues."
- Not a Bold, Progressive Figure, writes liberal blogger Cenk Uygur at the Huffington Post:
"Elena Kagan - safe, no record, never challenged power in any meaningful
way, never stood up for progressive ideology, beloved by the
establishment in Washington - the perfect Obama candidate. I'm tired of
- Remarkably Cautious, writes Tom Goldstein, publisher of
SCOTUSblog. He describes her as "extraordinarily-almost
artistically-careful. I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation
with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of
constitutional law in the past decade. Now, there are obviously an awful lot of people whom I do not know. But
I have never talked to anyone who talked to anyone who had a
conversation like that."
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