The reliably chipper Rachel Maddow takes a step back from the granular parsing of Elena Kagan's political beliefs
to ask the big-picture question: Just how much of a friend to Democrats
is she? Kagan would replace Justice John Paul Stevens, whose beliefs
are known to lean leftward; Kagan is much more of an unknown quantity.
As Maddow puts it:
her whole inscrutable, blank-slate legal career, sort of, Elena Kagan
has been associated with the Democratic Party ... The thing is, you
know who else is associated with the Democratic Party? Ben Nelson! He's
a Democrat. Joe Lieberman! He caucuses with the Democrats. There are
many, many people associated with the Democratic Party who I would put
significantly to the right of John Paul Stevens. And unless Stevens, as
a solid liberal, is replaced with an equally solid liberal, the court
will shift to the right.
Maddow goes on to address a couple of
memos Kagan authored as an aide to President Clinton that "suggest a
relatively conservative stance" on abortion--"nothing too damning," but
nothing very reassuring to liberals either. But according to Slate
senior editor Dahlia Lithwick, we shouldn't read too much into these
memos; the only thing they really demonstrate is Kagan's deft legal
I think that these memos were done in a policy
capacity ... This is not a constitutional treatise. This is advising
President Clinton how to thread the needle between one abortion bill
and an amendment, and what he should do in order to get cover when the
Senate passes a different bill ... Shes just a really good tactician.
She's a great strategist.
Lithwick's final assessment? "This
tells you more about her political skills, her much-touted ability to
have some savvy about how to game a lot of different players, than it
tells you about anything substantive that she believes on abortion. I
mean, this is something that happens to have the word 'abortion' in it."
The Atlantic Wire is your authoritative guide to the news and ideas that matter most right now. Our team tracks newsmakers and opinions across the entire media spectrum: newspapers, web sites, television, radio and magazines.
But we do more than just collect information. By synthesizing, analyzing and summarizing what’s out there, and adding new information when we can, we are a news engine that gives you a quick and valuable account of the issues of the day.