Who is Elena Kagan?

Elena Kagan might just be the next justice of the Supreme Court. With Justice Stevens’ retirement on the horizon, she’s likely going to be the buzz on your 24-hour news channel of choice. Depending on what station you’re glued to, she might be an excellent replacement, or the nominee who will run our fine country into the ground. Now, I’m not pretending to be completely objective – I’m a proud liberal, but I’m always curious about each side of the coin. Obviously, both sides can contribute to the conversation (if they manage to mind their manners). What are people at each pew of the proverbial aisle saying as of now?

From what I’ve read, Kagan has the following qualifications: she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in History. She went on to get her magna cum laude JD from Harvard Law School. She served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. Then she went on to be law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall, and was an associate in a private practice law firm for two years.

She was Bill Clinton’s associate White House Counsel, and the Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council. Clinton nominated her as judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but the republican chairmen of the committee never scheduled her hearing. That’s what you may call a political cockblock.

Still, she continued on – she taught at various schools, was appointed Dean of Harvard Law, and then was Obama’s choice for Solicitor General. As Solicitor General, it was her role to represent the U.S. government before the Supreme Court.

Why is she controversial? Although she has demonstrated an ability to take her opinion out of the situation (she is passionately against “don’t ask, don’t tell” but defended it as solicitor general because it is still Congressional law), she is criticized for her stance opposing military recruitment on college campuses because they discriminate against recruits via their anti-gay policy. Moreover, she’s being lambasted by columnists like Maggie Gallagher, who says “a vote for Elena Kagan is a vote for gay marriage.” Now of course, I’m a huge supporter of gay marriage, so that’s all fine and dandy for me, but such a [perhaps hyperbolized] statement is sure to be a quick “hell no” for opponents.

She’s also furthering the partisan divide with her support of greater presidential control of administrative agencies, which, I’m certain will be a hot issue for tea-baggers (is that the PC term?). I don’t honestly know how I feel about this issue – I can see the need for greater control, but I can also see the potential for corruption by future presidents.

Lastly, she is labeled as having little relevant experience for the job – she would be the first Justice in 40 years who did not previously serve as a judge on any court. Although, I think it’s important to repeat that she was nominated as judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1999, but was blocked from that endeavor. At the end of the day, I think her biggest “flaw” is that she was nominated by Barack Obama (sarcasm). It seems the code phrase for partisan politics and stonewalling has become “lacking in relevant experience.”

But I digress. I’m curious what the hubbub will be with Elena Kagan, and I’ll be listening to both sides of the aisle – if only just to keep them accountable and to watch the boxing match of Supreme Court nominations.

What are YOUR thoughts on this nomination?

7 responses to “Who is Elena Kagan?

  1. I think the administration, and Senate will have a hard time passing this one past the hypocrisy detector of most Americans. She has a similar background and qualifications to Bush’s pick, Harriet Meiers.

    Question is, will this congress and president further prove their arrogance by being against something until it’s their turn?

    • I see what you mean about the similarities. However, I think there are certain differences: Meiers served as George Bush’s personal lawyer for years, whereas Kagan wasn’t “personal” lawyer to either Clinton or Obama.

      Also, she really bombed on constitutional law questions during private meetings between her and the senate judiciary committee. Even Republican senators Graham and Brownback asked for documentation of her briefs to further deduce her stance on political issues. I guess we’ll see whether or not Kagan will jump through these various hoops more successfully than Harriet Meiers.

  2. Personally, I believe SCoTUS nominees should have prior judicial experience as you can better assess their track-record, and likely future performance, much as a pre-requisite for president should include executive experience (CEO, Governor, etc). Again, this is more for the people weighing the options to better understand what they’re voting on.

    I was against Meiers for this, as I am against Kagan… not enough info to go on to determine capability for one of the most important jobs in the US.

    • You’ve got a substantial argument, and I respect your opinion. I agree that positions like SCoTUS and PoTUS need to be held up to high standards and not given to people without the proper background. However, even with a background such as governor, there’s no guarantee that the person is qualified – let’s take Sarah Palin, for instance, who is technically “qualified” for a leadership position, but has very little understanding outside of the scope of Alaskan affairs.

      I don’t know Kagan’s views in-depth, and I’m looking forward to hearing about them and then making my decision, but I like her character and I like what I’m hearing so far. She didn’t get a chance to become judge because of the judicial committee’s biases against her, but she was Dean of Harvard Law, so I’m hoping on account of that merit she will be more than qualified.

  3. “Sarah Palin, for instance, who is technically “qualified””

    Half a term is not qualification in my book. I don’t like people who leave office for another, or just outright resign.

    • Of course, I don’t consider her qualified in the least. But she did occupy the gubernatorial seat. And that’s my point, titles don’t mean much, it’s about the character of the person and their all-encompassing experience, not just a position.

  4. “titles don’t mean much, it’s about the character of the person and their all-encompassing experience, not just a position.”

    In the case of positions of these magnitudes, titles do mean everything. Margin for error is far less when major national decisions can be made by a person or their office. The only way to reduce this margin of error is to see a consistent track record and make decisions from this. When there is none or little, you have to rely on luck (or hope).

    In Kagan’s case, we know little of her character, and her all-encompassing experience isn’t substantial. I may not have agreed with Sotomayor’s nomination, but at least she had a track record that you could make an informed opinion on. With Kagan, you have less than you had with Obama, Palin, or most of the other big players in politics recently.

    This leads me to believe that there is more to meet the eye than what we see, or what will come out in the hearings, and as Kagan was very close with the administration, it looks more to be a puppet choice, rather than the right, logical, or reasonable choice.

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