Elena Kagan Nomination: White House Talking Points
Michael Shear, writing at WaPo’s PostPolitics, does a pretty good job of succinctly summarizing the pluses and minuses of the Kagan nomination from the White House’s POV in a piece entitled “What Obama Sees in Kagan.”
- Legal gravitas. Shears asserts that “Obama wants someone who can serve as a counterweight to the intellectual heft of Chief Justice John Roberts.” Now, whether this is true or not, I will say that while she has a limited record of scholarship, the fact that she served on the faculties of both Chicago’s and Harvard’s law schools would indicate a strong intellectual facility.
- Female. One would expect the president to be interested in increasing the diversity of the Court.
- Young. At 50 she would most likely serve for some time. In recent years this has been a key criterion for choosing nominees.
- Not a Judge. There has been increased interest of late to appoint a non-judge to the Court. As James notes below, this used to be a fairly commonplace practice. While not a judge, she does have a legal background, not to mention being Solicitor General. As such, she would be an appointee who is not a judge, but also is not a politician.
- No Major Paper Trail. One of the unfortunate results of the Bork nomination back in 1980s is that it has become preferable that nominees have as scant a paper trail as is possible. Kagan fits the bill.
- Geography. She’s another East coaster. While there was a time that presidents tried to have geographic diversity on the Court. For example, Sandra Day O’Connor was not only female, but she was a western nominee. This isn’t as big a deal these days, but the issue will be raised.
- Religion. If Kagan is confirmed, the Court will be bereft of Protestants, as she is Jewish. Interestingly, this seems not to matter all that much these days.
More to come in both columns, one suspects.
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