Elena Kagan Open Thread *UPDATED*

To no one’s surprise, Obama nominated Elena Kagan to fill the opening on the Supreme Court.  Many have pointed to the fact that she’s never served as a judge before as one of the main reasons Obama did so — she has no paper trail.  Since I have a generally low estimation of judges at the best of times, I can’t see that it’s too disastrous that she hasn’t sat on the bench.  This is especially true considering that being on the Supreme Court is an entirely different experience from presiding over a trial.  The skill sets just aren’t the same.

My primary sense of Kagan is that she is, first and foremost, a leftist politician.  The perfect evidence of this fact is her decision to kick the military out of Harvard Law School.  That was knee-jerk Leftism pandering to a base.

Funnily enough, the one thing I don’t carry away when thinking of Kagan is intelligence or, rather, I should say I don’t have a sense of a well-stocked brain, strong analytical abilities, and a quick mind.  Instead, she strikes me as something of an Obama clone:  a feral intelligence, unhindered by real knowledge, that is most adept at using Leftist political trends for self-advancement.

I’m sure she will be confirmed — since she’s got no record of anything to support not being confirmed — and I’m hopeful that the intellectual heft that Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas bring to the court will overwhelm her.

UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin on the main problem with Kagan’s activism:

Her entire career has been spent either as a law school administrator or as an advocate (e.g., in a political position in the Clinton administration or as solicitor general). The question she was used to asking herself was: what do I want the law to be? But the business of judging is determining what the law is. Liberals see no difference — the law is what five justices say it is. But most Americans and a majority of the Court think otherwise. So the questions for her now are: how does she decide what the law is, what method does she use for separating personal conviction and constitutional interpretation, and does she have a view of the Supreme Court that is something other than as an uber-legislature? We’ll find out this summer.

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  • garyp

    Bookworm, Surely you jest when you say “the intellectual heft that Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas bring to the court will overwhelm her.” A fanatic doesn’t reason, in fact, they don’t even listen.  They have no fixed values you can appeal to and no concept of America as a unique political system with a history and values to be upheld. She will pay more attention to Keith Olbermann than her fellow justices. I think you assessment of why she was chosen is spot on.  However, she is just one more nail in the coffin of freedom and nothing, save divine intervention, or a second American revolution (hopefully without the armed conflict) can save our Repulic. Sorry to criticize as I enjoy your posts and read every day but false hope only allows us to avoid facing reality.

  • jj

    I’ve actually come to the conclusion that you probably don’t want genuinely intelligent people on the Supreme Court.  Scalia, Roberts and Alito are wasted.  The Court really has a pretty simple job: is it or is it not an activity permitted by the Constitution?  Not a hell of a lot of your actual active thought required.  (The only time a Supreme needs to think is when deciding whether to take a case at all or not.  There was a time they knew power in this country is vested in the states far more than the federal government, and they stuck {sort of} to their own area of influence.  They meddle in everything these days.)  You should probably know how to read, but that’s about it.  It’s once judges start thinking – far too many judges think they can think –  that trouble usually begins.
    Kagan is a good example.  Every time this dame tries to have an idea, you end up with people for miles around going: “Holy cow…”  So she’s a perfect choice for Jug-ears, from whom I have yet to see much evidence of cogent thought, either.  She’ll be a dope, because throughout her career a dope is what she’s been.  The Court is among the least dangerous places to put her – if you’re absolutely determined to put her anywhere.
    Funny – I’m currently tangled with a jerk down in Florida (now, accept it as a given that of course every other bar in the country – terrible as many of them are – regards the Florida bar as chiefly good for a laugh) who is just having a hell of a time reading a simple declarative sentence and applying it.  We’ve even brought in as a witness the guy who wrote the simple declarative sentence – in fact wrote all five paragraphs of the statute – and even he doesn’t seem to be able to convey the simple meaning to the chimpanzee in the prom dress sitting on the bench.   “Excuse me.  You don’t need to make a finding – this happens automatically by operation of  law.  Operation of law!  Automatic!  No finding necessary.  Just – please! – shut the f**k up, judge!  No thinking!”
    Ah, but he’s a genius, don’t’cha’know – he once went to law school, and now he owns a ball gown.  A superior order of being.  Just amazing.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    jj:  Your Florida experience tells me that you will enjoy reading this case.  Either the judge is a terribly mean person, or those two lawyers went beyond the bounds of anything.  And while I’m no fan of judges, I’ve also seen cases with insane or stupid lawyers, so I’m ready to believe either scenario.

    Garyp:  Your pessimism is probably right, but since I’m watching a slo-mo train wreck, one that I can’t stop, all I can do is hope that the carnage is less than anticipated.

  • jj

    The judge isn’t mean, he just has the misguided notion that he’s terribly clever, and may even be the cleverest person in his own courtroom.  (Unlikely, but lots of judges seem to think that.)  This is the kind of thing where you think that if the judge has this kind of time to indulge and amuse himself, it better be possible to get before him in about 48 hours – because clearly he’s not busy, and his docket’s empty.  Otherwise he’s just a jackass who says “respecting” when he means “regarding;” “their” when he means “the” (this could be a typo); “cite” when he means “citation;” and “regretful” when the word he’s aiming for is “regrettable.”  It’s good that “the Court was able to state the issue and its resolution in one paragraph…” though.  Hooray for you, judge, award yourself a cookie – but too bad you had to waste several hours getting your rocks off being what you regard as clever.
    Reading it’s amusing, I suppose.  Dealing with it isn’t.  If I summarized what’s going on down in Florida – which in terms of jurisprudential corruption and generalized idiocy really is a banana republic these days – you’d be astonished.  This moron is actually sitting there telling the guy who wrote the statute what he really meant – and sending him off to pay the clerk a couple of times.  This is not a new statute, either – it’s been there in its current form for about seven years!   (He – the guy who wrote the statute – finally got fed up and told the judge point-blank in his own courtroom that he didn’t know the law.  Cost him $500.  A few minutes later his head almost exploded and he repeated it, louder,  and pointed out that he didn’t need the judge’s help to decipher what he’d written, he knew what he meant, and he’d managed to get it down on paper eight years ago without the judge’s help, thank you very much.  That was good for another $500.) All these guys down there just go to court with a couple thousand dollars worth of hundreds in their pockets – it just gets them out of the building much quicker at the end of the day.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I still haven’t recovered from the judge who told me, “I don’t care what the law is.  I think….”

  • Oldflyer

    Book if your assessment is to be credited, that and recent developments in Washington, and elsewhere, have certainly called into question the reputations of various Ivy League bastions of intellectual excellence.  She did, after all, graduate with distinction from two of our Nation’s most prestigious institutions.  She also held exalted positions later in her career.  Unfortunately, that does not appear to be a reliable indicator of either intellect or competence.
    I  note with some alarm that her argument in the Solomon case was rejected by an 8-0 vote.  I also noted in excerpts from her argument, reprinted today, that she referred repeatedly to the “military policy” regarding don’t ask don’t tell.  This indicates that she was: a) ignorant of the fact that it was congressional action, signed into law by President Clinton, rather than military policy; b) So sloppy in her language that she erroneously attributed the policy to the military; or c)  dishonest enough to deliberately try to confuse the issue.
    However,  since we will have another  Obama nominee on the court next term, I do not know that this one is any worse than a likely alternative.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Oldflyer, I have to admit to a deep, deep bias against Harvard Law School, and it’s based upon the fact that I, after more than 20 years spent working on the West Coast, have never worked with (or opposite) a Harvard lawyer I respected.  Most were lousy lawyers, and some were lousy people too.  It’s not a big sampling, probably 20 or so lawyers over the years, but it has left me feeling that Harvard is not doing a good job teaching law.

    Obama, by the way, is the perfect example of Harvard lawyers I have known:  aggressive, uninformed, bad at analysis, ideologically driven, and vicious when cornered.

  • Zhombre

    “(Kagan) did, after all, graduate with distinction from two of our Nation’s most prestigious institutions.”
    That, Oldflyer, is the kiss of death.
    I’m sure Kagan will be a reliable Stepford Liberal on the court  and otherwise an ineffective mediocrity.   She’s a “safe” choice for Obama: impeccable credentials (however empty, like his own), no paper trail, knee jerk lib, Jewish, female (identity politics points)  and probably a lesbian (unacknowledged bonus points).  Unless Obama replaces Thomas or Scalia, the balance on the court won’t change.

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  • suek

    Heh.  You never know what’s going to pop up on the ‘net…!