May 13, 2010

"In Kagan, it seems to me we have reached a new level of utter blankness."

Says Andrew Sullivan:
Her entire career has been about never taking a stand on anything of any substance - free coffee for students! - while networking in a way to neutralize any conceivable opposition. And she is walking back from her earlier demands for more clarity and transparency in Senate confirmation hearings. Josh notes that liberals are worried about an Obama Souter.
Souter was the old level of utter blankness.
I just don't believe that Obama is that prone to risk.
That should mean that Obama secretly knows what she's about and is hiding it from us. But that wouldn't make Kagan an "Obama Souter." Souter was appointed by a President — George H.W. Bush — who thought he was getting something quite different. Here's a New York Times article from the time of the Souter nomination (before his ascension to the Supreme Court):
John H. Sununu, the White House chief of staff, said today that he had assured President Bush that David H. Souter would uphold conservative values on the Supreme Court.... 
''I was looking for someone who would be a strict constructionist, consistent with basic conservative attitudes, and that's what I got,'' the chief of staff said in an interview. ''I was able to tell the President that I was sure he would do the same thing when he encountered Federal questions....

The chief of staff's comments were designed to advance the overall White House strategy of seeking to convince conservatives that Judge Souter was their kind of man, who could be trusted to vote ''right'' on the big issues, without getting him involved in fierce debates about abortion or flag burning or other contentious specifics.

In being unusually candid about the details in the selection process, Mr. Sununu was carrying out his role as Mr. Bush's primary liaison to the right wing of the Republican Party and to the ideological groups that support Mr. Bush but are nervous about the commitment to their issues.
Back to Sullivan:
I predict that if confirmed, [Elena Kagan is] much more likely to surprise on the left than on the right...
That would be Souterific.

76 comments:

holdfast said...

Sununu was always a lame-as RINO.

traditionalguy said...

Uh oh. The left is figuring Kagan out. She is not insane and she respects authority. That must shake them up good. The GOP needs to do its dance of opposition, but base all criticism on the "Unknown colol of her hair", and then move to confirm her on a voice vote and leave the room before the Lefties get a chance to speak.

Paddy O. said...

Kagan, we are told, is immensely good about networking, becoming appealing to those who are looking for someone to fill an administrative role. All while never giving away (or having?) any of her own core positions.

Obama, it might be said, is immensely susceptible to having his ego stroked, responding positively to fawning sycophants.

Thus we have a very explicable match. Kagan is among the best at brown-nosing, and Obama responds very positively to those who brown nose. Kagan, no doubt, told him exactly what would help her get the nod, and in an ingratiating way that made her feel trustworthy to him.

GMay said...

I'll refuse to rubberneck another Sully link, but I'm gonna put my money on Kagan being a flaming lib. I just can't see Obama making anything resembling a prudent choice.

He spent most of his political capital to push a near permanent leftist healthcare legislation upon the unwilling masses, and I can't see him lacking the political capital to appoint a rabid lefty to a near permanent position.

danielle said...

umm .... so because souter was opaque and ended up being more liberal than conservatives would have hoped, then that means that since Kagan is opaque then she will be more conservative than liberals hope ?

so didnt we already establish that AS is prone to nonsensical arguments since he just wants to know if she's gay ?

so is his reasoning now that since she is so non-transparent about her sexuality, that she is also misleading people about her political beliefs ?

all these smoke screens ....i wonder if he is really believing all this nonsense he is spewing or if he is being more strategic ...

mesquito said...

The conservative Sullivan is worried that his many lefty policy preferences won't be instituted by judicial fiat.

ricpic said...

Obama isn't prone to risk? He's risking the entire honky way of life!..and loving it.

MadisonMan said...

I was wondering if we'd have a Kagan-free day.

t-man said...

Althouse,

Given your apparent misgivings about projecting your own Hope!s onto the blank screen presented by Obama during his campaign, are you concerned about falling for Kagan's opacity, as well?

Patm said...

I think Kagan is going to be surprising. She's going to give the left fits.

danielle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Hayden said...

Yeh, I am looking for a Kagan free day too.

I figure that either she is as liberal as the rest of the candidates were, and is likely no more so, or is a mild reverse-Souter. From the right, that means that she is unlikely to be any worse than the other major candidates, and has a small chance at being better.

Indeed, I think that she may be better from our point of view than Justice Sotomayor, who seems to me to be a fairly lockstep leftist. Just like with a Justice Breyer, I think that it might be possible to pitch things to a Justice Kagan that don't have a chance with Justices Souter, Ginsburg, or Sotomayor. Kagan seems at least willing to listen to the other side, and, in the end, that is probably all that can be asked, given that a bare majority of the Democratically controlled Senate is required to confirm her (i.e. she can lose 9 Democrats and still get confirmed, with VP Biden breaking ties).

Lem said...

There are so many things we don't know about this person about to get enormous power over us..

This is a man who had no problem knowing very little about Obama.. and even went to pitch for him throwing everything he had at Palins uterus..

Andrew had a problem with women.. and I don't mean sex.

Lem said...

I don't think Andrew has ever met a woman he liked.

Michael McNeil said...

Eugene Volokh disagrees that Kagan has been just a blank slate: “Elena Kagan as scholar.”

Lem said...

Kagan saw what happened to Bork..

Frankly, if she had written anything on the big issues, that even appeared to stick her neck out, we would be saying how dumb she was for doing that.

Richard said...

My God, Sullivan actually wrote a post that isn't about sex. You know it's ALWAYS about sex with Sullivan.

lemondog said...

Kagan, we are told, is immensely good about networking, becoming appealing to those who are looking for someone to fill an administrative role. All while never giving away (or having?) any of her own core positions.

I'm sorry, but who are we talking about........Obama?

edutcher said...

I think anyone who believe Ms Kagan will take any position to the right of Teddy Kennedy is kidding themselves.

Then again, Andy probably believes Althouse and Meade are the true parents of Trig Palin.

MadisonMan said...

I was wondering if we'd have a Kagan-free day.

I'd love to see Ann do a poll on that. Understandably, she loves all this conlawprof wonkery, but...

Big Mike said...

That would be Souterific.

Or so terrific.

But it won't happen.

David said...

Remembering that liberalism is in large part a fashion statement, why would Kagan be any less than reliable for the left on the Supreme Court? Her whole life has been spent strutting her low key stuff on the liberal runway. With her background, liberalism is nearly genetic.

Sloanasaurus said...

I believe that the most important background fact is who the nominees group of friends are in DC. Rule #1 should be to never nominate someone who does not already have an established group of friends connected to one ideology or the other in DC. If they don't then they are a total open book and susteptible to falling into the wrong group.

Consider Souter and OConner and Kennedy. All three were outsiders to DC. In contrst Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas/Ginsberg/Breyer already had an established group of freinds in DC.

The reason for this is if you are a liberal, and your social acquaintances are liberal, you will never betray them. No justice wants to risk being a social outcast from their lifetime group of friends.

Kagen will be a safe liberal pick because she already has a liberal group of friends to run with in DC.

roesch-voltaire said...

All this discussion of not liberal, too liberal, too blank,too anti-military, too much of a stealth lesbian makes me yearn for a Clarence Thomas type someone who will just sit back and rubber stamp this activist court's decisions.

David said...

Kagan free day?

The next one is likely to be sometime after 2051. In that year, she will be 81 years old and still on the Supreme Court.

As a 50 year old healthy female, her present life expectancy is probably about 90 years old.

El Pollo Real said...

As a 50 year old healthy female, her present life expectancy is probably about 90 years old.

Is Kagan vegan?

Tex the Pontificator said...

She may surprise more on the left than the right, but only because the right has such limited expectations of a justice appointed by someone such as Obama.

garage mahal said...

I think it's hilarious Sullivan and David Brooks are complaining about someone else being an elitist insider.

Robert said...

I am loving this.

She is the end result of every smear propagated by the likes of Schumer, Biden, and Kennedy.

And it threatens to blow up in the Democrats' faces.

Karma......bitch.......blahblahblah.

Slow Joe said...

Oh, Kagan is totally maybe a right winger in hiding!

LOL, that's totally impossible given her few outbursts of liberal craziness. Maybe she's not as crazy as Dianne wood, but I bet she is. I bet she's the most liberal jurist for 30 years straight.

Sullivan is just following his marching orders. He would have been kicked out of the country on his drug convictions if he didn't get a little help from corrupt politicians, and there's a reason they helped him out.

Steve said...

as;dr

(Andrew Sullivan; didn't read)

NotYourTypicalNewYorker said...

"...a new level of utter blankness."

More blank than Obama?

More blank than Jeremy?

More blank than HDHouse?...more?

More blank than....Garage?

More blank than....

Eric said...

so didnt we already establish that AS is prone to nonsensical arguments...

Many, many times over.

Penny said...

This is a woman who wanted to be on the Supreme Court since she was in high school. Not only is she bright, but she has extraordinary emotional intelligence to keep her eye on the prize for over 30 years.

It appears that she lived her entire adult life with this moment in mind. That is incomprehensible for most of us who have lived many lifetimes, and mostly not so private, over that same period of time.

To liken this talent to anything administrative is to do her a disservice. Even to call her a "strategist" would be using the term lightly.

It is no wonder that both the right and the left are uneasy.

Penny said...

Earlier I was reading comments on a left wing site, and there was a general sense of panic that Kagan was not the nominee that the liberals could count on to support their agenda.

One of the commenters left a very interesting theory. He opined that Obama, by moving the progressive intentions closer to the middle, was in fact moving republicans further and further right in order to take over the center for the democrats. The center is, in fact, where elections are won and lost.

AJ Lynch said...

With her ample chins, I think you meant to type "Udder" blankness. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

AJ Lynch said...

Kagan is sure to be a far left liberal.

El Pollo Real said...

Penny wrote: Obama, by moving the progressive intentions closer to the middle, was in fact moving republicans further and further right in order to take over the center for the democrats.

That also explains why Palin endorsed Fiorina for the CA Senate seat. She (Fiorina) is not the most conservative republican on the ballot (Devore is). But Fiorina has a better claim to the middle ground and makes Boxer look like a ChiComm leftist.

El Pollo Real said...

Should have begun that last comment with:

Penny, that theory also explains why...

Lance said...

That also explains why Palin endorsed Fiorina for the CA Senate seat. She (Fiorina) is not the most conservative republican on the ballot (Devore is). But Fiorina has a better claim to the middle ground and makes Boxer look like a ChiComm leftist.

By that reasoning, Palin should have endorsed Kaus, no?

c3 said...

by moving the progressive intentions closer to the middle, was in fact moving republicans further and further right in order to take over the center for the democrats. The center is, in fact, where elections are won and lost.

Rebranding

New Coke

Penny said...

Nothing about Palin strikes me as someone interested in moving republicans to the center, El Pollo. If anything, the endorsement of Fiorino is more likely Palin being practical about just how liberal California voters have always been. EVEN the republicans.

c3 said...

Sorry,
given the core African American demographic I should have said:

Crystal Pepsi

El Pollo Real said...

Lance wrote: By that reasoning, Palin should have endorsed Kaus, no?

I guess if Kaus were on the republican ballot, yes.

"Differences in degree lead to differences in kind." --John Barth The Floating Opera

traditionalguy said...

Kagan is best analysed on her instinctive reaction to Traditional Authorities that are the content of THE LAW in its past, present and future expression. The "destroy the society for its own good" types we call Communists. The "preserve the best in social institutions and re-work its expression as life zooms on" we call pragmatic Conservatives. A pragmatic conservative duck is the best nominee that we can hope for, and she is beginning to quack more and more like that duck.

El Pollo Real said...

Penny wrote Nothing about Palin strikes me as someone interested in moving republicans to the center, El Pollo.

Well I guess you've internalized the Sullivaneque portrait of Palin then haven't you? :)

El Pollo Real said...

I mean, Sullivan himself could have said what you just did.

Polly want a cracker?

Lem said...

Trolling for Kagan...

On Dec 3 1991 Kagan sat thru a Harvard Club sponsored panel of journalists and legal experts discussing the confirmation process for appointees to the Supreme Court..

At that time, the most recent confirmation battle had been Thomas.

She sat in the front row - you can see her @ 04:56

Penny said...

"Polly want a cracker?"

If you knew me better, you'd know that I NEVER turn down an offer of food when it's snack time.

While I'm noshing, maybe you could make your case for Palin having a centrist bent?

Irene said...

Sullivan also is tapping into President Obama's use of the "blank slate" phrase to criticize the nomination of Harriet Myers.

El Pollo Real said...

While I'm noshing, maybe you could make your case for Palin having a centrist bent?

That's pretty much what's left over after you factor out all the lies and smears that we've heard for the last 20 months or so.

bon appetit!

Fred4Pres said...

I assume she is a ultra lefty wackajob. Does Sullivan mean she will suprise in a good way for the left or a bad way? Every indication is she is very liberal but wants to be perceived as fair. Am I missing something here?

Paddy O. said...

"If anything, the endorsement of Fiorino is more likely Palin being practical about just how liberal California voters have always been. EVEN the republicans."

This might be true. My interpretation when I heard about it, though, was that A) Palin really is a neo-feminist, so she will push the actually successful woman leader and B)Fiorino is a political outsider, and Palin recognizes with most of California that neither state republicans or democrats deserve re-election to anything. The state Republican party is an absolute screw-up, so anyone involved in that should not be given a chance for a higher office.

Plus, it's a mistake to say that "California" voters have always been liberal. Los Angeles and Bay Area voters have always been liberal. The rest of the state is pretty conservative.

Penny said...

Andrew Sullivan is responsible for his own views, El Pollo. Trying to somehow tie my comments to his views is an unfair stretch. It would be interesting to know, however, how many here would agree with you that Palin sometimes puts on her "centrist hat"? I surely wouldn't have a problem with that, but I think many of her died in the wool followers might feel differently.

madawaskan said...

When was the last time a liberal Supreme Court appointee turned Conservative once on the Court?

Ya, that's what I thought...

Please,who does anyone think they are kidding?

The media types and bloggers might want to create drama but it's all just-

Sturm und "Drag".

edutcher said...

David said...

Kagan free day?

The next one is likely to be sometime after 2051. In that year, she will be 81 years old and still on the Supreme Court.

As a 50 year old healthy female, her present life expectancy is probably about 90 years old.


Healthy? She smokes and is a good 40 or so pounds overweight. After 10 years, it's even money.

WV "curedne" What happens after Mommy kiss and make all better.

GMay said...

"When was the last time a liberal Supreme Court appointee turned Conservative once on the Court?

Ya, that's what I thought..."


It's sort of like that unwritten law about charitable foundations - those that aren't expressly conservative always veer left.

El Pollo Real said...

Sturm und "Drag".

LOL! Was that a reference to the Klinger who came up with the original, or the one in drag on M*A*S*H?

SteveR said...

Put me down in the camp of those expecting her to be reliably on in the same group that Stevens is. Her blankness makes her a perfect choice.

They know exactly who they're nominating.

Kirby Olson said...

Did Souter fly under the radar? Is Kagan flying under the gaydar?

El Pollo Real said...

Penny wrote ...died in the wool followers.

Hey that good gentle flock ain't dead yet! :)

danielle said...

do you really think that both Clinton and Obama would have nominated a person for the court of appeals and sol. gen. and the supreme court without having any idea what they believed ? she also worked for Biden and was WH counsel for Clinton, and taught with Obama and Chicago Law School. Really, do you think she is an unknown quantity to dem insiders ?

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Pogo said...

Given her lefty friends and Harvard bona fides, Kagan will be a strict deconstructionist, that much is certain.

The only real mystery is whether she'll be more partial to Marx or Engels, hence Sullivan's anxiety.

Peter V. Bella said...

Um Danielle,
Working for Biden is not exactly a sterling qualification. He is, after all, the dumbest White man in the world. Unless, she was his brain.

GMay said...

"as;dr

(Andrew Sullivan; didn't read)"


I'm calling it here. Thread winner.

holdfast said...

garage mahal said...

I think it's hilarious Sullivan and David Brooks are complaining about someone else being an elitist insider.

Holy sh*t! I agree with garage - though I'd add that Sullivan is not as much of an insider as he wants to be.

themightypuck said...

Is there anyone on the Supreme Court today who has done anything other than exploit a sinecure?

Penny said...

Sullivan knows he isn't an "insider".

It's driving him crazy that he isn't.

If there is any beauty at all to this Kagen story, it is that she has so many...both right and left...thinking as best they can in order to figure her out before they go on record in support of her, or against her.

ONE woman. One SINGLE, CHILDLESS, BIGGER PICTURE, TOTALLY DEDICATED, seemingly SELF SERVING ASSHOLE who refuses to be a "KNOWN entity".

What's left to say? Other than than she isn't like us?

And herein lay the beauty of just how EASILY both the right and the left can find "common ground".

It's the "common ground" of distrust.

Penny said...

"It's the "common ground" of distrust."

All in all, I'd like to see the commenters here turn to their INSTINCTS for an answer on how to proceed.

Kagan is most definitely a blank slate. Obama was as well.

Let "what you know", move you.

Let "what you don't know, drive you."

Moira Breen said...

Pogo: ...Kagan will be a strict deconstructionist...

Is "stict deconstuctionist" an original Pogo play on words? (I've not heard it before; but at any rate, it's a good one.)


wv: culat. The Tea Partiers are the new sans-culats.

Roux said...

Souterific!!! Ouch that hurts

Calypso Facto said...

Obama has known Kagan for 20 years...he's confident they share a common "Constitution-as-more-of-a-suggestion" political philosophy.

madawaskan said...

Pollo-

Ya! I never thought of that Klinger qo-wink-a dink-ha!

former law student said...

As a woman and a smoker, if she makes it to 55 she'll likely live to be 70 at least. Women who smoke are more likely than either non-smoking women or men who smoke to croak from lung cancer from 40 to 55.

I'd like to see what condition her lungs are in. She may not be on the Court for long.

Omaha1 said...

Andrew is just suspicious of Elena Kagan because she is a powerful woman. He wasn't bothered in the least by the "blankness" of Obama's still unrevealed record.

I explore his "flexible" standards on education & elitism here:

Link