Tell us a little about yourself

Supreme Court nominee's views, philosophies are a mystery to many
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
President Barack Obama introduced Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his choice for Supreme Court Justice in the East Room of the White House on Monday.

 

Supreme Court confirmations, even foreordained ones, should not be done lightly or quickly.

So, as inevitable as Elena Kagan's Senate approval seems to be, and as quickly as the president would like to see it finished, it pays to go slowly, deliberately and thoroughly.

Kagan herself has made that argument in the past.

Indeed, even if the solicitor general is destined to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, it would be nice to know more about her. It is a lifetime appointment, after all.

If there's nothing to hide -- and certainly the White House believes that to be true -- what's the harm in a thorough examination?

Republicans can raise a fuss, and will: While she showed rare magnanimity toward conservatives as dean of Harvard Law School, former Attorney General Ed Meese notes Kagan once wrote that the court primarily exists to look out for the "despised and disadvantaged." Funny -- we thought it was to uphold the law.

Conservatives will also point to her ban on military recruiters at Harvard, and will label her as a liberal activist. She also apparently supported views of the Constitution as "defective." Pro-life advocates call her an ardent abortion supporter.

This editorial page is concerned by all those things. But who can say they are surprised? Elections have consequences, after all, and Supreme Court nominations are some of the most long-lasting. Absent some scandal that throws the Earth off its axis, President Obama will get his nominee confirmed.

Immediate reaction from both the left and right seemed to indicate Kagan wasn't as far-left as other picks might have been -- or maybe even as liberal as Stevens. Maybe that's the best one can hope for under the circumstances.

Kagan will be questioned about her lack of experience, and should be. "Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost legal minds," Obama says. That's awfully high praise, but we may have to take the president's word for it, since her resume is fairly impressive on its face, but amazingly thin for an office of this magnitude.

It's not just conservatives making that observation, either.

Liberal blogger Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com said, "Accepting Kagan just because people like Obama is wrong. That's appropriate for 'American Idol,' not the Supreme Court. Nobody knows what she stands for but him."

"She basically has such a scanty academic record, and she hasn't written anything at all outside the strictly academic context. And she hasn't been a judge. There's no public record at all to speak of to evaluate her on, which is really a very strange situation," liberal University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos was quoted on Politico.com.

Even CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin -- a longtime friend and former study group partner of Kagan's at law school -- admitted, "I am somewhat at a loss. ... (H)er own views were and are something of a mystery."

At the end of the day, though, it's unlikely her nomination will be turned back.

Unless the confirmation process is as comprehensive as Elena Kagan herself has suggested it should be for other nominees, we may not truly know what we're getting for years.

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