May 12, 2010 [LINK / comment]
The person President Obama nominated to the Supreme Court this week, Elena Kagan, was widely considered among the most likely candidates. Aside from her lack of judicial experience per se, she seems eminently qualified. There is little doubt that she is on the left-liberal side of the political spectrum, and the only question is how far in that direction. The mainstream media is promoting her as a non-ideological pragmatist who earned a reputation as a reconciler as a faculty administrator at Harvard. (She also caused some controversy there by restricting the activities of military recruiters.)
Ironically, Kagan if approved would contradict one of President Obama's highest priorities in naming government officials: diversity. Tuesday's Washington Post had a fascinating article surveying the professional backgrounds of past Supreme Court justices, and pointed out two curious items:
If she is confirmed, the court would be filled with justices who attended law school at either Harvard or Yale, although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School. And because Kagan is Jewish, for the first time in its history, the court would be without a Protestant justice: It would be composed of six Catholics and three Jews.
In other words, SCOTUS is quite elitist in terms of the Eastern Establishment academic world, but lacks the religious attribute that once was considered a defining element of the Establishment -- WASPhood. The article also alludes to aspects of Prof. Kagan's personal life which really ought to be kept private. The last thing we want in the Senate confirmation hearings is pointless inquiries and innuendos that have no bearing on the nominee's suitability for the job. Don't "bork" Kagan!
In the aftermath of the passage of the health care bill via the highly partisan "nuclear option," it was expected that the Senate would be too deeply divided and acrimonious to get much important work accomplished for the rest of the year. Somehow, it seems, the tradition of comity and collegiality has survived, according to some reports on Capitol Hill. I have mixed feelings about that; I certainly don't think the majority party should be let off the hook that easily for the way they forced Obamacare into law.
Accordingly, I have updated the Supreme Court chronology page, including Prof. Kagan's name with a question mark, since her confirmation is not necessarily a sure thing. I also made more clear the timing of the transitions from one Supreme Court justice to the next one. Usually, they announce their retirement during the early months of the year, so that a replacement can be selected, nominated, vetted, and approved by the Senate in time for the fall session, which begins in October. But sometimes it doesn't work out that way, or there are unusual delays in the confirmation process, as was the case when Robert Bork was "borked" in 1987, and the second pick Douglas Ginsburg (no relation to Ruth Bader Ginsburg) dropped out, and the third choice, Anthony Kennedy, finally was confirmed in early 1988.
Almost no one noticed, amidst the hue and cry over Arizona's new law cracking down on illegal immigration, but President Obama quietly set aside his plans to push for major immigration reform legislation. In the wake of his big triumph over health care reform, it was expected that immigrants would be next on his ambitious agenda. No such luck, it's too much of a hot potato now. In the Washington Post two weeks ago, Dana Milbank lamented the President's "fatal flinch on immigration reform."
Personally, I think it's just as well, since the President cannot seem to grasp the connection between immigration and entitlements, which he steadfastly refuses to reform. (Unless you consider more unaffordable entitlements such as health care to be "reform," that is.) To put it another way, it is precisely because much of our economy has come to rely upon a large number of un-entitled (i.e., illegal) workers that makes Obamacare feasible.