Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination: Liberals react

Mike Riggs Contributor
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Political writers and thinkers on the left have criticized Barack Obama for considering a SCOTUS nominee who’s not sufficiently to the left. This morning, as word spread that Elena Kagan would indeed be Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, liberals weighed in.

From the left:

  • At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin wrote: “The justices are not really managers of people, certainly not in comparison to the dean of a major law school. Judgment, values, and politics are what matters on the court. And here I am somewhat at a loss. Clearly, she’s a Democrat. She was a highly regarded member of the White House staff during the Clinton years, but her own views were and are something of a mystery. She has written relatively little, and nothing of great consequence.”
  • At Salon, Glenn Greenwald wrote: “It’s anything but surprising that President Obama has chosen Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Nothing is a better fit for this White House than a blank slate, institution-loyal, seemingly principle-free careerist who spent the last 15 months as the Obama administration’s lawyer vigorously defending every one of his assertions of extremely broad executive authority. The Obama administration is filled to the brim with exactly such individuals — as is reflected by its actions and policies — and this is just one more to add to the pile. The fact that she’ll be replacing someone like John Paul Stevens and likely sitting on the Supreme Court for the next three decades or so makes it much more consequential than most, but it is not a departure from the standard Obama approach.”
  • At the Washington Post’s Plumline blog, Greg Sargent wrote: “This is an easy pick at a time when many other tough decisions and battles loom. Despite a bunch of noise at the outset, she probably won’t have any real difficulty getting enough support from Republicans and liberal groups to ensure that her confirmation is relatively smooth.”
  • At the New Republic, Jeffrey Rosen wrote: “Obama has signaled that he wants a justice who can win Justice Anthony Kennedy to the liberal side of the court in 5-4 votes. Given Kagan’s demonstrated success winning over skeptical conservatives at every stage of her career, she seems ideally suited for this role. On the Harvard Law Review, as a clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall, and later as dean of Harvard Law School, she was liked and admired by people of widely different political perspectives. After her stint in the Clinton White House, where she was promoted from the White House counsel’s office to the domestic policy office because of her unique combination of legal ability and political skills, Kagan returned to Harvard Law as a professor and then dean. Her signal achievement was bringing together liberals and conservatives on faculty that was famously divided ideologically. Focusing on merits rather than ideology, she hired noted conservatives — such as Jack Goldsmith, the dissident Bush lawyer — ended public bickering, and convinced a formerly fractious faculty to vote unanimously on significant reform of the curriculum and grading system.”
  • At the American Prospect, Adam Serwer wrote: “The fact that Kagan avoided commenting on many of the most controversial issues of her day makes her a gamble.” (Also in TAP: “So, Elena Kagan is now our nominee for the Supreme Court. I will go into more detail about this later, but there shouldn’t be any sugarcoating — it’s a poor choice.”)
  • At Reason, Radley Balko wrote: “Kagan’s office also argued against expanding the rights of the accused and wrongly persecuted when a specific federal law wasn’t in question, such as when she argued that prosecutors who manufacture evidence that leads to the conviction of an innocent person should not be subject to lawsuits (Pottawatomie vs. McGhee), and that the Constitution’s Confrontation Clause doesn’t protect the right to cross examine forensic experts (Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts). Most recently in U.S. v. Stevens, her office argued in favor of a federal law banning the sale of videos depicting animal cruelty, taking a broadly censorious position that First Amendment rights be balanced with ‘societal costs.'”
  • In an e-mail statement obtained by the New York Daily News, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said: “I am thrilled to see another brilliant New York woman nominated to the Supreme Court. New Yorkers dream big, and nobody tells us what we can’t achieve, which is why so many women have excelled from entrepreneurs and academics to scientists and celebrities — and now Supreme Court justices. … Solicitor General Elena Kagan is a lifelong trailblazer and public servant, and would come to the high court with a broad range of qualifications. She was the first woman to serve in her role as solicitor general and the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School. … President Obama has made the right choice for the future of the Supreme Court, and I look forward to a swift and thoughtful nomination process, followed by confirmation before the August recess.”
  • At the Village Voice, Tom Robbins wrote: “It’s about time that a child of Manhattan’s Upper Left Side was nominated for the Supreme Court. There is no better school for debate than the corridors of upper Broadway and the aisles of Zabar’s where the opinions are stronger than the garlic bagels.”

To find out how Conservatives are reacting to the Kagan nomination, click here