Greg Craig and Eliot Spitzer: Elena Kagan’s unusual surrogates
It seems an odd strategy for a White House that has carefully managed the roll-out for its Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan.
Making the case for Kagan on television this morning were Obama’s dumped lawyer, who was last seen advising Goldman Sachs on how to navigate a congressional feeding frenzy, and a former New York politician who resigned when his liaisons with a high-priced prostitute were revealed.
Greg Craig, formerly White House counsel, now an adviser to the bank holding company Goldman Sachs, told Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulus why the president picked Kagan. “It’s her personal and professional qualifications,” Craig said, adding that Kagan is a “really smart lawyer” and has an “extraordinary amount of experience in the law.”
Beyond explaining President Obama’s rationale behind the choice, Craig implied he had been briefed on Obama’s strategy for releasing documents related to Kagan when he said the White House would give the Senate Judiciary Committee memos she wrote as an adviser to President Clinton.
“I think the White House is prepared to release all the papers that the judiciary committee needs to make its decision,” Craig said, “She has a long record of service in the government, and I’m sure that they’ll be available to the Judiciary Committee to review and I can’t imagine there’s any problem with it.”
Craig’s statement raises questions. How does he know the administration’s strategy, since he no longer works at the White House? And what else, given his role advising Goldman Sachs, have they told him?
Also on the circuit today: Eliot Spitzer, the former Democratic governor of New York who resigned when it was revealed he purchased sex from high-priced call girls. (What was worse, Roger Stone says, were his droopy socks, which the call girls gawked at).
Spitzer has been attempting a comeback, as evidenced by his published articles on the financial crisis.
Now, he is making the case for Kagan, someone he has known for more than 30 years, since they became friends as Princeton undergrads.
Spitzer was asked if Kagan is a moderate, a description the White House and her allies have pushed. Spitzer was less than ringing in his endorsement of that: “I guess you could say moderate, but I would say she’s really thoughtful and then passionate about what she believes, but really careful about what she believes and that is why it’s very hard to pigeonhole her.”
Kagan has been careful, leaving such a short paper trail behind that her critics fear what they don’t know. Her diligent work avoiding taking a stand on most issues may have intended to shield her from scrutiny in the very situation she finds herself in today: a Supreme Court nominee. According to the New York Times, Kagan was planning her rise to the high court as far back as high school.
As the Times notes,
Although there was nothing judicial about the student government, in her senior yearbook Ms. Kagan, in wire-rimmed aviator glasses and long hair, is pictured on the group’s page wearing a judge’s robe, gavel in hand. Underneath is a quotation from Justice Frankfurter, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Government,” it reads, “is itself an art, one of the subtlest of arts.”
Nonetheless, Spitzer insisted Kagan “doesn’t take herself too seriously.”
Trying to avoid inadvertently harming his good friend’s reputation, Spitzer thought carefully before sharing any anecdotes about Kagan’s personality. “I gotta think of one that won’t cause any problems in Washington,” he said.