Monday, May 10, 2010
About Elena Kagan
If you are watching from the right, you probably want to know a little more about Elena Kagan. You’ll find what you need to know here.
As for me, I’m not seeing much stomach for a fight over her--but that just might be me projecting. I don’t mind her lack of judicial experience and, for the most part, don’t find anything particularly objectionable about her. She isn’t the person that I would choose (or even hope for), but I think she falls within that reasonable space where the President is allowed to choose candidates for the high courts that match his beliefs.
Not that her past doesn’t invite some criticism and question.
Keeping in mind that I am in favor of allowing gays to openly serve in the military, her decision as dean of Harvard’s law school to ban military recruiters from using the school’s recruitment office is one that I find personally offensive. It’s the one thing that I’ve seen so far in her record that makes me want to see the GOP fight the nomination. Peter Beinart gets it right when he says this:
Not allowing openly gay and lesbian Americans into the military is a grave moral injustice and it is a disgrace that so many Republicans defend the policy to this day. But the response that Kagan favored banning military recruiters from campus—was stupid and counterproductive. I think it showed bad judgment.
The United States military is not Procter and Gamble. It is not just another employer. It is the institution whose members risk their lives to protect the country. You can disagree with the policies of the American military; you can even hate them, but you can’t alienate yourself from the institution without in a certain sense alienating yourself from the country. Barring the military from campus is a bit like barring the president or even the flag. It’s more than a statement of criticism; it’s a statement of national estrangement.
Now, I’m still listening to the debate, but I don’t think that our military is so brittle that it won’t survive the open service of patriotic gay and lesbian citizens. I find myself siding with Kagan on the substance of her argument if not with the actions that she took to support them; in that, I feel completely in line with Beinart. What I find most worrisome, though, isn’t that incident.
What I find most worrisome is that she abandoned her position when university president, Lawrance Summers, made it clear that Harvard was not willing to fight the battle. As a member of the Supreme Court, there will be no one acting as a pragmatic check on her more progressive ideals. When moved outside the realm where institutional politics play a role in tempering decision-making, what will she do?
She still seems a reasonable choice for the opening and I imagine that, unless something much worse comes to light, she will be confirmed. But it should also act as a good reminder of one of the reasons that the presidential elections are so important: whoever inherits that seat will likely be with us for decades to come, and many of the decisions that they make will be in complete opposition to our beliefs.