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NYT: Elena Kagan Is A Lot Like Obama

From her fans at the New York Times:

This 1993 photo provided by the University of Chicago Law School, shows assistant professor Elena Kagan at the university in Chicago.

A Climb Marked by Confidence and Canniness


May 10, 2010

WASHINGTON — She was a creature of Manhattan’s liberal, intellectual Upper West Side — a smart, witty girl who was bold enough at 13 to challenge her family’s rabbi over her bat mitzvah, cocky (or perhaps prescient) enough at 17 to pose for her high school yearbook in a judge’s robe with a gavel and a quotation from Felix Frankfurter, the Supreme Court justice, underneath.

She was the razor-sharp newspaper editor and history major at Princeton who examined American socialism, and the Supreme Court clerk for a legal giant, Thurgood Marshall, who nicknamed her “Shorty.” She was the reformed teenage smoker who confessed to the occasional cigar as she fought Big Tobacco for the Clinton administration, and the literature lover who reread Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” every year.

She was the opera-loving, poker-playing, glass-ceiling-shattering first woman to be dean of Harvard Law School, where she reached out to conservatives (she once held a dinner to honor Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) and healed bitter rifts on the faculty with gestures as simple as offering professors free lunch, just to get them talking.

Elena Kagan has been all of these things, charting a careful and, some might say, calculated path — never revealing too much of herself, never going too far out on a political limb — that has led her to the spot she occupies today: the first female solicitor general of the United States, who won confirmation with the support of some important Republicans, and now, at 50, President Obama’s nominee for the United States Supreme Court.

“Elena is open-minded, pragmatic and progressive,” said Walter Dellinger, a former acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration who is close to both Ms. Kagan and the White House. “Each of those qualities will appeal to some, and not to others.

“Her open-mindedness may disappoint some who want a sure liberal vote on almost every issue. Her pragmatism may disappoint those who believe that mechanical logic can decide all cases. And her progressive personal values will not endear her to the hard right. But that is exactly the combination the president was seeking.”

“Open-minded, pragmatic, and progressive.” — Gee, the New York Times describes Ms. Kagan much like they did Mr. Obama, before he was elected. Funny, how he turned out to be so different from what was advertised.

She even smokes!

In some respects, Ms. Kagan’s traits — her desire to build consensus through persuasion, her people skills, her ability to listen to others — mirror those Mr. Obama sees in himself. They are qualities that the president hopes will play out in a leadership role on a deeply divided court

Yes, the way Mr. Obama has gotten his way, such as with healthcare, certainly show his “desire to build consensus through persuasion, her people skills, her ability to listen to others.” What a laugh.

Ms. Kagan’s paper trail is scant, her academic writings painstakingly nonideological. And unlike Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a fellow New Yorker and Princeton graduate, who has written and spoken extensively about her childhood, Ms. Kagan, the daughter of a lawyer and a schoolteacher, is more private. During her academic and public life, she has rarely spoken of her political beliefs

Yet as a young writer for The Princetonian, the student newspaper at Princeton, Ms. Kagan offered clear insight into her worldview. She had spent the summer of 1980 working to elect a liberal Democrat, Liz Holtzman, to the Senate. On Election Night, she drowned her sorrow in vodka and tonic as Ronald Reagan took the White House and Ms. Holtzman lost to “an ultraconservative machine politician,” she wrote, named Alfonse D’Amato.

“Where I grew up — on Manhattan’s Upper West Side — nobody ever admitted to voting for Republicans,” Ms. Kagan wrote, in a kind of Democrat’s lament. She described the Manhattan of her childhood, where those who won office were “real Democrats — not the closet Republicans that one sees so often these days but men and women committed to liberal principles and motivated by the ideal of an affirmative and compassionate government.”

Yes, she sounds incredibly open-minded.

Ms. Kagan, the middle of three children, grew up in a family that… they lived in a third-floor apartment at West End Avenue and 75th Street that was comfortable, but not fancy, in the days before the Upper West Side became trendy.

Her mother, Gloria, who died two years ago, taught fifth and sixth grade at Hunter College Elementary School, which Elena attended as a young girl. Her brothers followed their mother’s footsteps. Marc, a onetime subway worker and union activist, teaches social studies at the Bronx High School of Science, while Irving teaches social studies at Hunter College High

Robert Kagan, who died in 1994, represented tenant associations whose rental apartments were being converted to co-ops. A graduate of Yale Law (he was said to have been crushed when his daughter was accepted there but chose Harvard Law instead), he was also immersed in the politics and culture of the West Side.

He fought the controversial Westway highway project as chairman of Community Board 7, an influential citizens’ advisory group…

Which was ultimately stopped when a federal judge decided with people like Mr. Kagan, who decided that Westway might hurt the Striped Bass. The billions of taxpayer dollars allocated for the project just disappeared into the city’s (union) coffers.

The young Ms. Kagan was independent and strong-willed. Mr. Lubic recalls her bat mitzvah — or bas mitzvah, as it was then called — in a conservative synagogue, where Elena clashed with the rabbi over some aspect of the ceremony.

“She had strong opinions about what a bas mitzvah should be like, which didn’t parallel the wishes of the rabbi,” he said. “But they finally worked it out. She negotiated with the rabbi and came to a conclusion that satisfied everybody.”

So at 12 or 13 years old, Ms. Kagan thought she knew more about Jewish law and customs than the synagogue’s rabbi. One wonders how she feels about the Founding Fathers and ‘precedence’ in general.

As a history major [at Princeton University], Ms. Kagan was reflective and thoughtful, said Prof. Sean Wilentz, her senior thesis adviser, who guided her on an exploration of the history of American radicalism.

She titled the thesis “To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933,” and used the acknowledgments to thank her brother Marc, whose “involvement in radical causes,” she wrote, “led me to explore the history of American radicalism in the hope of clarifying my own political ideas.”

In 153 pages, the paper examines why, despite the rise of the labor movement, the Socialist Party lost political traction in the United States — a loss that she attributed to fissures and feuding within the movement. “The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism’s decline, still wish to change America,” she wrote.

If that sounds like a defense of socialism, Mr. Wilentz insists that is not the case.

“She was interested in it,” he said. “To study something is not to endorse it.”

No, of course not. And Mr. Obama didn’t "endorse" Saul Alinsky, either.

By the way, Mr. Wilentz’s historical ‘scholarship’ has focused on the importance of class and race in the early national period, especially in New York City. Which fits in nicely with Mr. Obama’s general agenda.

Wilentz is a long-time family friend of the Clintons. He appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to argue against the Clinton impeachment. He told the House members that if they voted for impeachment, "history will track you down and condemn you for your cravenness."

In 2006 he wrote an article about the George W. Bush presidency, titled "The Worst President in History?" which appeared in Rolling Stone magazine.

Apart from her life as a student journalist, Ms. Kagan also dabbled in politics, working as a summer intern for [the leftist] Representative Ted Weiss, Democrat of New York, and later as an assistant press secretary for [the leftist] Ms. Holtzman, who was a congresswoman. In her senior year, she signed a manifesto, along with Mr. Spitzer and six others, under the rubric “Campaign for a Democratic University,” arguing for students to have a greater voice in university governance — an effort that fell apart, one member said, when its adherents left for spring break…

Ms. Kagan enrolled in law school at Harvard, where, predictably perhaps, she made law review at the end of her second year. It was a time of deep political divisions on the law school campus, but Jeffrey Toobin, a classmate and close friend of Ms. Kagan’s who today covers legal issues for The New Yorker and CNN, recalls that Ms. Kagan had an uncanny ability to navigate the philosophical disputes that erupted on the law review board over what kind of articles to publish…

Gosh, once again she sounds just like Mr. Obama. Or at least what we are told about Mr. Obama.

She went on to win two plum clerkships, first for [the lefist] Judge Abner Mikva, of the federal appeals court in Washington, and then for [the leftist] Justice Marshall, where she impressed the male clerks by joining their pickup basketball games in the court’s top-floor gym..

In 1991, having acquired two years of real-world experience practicing law, she joined the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School. That same year, another bright young lawyer and Illinois state senator, Barack Obama, began teaching constitutional law there on the side. Unlike Mr. Obama, who held the title of lecturer, Ms. Kagan was hired as a full-time faculty member, on a tenure track

Yet another similarity.

She was granted tenure in 1995, despite the reservations of some colleagues who thought she had not published enough. Shortly thereafter, Washington beckoned. Judge Mikva was Mr. Clinton’s White House counsel. Remembering Ms. Kagan as a very bright law clerk — “the pick of the litter” from her year, Mr. Mikva said in an interview — he wanted her to be one of his associates…

While she was respected inside the Clinton White House for her smarts (she would often bat around constitutional law questions with the president), one Clinton colleague, Jamie Gorelick, told The New York Sun in 2006 that Ms. Kagan was seen by some as brusque and overly demanding. She sometimes rubbed people in the Justice Department the wrong way

The tug of academia was powerful for Ms. Kagan, and in 1999, with her time in the White House winding down, she tried to return to Chicago but was rebuffed

Hmmm. And yet she was so popular, they say.

Ms. Kagan landed a visiting professorship at Harvard Law; two years later, she was named a full professor. Two years after that, in 2003, Harvard’s president, Lawrence Summers (now Mr. Obama’s top economics adviser) named her dean…

Perhaps surprisingly for someone so prominent in academia, Ms. Kagan published very little. Except for her deep involvement in a fracas over whether military recruiters could use the law school’s facilities — and her strong antipathy toward the law barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces — Ms. Kagan did not write or speak out on the issues of the day…

When Ms. Kagan became United States solicitor general, the federal government’s top appellate lawyer, in March 2009, she had argued no cases in the United States Supreme Court and had, indeed, just recently become a member of its bar.

Six months later, she made her debut in a case that would turn out to be one of the court’s biggest decisions in recent years, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

She lost.

The court ruled against Ms. Kagan in January by a 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority. Now that decision, which allowed unlimited corporate spending in candidate elections, will figure most prominently in Ms. Kagan’s upcoming hearing. Mr. Obama has made the case a central theme of his argument that the court under Chief Justice Roberts is engaging in a conservative brand of judicial activism

Yet another important reason for Mr. Obama to have selected Ms. Kagan as his nominee. He wants to guarantee that the ‘Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission’ ruling will be overturned. (Of course Ms. Kagan won’t be required to recuse herself.)

After all, the Democrats can’t have corporations giving money to political campaigns. That might dilute the power of the unions. Maybe Ms. Kagan can rule that corporate contributions are a form of ‘hate speech.’  — Like socialism, another subject of her scant writings in college.

Still, the similarities with Mr. Obama are uncanny. No real life experience for the position. A near total absence of any legal writings. No record of her real political beliefs, apart from her obvious attraction to preachers of the radical left.

Ms. Kagan is a ‘stealth candidate,’ just like Mr. Obama was.

What could possibly go wrong?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, May 10th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

20 Responses to “NYT: Elena Kagan Is A Lot Like Obama”

  1. Petronius says:

    “who reread Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” every year.”

    How bizarre.

    If true, this stands in stark contrast to everything else that we know about Elena Kagan. Like putting earrings on a sow –– the juxtaposition is violent.

    • beautyofreason says:

      LOL my thoughts exactly, Petronius.

    • beautyofreason says:

      “The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism’s decline, still wish to change America,” she wrote. ”

      From this quote and the rest of the article, I think it is clear that she is a hard leftist and favors social “activism” through the court. Really concerned about her article on hate speech – does she support shutting down opposing ideas if she can characterize them as “hateful?”

      Her idea of American society is one of steady state revolution – some racial or cultural niche group is always oppressed; the laws are never fair, we must all band together in conscious resistance and throw tax dollars at every idea blah blah blah.

      Not one word about the Constitution or the limits of government.

      And we may be stuck with her for 30 years.

    • proreason says:

      “Her idea of American society is one of steady state revolution ”

      People like her are angry myopics.

      They only see the world that is immediately in front of their eyes:

      – She is angry that the Constitution somehos doesn’t grant special favors to homosexuals….despite the obvious fact that a person of average capability like herself has been lifted up to virtual sainthood..
      – Obamy is angry that the Constituion somehow doesn’t insure that multi this and multi that people are not singled out to make the rules for everybody else…despite the obvious fact that they are indeed singled out.

      So instead of seeing a framework that enables human achhievement like none other ever has; they see their own self-indulgent pain and suffering, as if everybody in the world does not have crosses to bear, and come to the self-indulgent conclusion that the very fabric of the country has to be discarded.

      And the political class is filled with morons like them. People re-directing their self-hatred for being something other than they want to be….at everybody but themselves.

    • BannedbytheTaliban says:

      I disagree pro; neither of these people has ever bore a damn thing. Other people have carried their water all their lives. And any idea or notion that they are part of a slighted or oppressed group is merely a facade used to pit the ingorants against the opposition in an us v. them mentality. It is all a show, as has been done since the rise of Marxism. It is them…those people over there…the Jews, the Romanovs, the bankers, rednecks, Tea Partiers, THE CAPITALIST…they are the ones who are responsible for your failures and short comings. They found out long ago the easiest way to get people to follow is to absolve them of their responsibility by openly blaming others.

    • proreason says:

      Banned, the fact that they have been carried around on a silk pillow all their lives doesn’t mean they aren’t angry about the hand they were dealt.

      In my view, that’s what drives them….anger. More so than any philosophy since 99.999% of people are motivated by self-interest, not a philosopy.

      I agree with you that they also exploit the self-disappointment of others in order to manipulate them and sieze power, but they do it because they feel the same way about themselves. That’s why they are successful demagogues. They can convince others because they “feel the pain” themselves, no matter how ludicrous it appears to an objective observor.

      I also agree that they are Marxists, but I doubt that either one is really an original thinker about it. Certainly for the Moron, he has never had a thought in his life other than those planted in his brain. I don’t know enough about the woman to say the same with certainty, but since she is obviously a silk pillow homosexual, it’s unlikely that she has a particularly good mind. She is one of many riding the wave instead of creating the wave.

      Perhaps there is an Affirmative Action Baby who is a leading-edge thinker, but I doubt it. And by “Affirmative Action Baby”, I mean someone who has been granted positions because of his or or demographics, not because of his or her abilities. It’s a huge problem for the country. Eric Holder is probably the most egregious example in history, but this lady appears to be a close second. Dean of the Legal Department at 43…..having never practiced law. Go explain that one with any other criteria than that she is a female homosexual.

    • BannedbytheTaliban says:

      You make good points pro, and I would agree with you if I believed anger and hatred is the same thing. Obama loves himself more than anything in the world, and anything that diminishes or mitigates him he hates. He hates that capitalism has made other people successful and not him. He hates that constitution applies to the individual because that holds him personally and solely responsible for the direction of his life. He hates those that are independent because he has been dependent upon others his whole life. He hates those that are self sufficient because they don’t need the government, i.e. him, to make it.

      I don’t anything about Mrs. Kagan; she might be an angry homosexual. Many of them are. She has most definitely be coddled her whole life. Personally, I think he picked her because she looks like Harry Potter.

  2. proreason says:

    Another one filled with a boiling rage against the people whose parents and grandparents built the greatest country in history….but who somehow neglected to give queers and layabouts the respect they think they deserve.

  3. RightWinger says:

    ““Elena is open-minded, pragmatic and progressive,”

    Bah. I’m tired of them using the word “progressive”. There is nothing in these people that is about progress, its all regressive. Hence from now on they should be referred to as “Regressives”.

    The definition fits perfectly – “2 : movement backward to a previous and especially worse or more primitive state or condition”.

    • Right of the People says:


      That fits this administration to a T.


      The only hate speech I’m hearing is coming from the regressive’s mouths.

  4. Skin in the game..

    Her recorded OBAMA donations..

    Kagan, Elena Ms
    Cambridge, MA 02140
    Harvard University/Professor OBAMA, BARACK (D) President
    primary 06/25/08

    Kagan, Elena Ms
    Cambridge, MA 02140
    Harvard University/Professor OBAMA, BARACK (D) President
    general 06/25/08

    Kagan, Elena Ms
    Cambridge, MA 02140
    Harvard University/Professor OBAMA, BARACK (D) President
    primary 06/25/08

    CAMBRIDGE, MA 02138
    general 04/15/04

    CAMBRIDGE, MA 02138
    primary 08/19/03

    • BannedbytheTaliban says:

      Looks like she was a conduit for some of those overseas contributions Obama recieved. I mean, how do you make three separate contributions in the same day, in four equal amounts?

  5. bill says:

    In other words, an airhead.

    Obama-Speak, the fusion of sophistry and Newspeak …

  6. catie says:

    Again, this is an affront to military members and she wants to cram the gays into the military as well. But these are two turds together.
    On another front, he’s put two fugly people on the SC.

  7. Liberals Make Great Speedbumps says:

    She was the reformed teenage smoker who confessed to the occasional cigar as she fought Big Tobacco for the Clinton administration,

    Cigar, Clinton??????? No comment.

  8. Mithrandir says:

    It may be time for all conservatives to move to states of their choice, VOTE for a conservative legislature, and eventually secede from the union and start over. The media and schools are so corrupted, this generation is totally lost.

    It’s a multi-step process, but perhaps in 10 – 30 years, it would be reality.

    • caligirl9 says:

      It’s funny, I was thinking the exact same thing, reading that Oklahoma’s Sen. James Inhofe has come out against this nomination, and I live in California and know that my elected reps are utterly prepared to rubber-stamp this nomination straight through, no problem.

      This week has been very trying, with the Morgan Hill t-shirt thing and all … aren’t we in the United States” Don’t we have a Constitution that has served us well for 225+ years? Sometimes I forget …

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