Take a close look at Kagan nomination

Published 10:14 am Friday, May 14, 2010

President Obama has nominated U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. Barring a shocking revelation of misconduct Ms. Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate in a process that is little more than nonsensical.

One of the reasons the American people are fed up with their elected officials is the game playing politics that serves no citizen. The confirmation process for a Supreme Court Justice serves as a perfect example why voters want to send them all home.

Kagan has a history that certainly qualifies her for the court, but also leaves many questions about how she might make decisions once on the court. Will she be a liberal in the mold of the retiring Justice Stevens whose seat she would take? Or will she be a conservative on an already conservative court?

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Since Kagan has not served as a judge, as has been true for about half of the 20th century justices, she lacks a judicial record. For progressives that raises a serious concern since the Stevens seat has often been that of the Lone Liberal. Replacing him with any one other than a liberal would, for progressives, greatly weaken an already right tilting court. For conservatives, if President Obama likes Kagan, they assume they will not like Kagan. They may be right.

All of this sets the stage for the Senate to actually do its job of vetting a candidate for a lifetime appointment. But will the Senate conduct a competent, thorough assessment of nominee Kagan? Absolutely not.

Democrats, who hold the majority in the Senate will not ask Kagan any difficult questions, preferring to grant their president his choice and preferring to win any victory they can in this election year. For them the goal is to avoid embarrassment before the fall elections.

Republicans will be fun to watch if you like America’s tradition of mud tossing politics. In the first few days since the nomination they have already begun their entertainment spectacle.

Senator Cornyn of Texas has lighted the fire by questioning Kagan’s qualifications since she has not served as a judge previously. This might have been seen as a serious concern from the senator had he not spoken in favor of no judicial experience for a Supreme Court nominee in defending the Bush nominee Harriet Miers.

Radio has, as usual, been less responsible in its criticisms of Kagan in this first week of discussion. Michael Savage has declared that the candidate is “ugly.” Not sure how appearance is an issue here, but then objectivity would not be a concern of Mr. Savage.

And the Internet has had its own form of outrageous charges, the first being that Kagan is a closet homosexual. This charge is made entirely free of evidence and contrary to the statements made by the White House about the candidate’s sexuality. But the Internet is not exactly the place where facts thrive as much as gossip.

And then there is the Wall Street Journal, who selected from all pictures of nominee Kagan a picture of her playing softball 17 years ago. One can only imagine their intent in that photo selection, but the subliminal suggestion of homosexuality is certainly possible.

That would be troubling, considering how many young women play softball, the charge would suggest they may all be gay.

But in the end Americans want to kick them all out because rather than learn the thoughts of this nominee both sides will do anything but seek the truth. American theater at its worst will characterize this confirmation process.

We deserve better.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.