Monday, May 10, 2010

And The Vacuous Farce Begins...

So president Obama picked Elena Kagan as the nominee for the SCOTUS, and right away the silly dance begins, the one which is exemplified here:

In the latest evidence that National Review Online's Ed Whelan is just throwing everything he can at the wall and hoping something sticks to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, Whelan is now attacking her for... not learning to drive until her late 20s. According to Whelan, this "nicely captures Elena Kagan's remoteness from the lives of most Americans."


Putting aside for a second the deeply bizarre idea that one's ability to drive should be a qualification or disqualification for high office, as the article Whelan quotes from points out, Kagan grew up in New York City, which is one of the most walkable cities in the country and has one of the best public transportation systems nationwide. You don't need a license if you live in NYC, and in fact a large percentage of New Yorkers don't have one: New York City has 5.6 million residents over age 25, but only 3.3 million residents have drivers' licenses.

That was the first waltz. The conservatives suggested something ridiculous and Media Matters scribbled their name on its dance card.

And here Echidne sits typing away on something utterly trivial but designed as part of the whole wingnut campaign of throwing everything at the nominee and seeing what sticks. Because if all that sticks is Kagan's origins in the Sodom of the Atlantic Coast, the wingnuts have done well.

So we really shouldn't oblige them on every little thing, because they want that. Sit out a dance or two. That's my advice when it comes to dances where the wingnuts insist on leading.

Not all criticism of Kagan is of that kind, and dancing the tango of criticizing and studying her legal opinions is good. But I agree with Kagan when she criticized the SCOTUS nomination process:

Fifteen years before she was nominated to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan wrote in a book review that the confirmation process for justices had become a "farce," and that senators should press for detailed accounts of a nominee's views.

"When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues," Kagan wrote in a review of The Confirmation Mess by Stephen Carter, "the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce, and the Senate becomes incapable of either properly evaluating nominees or appropriately educating the public."

All this begins in the public conversation and is then included in the actual confirmation process.

I'm going to study Kagan's opinions and her past experience before I write on that in any detail. Right now I'm going to cover the reception of Obama's announcement and anything having to do with her gender. The latter is taken up in the next post.