The Talking Dog

June 30, 2010, Nothing personal, just business

That of course, sums up the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings pertaining to the confirmation of Elena Kagan, currently Solicitor General of the United States, to the position of Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. I have listened to portions of the question and answer session on the radio, and heard hints of the current Republican challenge-point, to wit, the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom Ms. Kagan served as a law clerk in the 1980's, was "too Black activist."

Ms. Kagan's observations in the 1990's that these kinds of hearings featured inane questions and evasive, if any, "answers" seems applicable, although to be sure, her current role as Solicitor General does afford as many opportunities to duck discussion of specific pending cases as the usual nominees, federal appellate judges. (My feelings on the likely result of Justice Kagan's replacement of Justice Stevens are expressed here.)

So, no, the hearings are not the least bit enlightening in any sense of... enlightening, assuming the Senate's "advise and consent" role involves the Senate being enlightened in any way.

Unsurprisingly, these hearings have been subsumed by the only thing that seems to infuse government in the 21st century: fundraising. The questions, which the senators invariably seem to end by accusing Ms. Kagan of not answering, invariably drift toward the standard-issue hot button subjects such as abortion, gay marriage and gun control, although in the present case at least, with the occasional references to (heavens) the possibility that Ms. Kagan might not find that the President has dictatorial powers with respect to swarthy people deemed terrrrrorists (at least an interesting line of questions, given that, in this case, Ms. Kagan is likely to deviate significantly from Justice Stevens whom she is likely to replace). But that last line of questioning isn't dedicated to crackpots like me who believe that this country should at least try to be a constitutional republic adhering to its own rules... it's doubtless dedicated to the millions of potential donors who will be given the suggestion that a Justice Elena Kagan might not be willing to protect them from... you know... those people.

And similarly, "my" side will bombard me with descriptions of how only Justice Kagan can protect abortion rights, the environment, and presumably, race relations in this country, and so forth and such. And not just the Democratic Party and candidates, but Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, etc., etc. Most of the claims will be gross hyperbole, or of course, outright lies. But that's neither here nor there: the purpose of the entire exercise will be to extract political campaign cash from the rubes. This has been true for a while, of course. All I;m saying is that there used to be a pretext that something else was going on... maybe some exercise in civic virtue or something, maybe something that wasn't largely a comic book exercise in political stereotypes.

Otherwise, I really don't see what the big deal is. Harriet Miers was blatantly unqualified for the Supreme Court because she went to Southern Methodist University. Ms. Kagan, by contrast, is totally qualified, because she went to Princeton (as did Scam Alito and Sonia Sotomayor; Kagan then went on to Harvard Law... that and/or Yale now being the almae matrae of all nine justices assuming she is confirmed). Don't you see that this is an absolute qualification for the Supreme Court? Frankly, one wonders what we were all thinking with this John Paul Stevens guy, who only went to Northwestern.

My point is that this is all a hollow exercise: Ms. Kagan will be confirmed as Ms. Justice Kagan by the Senate; the only suspense will be how many more senators than the 59 senators who caucus with the Democrats (who will vote on party line) believe it will politically benefit them to vote against her, to make whatever statement they need... to raise campaign cash. And "my side" will make the same point. "Ever thus" is certainly not inaccurate... I'll just say that I vaguely remember a time when these kinds of civic proceedings at least seemed more interesting than all that. Indeed, I remember a time when life in America (and life in general) seemed more interesting than a grand exercise in money-grubbing. But then.,. I'm kind of getting old...