Before President Obama announced his nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, we parsed some statements from former President Bill Clinton that sounded an awful like an endorsement of Kagan. At the time of Clinton’s statements, Kagan was still trying to edge out several other candidates — e.g., Judges Merrick Garland, Sidney Thomas, and Diane Wood — for the SCOTUS slot. Clinton urged Obama to appoint someone who was (1) in her late 40s or early 50s and (2) not already a judge. Of the leading candidates at the time, only Kagan fit the bill.
Judges Garland, Thomas and Wood were all appointed to their positions by President Clinton, so you’d expect him to have warm feelings towards them. But perhaps he had the strongest relationship with Kagan, who worked closely with him in the White House (and sent him lovely, handwritten notes).
Over the weekend, Clinton gave an enthusiastic endorsement for his former White House staffer….
Clinton gave an interesting interview to the New York Times about the Divine Miss K. Reporter Carl Hulse describes how Kagan urged Clinton to veto new legislation that would curb lawsuits against the securities industry (advice that was contrary to the wishes of Clinton’s economic advisers):
“There she was, in her mid-30s starting out in her career, with the entire economic team, all of them against her position, and she knew it,” he said Friday in a phone interview, making his first extensive public comments about his onetime aide since her nomination to the Supreme Court.
“She stood there and defended her conclusion,” Mr. Clinton said. “It was very impressive. She was composed, direct and totally unfazed that all those guys wanted a different outcome.”
Mr. Clinton accepted her judgment and issued a surprise veto — one of two occasions when he was overridden by Congress.
Even though Clinton’s veto got overriden, it’s impressive that the young Kagan — a lawyer, not an economist — was able to persuade him to go down that path. Could her powers of persuasion work on a certain other centrist — namely, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy?
As hearings now approach on her nomination to the Supreme Court, Mr. Clinton said he saw her as a strong choice by President Obama.
“She was unfailingly meticulous in trying to determine what the law actually is and what the facts actually were,” he said. “She never let whatever feelings she had get in the way of doing that. I think she can be fair.”
Perhaps too fair to all sides, in the view of the most hardened members of the left? If you’re looking for a liberal ideological hack on the Court, Clinton suggests you look elsewhere:
“I think she is really sort of a common-sense progressive,” he said. “I think she has good liberal values, but she is also immensely practical, and I think she will be fair to both parties.”
Meanwhile, speaking of Clinton and Kagan, more documents from Lady Kaga’s service in the Clinton Administration have emerged. The most juicy tidbit? That the guarded Kagan, who never seems to say anything impolitic or inappropriate, dabbles in profanity. Adam Liptak and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report, in the New York Times:
Her writing could be earthy, with at least three messages using variations on the two most common swear words.
In one, she responded to a message with a single word, weaving one of them into “unbelievable.” In another, she said her staff should not take on empty tasks. “You should go,” she said, “but don’t volunteer us for the” scutwork — though she substituted an epithet for the first part of that last word.
Some might be troubled to learn about a cursing Kagan, but we find it refreshing. Maybe Kagan, who sometimes seems a bit too perfect — brilliant, well-liked, collegial — is human, after all.
And perhaps, with her salty language, she’ll be able to go toe-to-toe with Justice Antonin Scalia? Despite his conservative political views and staunchly Catholic religious views, Justice Scalia is known to use profanity in private. But if Nino thinks he can bulldoze Kagan in the justices’ conference, he’s s**t out of luck.
Nobody f**ks with The Kagan — not even a conservative legal luminary. Just ask Charles Fried….
Bill Clinton Speaks Out on Kagan [New York Times]
Kagan’s E-Mail at Clinton White House Reveals a Blunt, Savvy Legal Adviser [New York Times]