Michael D. Shear: What Obama Sees in Kagan





[Michael D. Shear is a staff writer for the Washington Post.]

It's Kagan!

Why is President Obama choosing his solicitor general, Elena Kagan, as his second nominee to the U.S Supreme Court? By all accounts, Obama wants someone who can serve as a counterweight to the intellectual heft of Chief Justice John Roberts. Regardless of how strong a liberal Kagan would prove to be, as a former dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan practically defines legal gravitas.

She's also a female, which adds to the court's gender diversity. She's young, at 50, which means she could be on the court for a quarter century. And she's never been a judge, which gives her a quality that Obama is known to have been seeking: someone to bring a different sensibility to a court that's currently dominated by judges.

That particular lack of experience also means she does not have a long record of controversial rulings that could provide fodder for the presidents political opponents.

On the other hand, Kagan is by no means a radically different pick from any of the court's current members. In some ways, she would add to the cloistered, East Coast mentality of the current court. Her lack of judicial experience could be a negative, especially with a public that thinks being a judge is pretty important.

Many of the current justices hail from New York, or have ties to the city. All but one are from east of the Mississippi River. Picking Kagan does not send a message that Obama wants the court to represent the country better geographically....


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