It's more than a little tiresome to contemplate that every current liberal Supreme Court justice was touted by the national media as a moderate or even a conservative when they were originally announced, from John Paul Stevens to Sonia Sotomayor. Dan Rather even claimed the last retiree, David Souter, was dangerously "anti-women's rights" when he was nominated in 1990. So it was less than shocking that the latest liberal nominee, Elena Kagan, drew the same phony "moderate" baloney.
ABC anchor Diane Sawyer greeted the nomination with goo: "She is expected to play a role as somewhat of a conciliator, the bridge across the conservative and liberal wings of the court. In fact, she loves opera, which Justice Scalia loves." What more evidence of her judicial philosophy do we need? CBS reporter Lesley Stahl announced on MSNBC that she was a conciliator that could bring the two parties together, just like Obama, conveniently placing both of them in the political middle. Washington Post editorialist Eva Rodriguez even complained that her terrorist-detention cases as solicitor general might suggest she looks like a "hard-right ideologue who would have fit right in" with Team Bush.
As with Sotomayor & Co., media liberals greeted Kagan's record as a great mystery, and because of that, no one should "pigeonhole" this woman as a liberal. But there it was in black and white in a sympathetic New York Times profile. She spent the summer of 1980 working to elect a left-wing Democrat, Elizabeth Holtzman, to the Senate. "On Election Night, she drowned her sorrow in vodka and tonic as Ronald Reagan took the White House and Ms. Holtzman lost to 'an ultraconservative machine politician,' she wrote, named Alfonse D'Amato."
Maybe she's not a liberal. If she thinks Al D'Amato is an "ultraconservative," then she might just be a radical leftist.
What may be a little more surprising is that liberal reporters were touting Kagan as a centrist before Obama won the White House. On Oct. 30, 2008, National Public Radio legal reporter Nina Totenberg insisted Obama would name a woman to the high court, and "the names mentioned most often as possible Obama appointments tend to the center-left. They include federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor (who has the additional plus of being Hispanic), Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and some commentators have talked about Hillary Clinton."
There you have it: NPR's definition of a roomful of centrists.
On May 9, 2008, liberal CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin touted Kagan as an Obama pick: "She was counsel to President Clinton and clerked for Thurgood Marshall. So she would be an excellent choice." Despite these liberal associations, Kagan was not ideological at all, while John McCain would ruin the magic, since he would have picked "a very conservative type of judge." The Republicans are always picking an ultraconservative. The Democrats just have a great eye for quality.
Even back on March 5, 2004, a New York Times op-ed by Chris Sprigman argued that John Kerry should nominate a "shadow cabinet" to show voters how much more moderate and established his team would be. Kagan could have been prematurely declared Kerry's attorney general: "Elena Kagan, the first female dean of Harvard Law School and a former counsel to President Bill Clinton, could be shadow attorney general and draw attention to the worst excesses of John Ashcroft."
Kagan's complete lack of judicial experience would set the stage for controversy if the president were Republican. Remember Harriet Miers? Not even her real moderation helped in their eyes. The media blasted her, insisting there was more cronyism than qualifications there. But on some measures of the real world of lawyering, Miers had more experience than Kagan.
But the media don't question the qualifications of liberals. Anyone who's chosen the liberal side has already proven her intelligence. Anyone who's named dean of the Harvard Law School is "eminently qualified" to tell the rest of America what to think. And anyone who circulated in all the same Ivy League and Upper West Side "progressive" circles can't possibly be controversial.
The entire media jury pool on the matter of Kagan's ideology is galloping in the streets with their own liberal blinders firmly attached, like the New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, who infamously expressed the thought in 1972 that Richard Nixon couldn't possibly be elected, since "No one I know voted for Nixon."
And then they have the audacity to maintain they are the uniquely "open-minded" ones.