To critics, this sounds like a contradiction: the man urging civility engaging in incivility himself. But to the professorial mind, the contradiction may be invisible. University campuses, far from being open-minded forums of opinion, are the most closed-minded parts of our society, with speech codes and something resembling re-education classes for those who violate them.
University administrators seem to believe they have a moral obligation to suppress speech that displeases or offends them. Obama -- the self-proclaimed paragon of civility -- seems, like most professors, to regard Rush Limbaugh and Fox News as outside the bounds of legitimacy.
The one issue on which Kagan has voiced strong opinions is the ban on open gays in the military -- a stand pretty much universally held on campuses, but on which the nation beyond is divided. In barring military recruiters from Harvard Law School, she condemned "the military's discriminatory recruitment policy," "the military's discriminatory employment policy" and "the military's policy."
But it is not the military's policy. It's the law of the land, mandated by a bill passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Bill Clinton, in whose White House Kagan was nonetheless willing to serve.
As dean at Harvard Law, Kagan signed a brief that sought to overturn the law denying federal funds to universities that barred military recruiters. Yet that brief, written by one of the ablest Supreme Court advocates, Walter Dellinger, was nonetheless rejected by the justices by a vote of 8 to 0.
In nominating Kagan, Obama said he wanted a justice who understood "the real world." But it seems that he nominated someone who, on one important occasion, utterly misjudged the real world beyond the campus.
Of course, one might say the same of Obama himself, who has pushed big government policies that seem like no-brainers to most professors but have aroused passionate and principled opposition from the public at large. We are seeing what government by the faculty lounge looks like.