Paul Greenberg

In her testimony, Elena Kagan presented her treatment of the recruiters as no big deal. Not if it's going to stand between her and confirmation it isn't. Inflexible she isn't.

However the lady may change her opinions through the years, one thing will surely remain the same: She'll always emerge with a higher position. The Russians have a word for such: apparatchik, meaning a member of the apparatus. We call it the Establishment. Whatever the changing political tides, its members have a way of rising to the top.

Elena Kagan can turn on an FDR dime if that's what it takes to appease her critics. Another example: She was never a big fan of the Second Amendment before the recent Supreme Court decision upholding it. But now that the court has spoken, she recognizes a citizen's right to bear arms as an individual, not just as part of a collective force like the state militia. Because now it's precedent, "settled law," and just fine with her.

Oh, Stare Decisis! What smooth pivots can be executed in thy name! The most impressive thing about General Kagan's law is how its twists and turns always fit so neatly with her ambitions.

She may be a liberal, she may be a lifelong Democrat, she may share all the ideological habits you'd expect in a dean of Harvard Law in these politically correct times, but when push comes to shove, or rather nomination comes to confirmation, her bedrock principle comes to the fore. And it is a very American one: upward mobility.

A dear lady we once knew who had immigrated to this country between the wars used to say on encountering some smooth operator, "He'll do well in America." It's not that she wasn't impressed by such charmers, she just understood their basic principle, or lack of same. I have an idea she'd know Elena Kagan's type at a glance.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.