The attacks on recently-nominated Elena Kagan (for the Supreme Court) – and many more – are to be expected from the right. In fact, it’s safe and predictable to say that even if Obama had nominated a second iteration of Scalia, there’d be scorn and calls for someone “less liberal”. Which is why Obama should have nominated a replacement for Stevens who was at or to the left of him on the ideological spectrum. But that Obama did not indicates yet again, among other things, that Obama himself is not a terribly liberal liberal.
Kagan not being a trial lawyer isn’t much of a concern. And certainly her arguments as Solicitor General should not reflect upon her own personal views (but, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out, her arguments for good things should be taken with the same salt as her arguments for bad things). However, Kagan should be held accountable while in her role as a White House advisor – her (freely given) advice urging a ban on late-term abortions should be attributed to her.
However, the tendency for progressives to compromise on the Obama administration’s conservative actions is exactly the wrong thing to do. The right is much more disciplined (and consequently much more successful, albeit for other reasons as well) in this regard – take Harriet Miers, for instance. Bush came out with a less-than-stellar conservative pick, and he was embarrassed into withdrawing her nomination by the right – correctly so.
If Obama was widely panned and embarrassed for choosing a moderate, unknown nominee to replace the most liberal member of the Supreme Court, then he would be less (not more) inclined to be moderate. While progressives/liberals/people allow their values to be compromised by the guy elected (largely by left or left-leaning activists) without protest, Obama will just continue making the same, conservative moves.
This post was written by Jeff Napolitano on May 11, 2010