Friday, April 16, 2010


Greg Sargent and Zandar think the White House response to Ben Domenech's blog post about Elena Kagan means Kagan's a lock for the Supreme Court pick. I see the reasoning, but I'm not sure it's airtight.


... Just to catch you up, inexplicably published a piece by Ben Domenech ... claiming that a key segment of the Dem base would be pleased if Obama appointed the "first openly gay justice." This echoed an ongoing whisper campaign on the right about Kagan.

CBS initially refused to pull the piece, which prompted a scorched earth response from the White House that Howard Kurtz wrote up this morning....

... what's more interesting than CBS’s role is the White House's aggressive response. People who follow the ins and outs of nomination battles closely are interpreting it as a sign that Kagan has a very good shot at being picked. As one of these people put it to me this morning, this is the most hard-hitting pushback by the White House to misinformation being spread about any nominee....

Is there a connection between the degree of pushback and the White House's desire to elevate Kagan? I don't see why it's necessarily so.

This is a White House that won't defend nominees' and appointees' progressive principles, but will defend Kagan on this. I think that's because this administration simply doesn't go to the mat for progressivity, either out of an insatiable (and futile) desire to make nice or because of a lack of genuine commitment to uncompromised liberalism. The Kagan situation is different. She's not, as Domenech described her, an out lesbian. So this is personal, not ideological. The Obama White House is fighting harder because it will go to the mat where ideology isn't the issue.

If anything, I'd say that the hospital visitation rule change might be a sign that Obama is going to pick someone everyone's sure is straight -- he's made one inroad for gay people, and to me that may be a signal that he wanted to placate gay and gay-friendly voters and then run far away from the issue in this confirmation battle.

I could be wrong, but I'm just offering an alternate reading. And in answer to Zandar's question...

If the White House is fighting this hard for Kagan, why are they not in fact picking a more obviously more liberal nominee and taking the same level of fight to the GOP?

... it's because that would be a fight on ideology, which is not something the White House wants (and is something the White House thinks it can avoid).


(The Kurtz story is also here, in a slightly altered form.)

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