The Vapors: How Can America Trust Elena Kagan If She Doesn't Own a Cat?

The Vapors: How Can America Trust Elena Kagan If She Doesn't Own a Cat?

The Vapors: How Can America Trust Elena Kagan If She Doesn't Own a Cat?

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June 10 2010 11:30 AM

The Vapors: How Can America Trust Elena Kagan If She Doesn't Own a Cat?

The Washington Post reports that would-be Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan has a troubling record of professional, intellectual, and interpersonal success in the area of law.

Drawing on interviews with "four dozen people" about the nominee's life and work, Ann Gerhart and Philip Rucker conclude that "her achievements can obscure how relatively narrow her world has been."

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Unlike Chief Justice John Roberts, a three-time championship lumberjack who had a summer job in a steel mill while attending Harvard , or Justice Anthony Kennedy, who spent 15 years working as a patrolman and police detective was a lawyer in private practice before becoming a law professor , Kagan has a resume that consists entirely of work and scholarship at the highest levels of the government and legal academia.

Gerhart and Rucker report that "Kagan has worked her entire life along Pennsylvania Avenue" (where her previous jobs with the White House and Supreme Court were located), "or near Harvard Square" (where she was a professor and dean of Harvard Law School), "or Hyde Park" (where she taught at the University of Chicago Law School).

Beyond her failure to take lower-level jobs or jobs outside her field of expertise, Kagan "has never married and has no children," habitually orders "a hamburger and a side salad," and "has never cared much for animals...so there are no pets."

Having outlined her glaring personal and professional defects, the piece reports that Kagan seems happy and well-adjusted, is "very good at managing outsized egos," is widely seen as "ultra-bright," is a "great listener," and "preferred to talk about her companions' ideas rather than her own." She is good at playing poker, attends the theater, and finds time to watch a blockbuster movie. Arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia calls her a friend.

There is no question that Kagan's surefooted sense of self has led her to the steps of the Supreme Court, where five of the justices attended Harvard Law. As a nominee, she may be unequaled in her experience with the personalities she hopes to join.

But, again: no pets. Also the University of Texas didn't hire her as law-school dean in 2000, because "her experience with only elite private institutions hurt her." The candidate who was deemed a better fit, William Powers (Berkeley '67, Harvard Law '73), went on to become president of the University of Texas .