While it is doubtful that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan shares Chief Justice John Roberts’ conservative judicial activist approach to the Constitution, their backgrounds upon nomination are similar. Both are accomplished lawyers who graduated from Harvard to serve Presidents, widely seen among legal professionals as exceptionally bright, even though both wrote little about controversial constitutional issues throughout their careers.
You would expect that a prominent columnist like the New York Times’ David Brooks, who regularly lauds pragmatism and meritocracy, would have a similar reaction to both nominations.
On What Brooks Loves
From July 21, 2005: “Roberts nomination, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee with the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach. I love thee freely, as men strive for right. I love thee because this is the way government is supposed to work.”
From May 11, 2010: “One scans her public speeches looking for a strong opinion, and one comes up empty.”
On “Careful Judgment”
From July 21, 2005: “President Bush consulted widely, moved beyond the tokenism of identity politics and selected a nominee based on substance, brains, careful judgment and good character.”
From May 11, 2010: “… she also is apparently prudential, deliberate and cautious. She does not seem to be one who leaps into a fray when the consequences might be unpredictable … She has become a legal scholar without the interest scholars normally have in the contest of ideas. She’s shown relatively little interest in coming up with new theories or influencing public debate.”
On The Importance Of Technical Legal Acumen
From July 21, 2005: “Roberts is a conservative practitioner, not a conservative theoretician. He is skilled in the technical aspects of the law, knowledgeable about business complexities (that’s why he was hired to take on Microsoft) and rich in practical knowledge. He is principled and shares the conservative preference for judicial restraint, but doesn’t think at the level of generality of, say, a Scalia. This is the sort of person who rises when a movement is mature and running things.”
From May 11, 2010: “Her publication record is scant and carefully nonideological. She has published five scholarly review articles, mostly on administrative law and the First Amendment. These articles were mostly on technical and procedural issues …. Arguments are already being made for and against her nomination, but most of this is speculation because she has been too careful to let her actual positions leak out.”
On Defusing Animosity Towards Harvard Graduates
From July 21, 2005: “I love thee also, Roberts nomination, because now we probably won’t have to endure another bitter and vulgarized chapter of the culture war.”
From, May 11, 2010: “There’s about to be a backlash against the Ivy League lock on the court”
On American Values
From July 21, 2005: “The Robertses are evidently the sort of people, like most Americans, who confound culture war categories.”
From May 11, 2010: “She seems to be smart, impressive and honest — and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.”
I think you can now understand why the nation regularly turns to David Brooks to represent America’s center.