Solicitor General Elena Kagan is reportedly the overwhelming frontrunner to be picked by President Obama as his next Supreme Court nominee. And if she is selected, conservatives could find it tough to mount an attack on her.
Critics will have significantly less material to use against Kagan, it seems, than they had against Obama's last nominee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
I asked Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network (a conservative group focused on judicial nominees) what conservatives are going to say about Kagan, and what Kagan's "wise Latina" moment, if there is one, will prove to be.
"She has been much more careful than Justice Sotomayor. She never would have said something like that even if she thinks it. She's been so careful for so long that no one seems to know exactly what she does think," Severino said.
Severino attended Harvard Law School, where Kagan served as dean. She asked fellow Harvard people about Kagan's tenure as dean. "Everyone came back with the same perspective, which was she was careful to never say anything on the record, or off the record, to anyone about her own opinions, so I think she's been carefully shepherding her image for a long time, possibly ever since her DC circuit nomination by President Clinton, so that's a long time to effectively live on the short list."
One anti-Kagan complaint we can expect, however, is her decision to kick military JAG recruiters out of the law school's main recruitment office at Harvard Law. Kagan made some strong statements in opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell at the time, revealing her own opinions in what Cerevino calls a rare moment for Kagan.
So, while conservatives like Cerevino and JCN are pretty sure Obama wouldn't nominate Kagan unless she's too liberal--too willing to "rubber-stamp" Obama's agenda from the court--it appears Kagan hasn't given them much to latch onto, in the way of public expressions of her own opinions.
JCN and other groups are still digging for background on Kagan, but it may be up to Republican senators to pin her down on various points of contention. If she gets the nomination, that is.