After Dry First Day, Hopes for More Fireworks in Kagan Hearings

Bring on the substantive debate, please

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Those eager for some honesty in political reporting, look no further: just about everyone agrees that day one of the Kagan confirmation hearings was a drag. Or in the cautious lingo of the New York Times, "kind of a set piece." Though Kagan is widely expected to be confirmed, some hope for more substantial debate as the questioning begins Tuesday. Others are still caught on just how uneventful yesterday's opening proved to be.

  • Boring The Washington Post's Ezra Klein writes that "Kagan proved herself capable of sitting still and looking interested for long periods of time, which is understood to be a key qualification for a Justice."
  • 'Enough to Induce Coma' Writes Garett Epps for The Atlantic: "Elena Kagan spent most of Monday afternoon in Hart Senate Office Building 215 wearing a blue jacket, pearls, and an expression of vague unease, like a society lady in a 1930s Peter Arno cartoon hesitating over whether to tell a fellow diner that her fox fur stole was on fire." Granted, "the mummery of opening day is an odd way to introduce a potential Justice to the nation. She was required to sit on camera without speaking while a series of politicians alternately acclaimed her as a new Learned Hand and reviled her as a threat to the space-time continuum." He does point out, though, that Republicans mentioned Kagan's mockery of confirmations' "vacuity and farce" in the post-Bork era, suggesting they intended to take her at her word, pressing her at other points in the confirmation.
  • Today Could Be Better, notes The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, more openly optimistic. "With a sedate day one of Elena Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation behind us, today is expected to be a bit more lively as the question and answer phase begins."
  • Not Much Better, thinks Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. " The questions, and the answers, will be tightly scripted."
  • What Is With the GOP's Thurgood Marshall Obsession? The Washington Post's Dana Milbank is perplexed that Republicans, lacking solid attacks against Kagan, instead tried attacking Thurgood Marshall, for whom she once clerked. "It was, to say the least, a curious strategy to go after Marshall, the iconic civil rights lawyer who successfully argued Brown vs. Board of Education," writes Milbank, who points out that Marshall is pretty universally "revered" as "the first African American on the Supreme Court" and "has been celebrated with an airport, a postage stamp and a Broadway show ... With Kagan's confirmation hearings expected to last most of the week," he deadpans, "Republicans may still have time to make cases against Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Gandhi." He also points out that whether or not Marshall was an activist judge is a bit beside the point: " Marshall was already confirmed by the Senate--in 1967. He died in 1993."
  • At Least That's Entertaining "[I]f the Republican members are gunning for dead judicial activists, the Democrats on the committee have trained their sights on some living ones," writes Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, who seems darkly amused by the whole charade. "It was sometimes difficult to tease out the common liberal theme of last year's confirmation battle, but today it is crystal-clear: Democrats really, really hate John Roberts." Though she suggests, were she "a gambling woman, [she'd] wager that most Americans today are not seething with unspoken rage at Thurgood Marshall," Lithwick doesn't seem to think this is the worst part of the Republican strategy. That honor goes to the attempt at coining metaphors. (It's interesting that Lithwick, like Garett Epps, also notes the pained expression on Kagan's face):
That the GOP is a party in dire need of a new metaphor is perhaps most clear today when Cornyn uses the full force of his moral authority to scold Kagan that "liberty is not a cruise ship full of pampered passengers. Liberty is a man of war, and we are all the crew." I think the one thing we can all look forward to tomorrow is a fuller explication of this piece of jurisprudential philosophy ... all of us will become, at least for the next four days, a sort of cruise ship of pampered passengers, tacking back and forth between John Roberts on one shore and Thurgood Marshall on the other. And Kagan will turn the wheel, squint at the spray, and looking just mildly seasick, steer us right down the middle.
  • 'It's Mind-Blowingly Exciting Stuff,' writes Daniel Foster at National Review, attempting to draw readers to his liveblog of the hearings. "Okay," he admits, "it isn't. Not yet anyway."
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