Barack Obama is in a poor position to expect bipartisan deference to his Supreme Court picks, having voted as a senator against the confirmations of both John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Still, the Senate ought to respect his nomination of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, barring evidence of intellectual deficiencies, extremism or character flaws.
Kagan doesn't look vulnerable on any of those scores. She was vetted pretty thoroughly a year ago when the Senate approved her appointment as the U.S. government's chief legal advocate. And she's clearly got enough smarts for the high court.
She began her meteoric legal career by clerking for Justice Thurgood Marshall, then quickly ascended to full professor at the University of Chicago Law School. From there, she moved into high level positions in the Clinton administration, then became dean of Harvard Law School.
Kagan's lack of experience as an actual judge is the most probable line of attack from Republicans. But her résumé is distinguished by any standard, and she's intimately acquainted with the upper reaches of American law. If anything, she's spent too much of her life flying in the legal stratosphere.
America has yet to see a perfect Supreme Court candidate. Kagan could be criticized for mistaken legal judgment in attempting to bar military recruiters from the Harvard Law School over Congress' "don't ask, don't tell" policy; the high court disagreed with her 9-0. Republicans can't be happy about her past tightness with Democratic politicians.
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