Kagan will be the Obama of the Supreme Court
Now more of us understand that running a successful political campaign does not qualify one to be President. Real job qualifications matter when it comes to oil leaks, fiscal stimulus and unemployment, the deficit, Iranian nukes, relationships with our allies, infrastructure modernization and government transparency. If we have learned anything, it is to ask harder questions and not presume "it can't be any worse."
Our unqualified President has now nominated an unqualified judicial nominee. Given his recent very public shortfalls, that he still does not understand the value of experience is startling.
Barack Obama has proposed Elena Kagan, who has no judicial experience, as his Supreme Court nominee. As Paul Campos points out, even if we generously extend the question of qualifications to publishing (forget actually judging), very little is added to the nominee's resume:
In the nearly 20 years since Kagan became a law professor, she's published very little academic scholarship-three law review articles, along with a couple of shorter essays and two brief book reviews. Somehow, Kagan got tenure at Chicago in 1995 on the basis of a single article in The Supreme Court Review-a scholarly journal edited by Chicago's own faculty-and a short essay in the school's law review. She then worked in the Clinton administration for several years before joining Harvard as a visiting professor of law in 1999. While there she published two articles, but since receiving tenure from Harvard in 2001 (and becoming dean of the law school in 2003) she has published nothing.
Nominee Kagan hasn't even voted "present" in a judicial hearing. If confirmed, she will become the Barack Obama of the Supreme Court, winging the job as badly if not worse than the unqualified President wings his job.
However, if our Senators do their jobs this week, this will be a quick interview. The Senate should focus on the candidate's qualifications not ideological predispositions, which focus will produce fact questions that are not easily circumnavigated with non-responsive palaver.
Consider a plumbing company hire. The hiring company is mostly unconcerned about the applicant's view of installing plumbing in an abortion clinic. More relevant first questions include: How many installations have you done? Commercial or residential? As a master plumber or an apprentice?
Likewise, for an investment banker, the question is not whether the candidate has a problem with sharia-compliant financings. Relevant first questions include: How many financings have you completed? Equity or debt? Lead or co-managed? In other words, basic "do you know the job" stuff.
This is common sense and Interviewing 101. Given the nominee Kagan's likely failure to pass the basic qualifications screen, questions of ideology and judicial philosophy are unnecessary and too complicated.
She should be asked: How many judicial proceedings have you overseen? What type of cases - civil, criminal, tort, constitutional, etc....? As a judge? What about private practice experience? How does your prior judicial experience compare to the experience of the current Supreme Court justices at the time of their nominations? Do you think it is appropriate for the President to foist an "on the job training" judge on the court and the country?
The President is trapped in what Chris Stirewalt calls a hypocrisy trap, having claimed competence and qualifications but evidenced neither. We should have no desire to see this sad state repeated in either of the other two branches of government. Surely qualified judges exist. Senators, please do your job and interview the candidate.