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She is an archetypically sharp-liberal, but funny and endearing – if you enjoy the type (as I usually have, having worked with several Kaganesque woman lawyers over the decades). And Ms. Kagan is deeply, deeply cloaked.

You have to work at it to smoke a memorable path from New York’s Upper West Side through the Ivy League, the Clinton Administration to a major Deanship without leaving a paper trail. So we have the New York Times parsing a high school paper (revealing unsurprisingly the young Kagan was rooting for American socialism).

I used the verb “smoked” earlier because burning ambition was the single common thread in Kagan’s career and because (yes, this part is endearing) she was (and may still be) an occasional cigar smoker.

If you’ve spent any significant part of your professional life in a major urban setting suffused with liberals of all stripes, her brilliant profile in the New York Times today tells you almost all you need to know.

A Pragmatic New Yorker on a Careful Path to Washington http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/us/politics/11kagan.html?ref=todayspaper ]

Why was Ms. Kagan so cautious about writing? She was ambitious, highly political and she trained to the test.

David Brooks, ever cautious and moderate in tone, expressed it thus:

There’s about to be a backlash against the Ivy League lock on the court. I have to confess my first impression of Kagan is a lot like my first impression of many Organization Kids. 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.

The remaining issue that conservatives will explore is Dean Kagan’s stance on the Clinton’s Administration’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the US military. I am socially tolerant, especially about matters of sexual orientation, but I am an arch-conservative when it comes to national security issues. The policy of “Don’t Ask” was arrived at in a spirit of pragmatic necessity, given the real world problems that “gay integration” presents in a mostly male, macho organization. Had the issue been floated in the months after 911, it surely would have been tabled. Barring recruiters from campus (as so many deans did) was and is one of those gestures that betrays a certain cluelessness about the internal workings of military units and a blatant disregard of the importance of military recruitment n the context of a fully volunteer defense force in a time of ongoing peril.

So don’t tell me that Ms. Kagan was a broadband pragmatist. The record there is embarrassingly clear. She was pragmatic about one thing, only: advancing her career.

Whether she will be confirmed is a settled issue. She is obviously bright and meets any reasonable set of MQ’s for the job. Her other, deeply cloaked, positions might well spark a real nomination battle, but the current nomination tradition gives her perfect cover: you can ask but she won’t tell.


Read Jay B Gaskill’s Lost Souls Coffee Shop, an allegory for the human condition. Google ‘jay b gaskill/lost souls coffee shop’.

And read Jay Gaskill’s new thriller, The Stranded Ones. More on the Policy Think Site at http://www.jaygaskill.com/TourTheStrandedOnes.pdf .

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