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The Morning Plum

* The consensus around Obama's choice of Elena Kagan for Supreme Court is that for Obama, her intellectual wattage and technocratic legal knowledge outweighed her lack of judicial experience and the resulting lack of clarity about her ideological leanings.

In this sense, she's a lot like a certain presidential candidate in 2008. Few question her raw intellectual ability, but she lacks a record of tough decisions to examine, so her views remain largely a mystery (making her tougher for opponents to attack). Obama cares less about appointing a progressive warrior than picking a persuader, uniter, and skilled communicator.

Indeed, the choice of Kagan brings to mind Obama's famous description of himself as a "blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." That seems an apt description of what the White House hopes for Kagan: While people may not project their own views onto Kagan, her lack of a clear ideological profile will make it hard for critics to paint her as a threatening choice.

This is an easy pick at a time when many other tough decisions and battles loom. Despite a bunch of noise at the outset, she probably won't have any real difficulty getting enough support from Republicans and liberal groups to ensure that her confirmation is relatively smooth.


* Michael Shear reports that Obama picked her to serve as a "counterweight to the intellectual heft of Chief Justice John Roberts."

* WaPo has a useful timeline of her career.

* And check out WhoRunsGov's big profile of Kagan.

* Mike Allen says all reporters should read Media Matters' massive myth/facts document on Kagan.

And he's the guy D.C. wakes up to, so reporters should listen to him.

* Kevin Drum says she's an ideological cipher."

* Dems will point out that two Senate Judiciary Committee conservatives, Orrin Hatch and Jon Kyl, both supported her for Solicitor General.

* Charlie Savage interprets yesterday's Miranda announcement by Eric Holder as a sign that he's seeking to carve out a "broad new exception" to Miranda. Seems to me the devil will really be in the policy details.

* And: The administration isn't saying word boo about what specific changes to Miranda they have in mind.

* Interesting: DCCC chief Chris Van Hollen rips Obama for lumping Dems in with Republicans rather than drawing a sharper distinction.

* Strong stuff from Harry Reid: He rips the GOP as an "anti-immigrant party."

* Also key in the above link: Reid acknowledges that immigration reform may not move forward this year. Even so, it will continue to loom large over the national political conversation.

* And here's the shocker of the day: Liz Cheney used her Sunday show appearance yesterday to say more stuff about the Mirandizing of the Times Square suspect that, you know, just isn't true.

What else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  |  May 10, 2010; 8:24 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Plum , Political media , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans , Supreme Court  
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Next: White House talking points stress Kagan's bio, bipartisan appeal


I think Chris Van Hollen is starting to get it. Its his job to get people elected this year and the administration isn't always helping in that regard. At some point somebody has to stand up and say that no, both sides do NOT do it.

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | May 10, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

"Obama cares less about appointing a progressive warrior than picking a persuader, uniter, and skilled communicator."

Greg, I think this hits the nail right on the head. First comment at the new site but I've been reading you daily, glad to see so many familiar faces are still around (missing Tena though).

Posted by: PaulW99 | May 10, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Again, as others in that piece on Van Hollen's comment argue, I'll toss in my sense of what is right about Obama's position here.

First, the President ought to maintain altitude above the day to day partisan wrangle. I assume the reasons here are obvious.

Second, this is particularly true where the President has campaigned and led on precisely that notion of proper leadership and that notion of civility.

Third, do we really want the entire political system to devolve to the level of Jim DeMint?

Fourth, others can do the dirty work for him (a fundamental axiom of real politics in the real world).

Fifth, there's lots of room for him to continue behaving in the manner which others might wish to see, because he has has done so on any number of occasions preveiously.

And yes, I do want to have his baby.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

@PaulW99 - Please join in regularly. It's a fine community here and more thoughtful voices are just the thing to make it finer.

My take on Obama's nominee matches yours, Greg's and (as I quoted some days ago) the thinking of Ronald Dworkin as well. A dynamic has evolved in this new court which seems better met with someone who might have the oomph to alter that dynamic rather than just cast an ideological happy note. Impossible to know if it will play out this way but Obama and his team are a hell of a lot closer to seeing this thing clearly than I am.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Ed Kilgore makes an interesting argument on why some states are rushing to push the "scary Hispanics!" alarums...

"So whereas in states with larger and more established Hispanic populations politicians considering anti-immigrant messages have to think seriously about blowback, there are no real negative consequences in the Deep South to offset the incentives for such rhetoric."

Which leads to two conclusions. First, Dem-related Hispanic groups really ought to get hot on organizing. Two, Republicans will act to prevent exactly that using whatever in their bag of tricks they deem appropriate (ACORN was targeted for its organizing functions).

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps making the job I just posited above easier for Dems and tougher for Republicans is the historical establishment in Texas of Hispanics as officially Caucasian. An important categorization, as we all understand...

"Historically, Mexican-Americans have generally been considered “white” in Texas; they served in white units of the segregated military, including the National Guard, and were allowed, during the Jim Crow years, to marry white (but not black) partners. In the early ’40s, the Texas Legislature even passed a “Caucasian Race Resolution,” which affirmed their status as white."

I sure loves me some Texas.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

That's interesting, Bernie...seems to match up with Michael Shear's take as well.

And thanks for welcoming Paul to the new site.

And, Paul, thanks for coming over.

Posted by: sargegreg | May 10, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

The more I read about Kagan the better I like her. She's brilliant, young and -- like Obama -- she is moderately progressive but a consensus builder. With a 5-4 Court the ability to get Justice Kennedy on board is critical.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 10, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I guess Van Hollen has already forgotten how dems won majorities in both houses and the Presidency. The GOP drove the bus into the ditch and the American people revoked their driving privileges.

Now, Van Hollen wants the President to slam only the GOP, while some members of his own party are tugging at the steering wheel to pull the bus back in the ditch. That kind of hypocrisy plays really well with the voters.

I know Van Hollen has a tough job, but he needs to keep his focus on key races around the country and not worry about what the President is saying.

Posted by: Andy94 | May 10, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Liz Cheney said the Obama admin's "first instinct" is to Mirandize captured terrorists.

It is.

That's why, you know, everyone here and in the Obama admin has been adamantly defending Mirandization of terrorists.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 10, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I noted this yesterday and it really ought to gain more attention than it has. Gates is moving, rhetorically and I expect in reality, to turn back the half century-long notion that the Pentagon should get all the money it wants and more just to be safe.

In doing so, he and the administration appear to be moving against one of the most powerful internal Washington structures. That this is long overdue is pretty frigging obvious to anyone with a brain stem.

Folks can carp about Obama's insufficient leftie tendencies but I think this is misplaced and short-sighted and immature. This administration has, in just a little over a year, taken on the most powerful non-governmental or anti-governmental or parasitic-governmentally-attached entities there are in the US.

This ain't a takeover, it is (to use correctly the rhetoric we hear from the tea party astroturf PR and disinformation campaign) a take back. Or at least a serious move in that direction. It's big. It's brave as hell. And it's necessary.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

QB said; "That kind of hypocrisy [one-sided blame] plays really well with the voters."

Well, precisely that species of hypocrisy is what gives Rupert Murdoch his audience. And that of the NRO, Townhall, Limbaugh, etc etc. So I think we'd have to conclude that, in point of fact, it does play very well with some.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

QB said: "Liz Cheney said the Obama admin's "first instinct" is to Mirandize captured terrorists.

It is."

As pointed out, the scraggly-bearded shoe bomber was read his Miranda rights immediately while Bush/Cheney were running their wobbly show. Clearly, it was there first instinct too then. Clearly, yes? And Liz, at the time, said...?

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure most of you will have bumped into Krugman's column today, but if not, highly recommended. Not least for its reminder of how corrupt the government agencies tasked with monitoring/regulating extraction industries became under the Bush administration. The moral turpitude of that administration is really not to be forgotten.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Have a fine day, all.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

And in other news that's not REALLY news:

""I believe, as has been indicating in all the polling, that even people who are Hispanics who identify as being Republicans, are walking away from the Republicans," Reid said. "This is an anti-immigrant party and is very clear.""-Harry Greid

This just goes to show that not only is Harry Greid a liar, deliberately mischaracterizing the issue of illegal immigration by using the "anti-immigration" mendacity, but also that he's retarded, (or he thinks that the non-moonbat poulation is).

The "Country Club" constituency of the GOP LOOOOOOOVES immigrants.

They work CHEAP.

You liberal livestock have undoubtedly forgotten,(as soon as you were ordered to), that Bush's "Call it ANYTHING but 'Amnesty'" Reform initiative was where he lost the GOP base, but the rest of non-brain-damaged working Americans have NOT forgotten.

Posted by: Bilgeman | May 10, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

One quick last post before my other day begins...

The present dynamic of the SC is not a matter of accident but of design. That is, it is the product of several decades of organization by the Federalist Society, a radically conservative group in membership and in funding, which set out to achieve a SC (not to mention the lower courts) which would establish law agreeable to a radical conservative view. Wikipedia has some of the details...

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Canadian Man-bag:
"Which leads to two conclusions. First, Dem-related Hispanic groups really ought to get hot on organizing. "

Organizing for WHAT, exactly?

Look, slave, it is LEGAL immigrant and citizen Hispanics who will and do, bear the onus of illegal Hispanic immigrants.

Where do you think a Guatemalan illegal is going to live?

"Wisteria Lane"?

He's going to move into a working class Hispanic neighborhood, lowering wages and conributing to Guality of Life degradation because he and his 17 illegal house-mates, even if they break no other laws, are not about to call the cops for any other law-breaking that occurs in their neighborhood.

They may call the MS-13, or the MM, but not the boys in blue.

And people wonder how it is that we have a gang problem in this country...

Posted by: Bilgeman | May 10, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Good point on Gates, and I agree deserves much more attention. Re-analyzing the expenditures in our military is important to our national and economic security. We need a smart, efficient military as we move forward in this century. It's a new way of thinking in D.C., and one that I hope to see break through. This is an example of why Obama's presidency excites me--his willingness to take on the old bloated guard in our government.

Posted by: Beeliever | May 10, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

All this weekend re: stock market I was thinking BUY BUY BUY.

Dow is up >400 so far today.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 10, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Bernie and Beeliever...I agree about with your takes on the Gates announcement.

Given that we spend more on defense than the next nine nations combined there is certainly some money to be saved that could go towards Obama's efforts to deal with the deficit.

However as you point out Bernie, and as Ike presciently warned years ago..the MIC is an incredibly powerful institution and it won't be taken down easily.

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 10, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Every county and state knows exactly where a majority of the illegals are working. If they really wanted to address the issue, they could round up large numbers of the illegal workers in a rapid time period.

States such as Arizona are looking the other way while industries in their state use the illegal workforce, then passing ineffective laws that play to their racist base.

Posted by: Beeliever | May 10, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

"Folks can carp about Obama's insufficient leftie tendencies but I think this is misplaced and short-sighted and immature."

Really Bernie, since when have those of us who disagree with some of Obama's less than liberal policy or strategy decisions get relegated to second class citizens here. I've been fighting that for months and was hoping as for some level of respect for the more progressive interpretation of unfolding legislation and National security issues.

I certainly appreciate the fact that Obama and Gates are taking on the bloated Pentagon budget and tackling some of the influence the MIC has on our politics. But then they falter on DADT and postpone any decision until further review. In the meantime he sanctions a kill order on an American citizen, sure he's a terrorist, but isn't that a bit of a stretch? I find it to be worthy of discussion at least.

Another example, using the Stimulus and EPA to push for clean energy, thank God. But then come out with a push for billions of dollars in nuclear energy and off shore drilling, should that bother us at all? Then after a mining disaster, is there really such a thing as clean coal, and a catastrophic oil spill where's the big speech capitalizing on public sentiment to push for increased focus on clean energy? Did I sleep through that one?

This brings me to my third example, Miranda. Are we suddenly willing to excuse an entire group of alleged criminals from the the constitutional guarantee against self-incrimination because of the nature of their crimes?

My point is quite simple, I think these issues deserve debate and discussion rather than allegiance, and I choose not to call it blind. I read all of your posts and have great respect for your point of view and am constantly vigilant of the need to support our Democratic coalition but I am not a middle of the road activist. I can't be.

Please don't misconstrue my comments by believing that I took your assessment personally, I didn't. I am speaking in more general terms of continued debate and discussion on some of the issues that DO have long term consequences.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 10, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Check out the White House talking points on Kagan:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 10, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

What is it with Miranda rights and the right wing loons? That has been settled law for DECADES and Liz Cheney is leading the charge “Hell No! We won’t Mirandize!”

To what end? Can you imagine the shrieking howls of protest from Liz Cheney if a terror suspect was not read his Miranda rights and as a result of this his case was tossed out of court? Even our resident sock puppet Constitutional scholar should be able to grasp that very real possibility - well, THAT might be pushing it a bit.

There is a rather pathetic air of desperation that Cheney displays when she and her troops draw a line in the sand over Miranda rights. Is she really THAT devoid of substantive criticism of President Obama that she and the GOP are reduced to quibbling over Miranda?

This tactic seems quixotic at best - and quite possibly psychotic at its worst. As someone pointed out this weekend, the reading of Miranda rights is so commonplace on fictional television shows, it seems familiar to most Americans. They are unlikely to get worked up about something they have encountered thousands of times on TV. This does not seem to be an issue that ignites passions, even among the teabaggers.

Do Cheney and the other GOP super geniuses think they will ride back into power on a wave of anti Miranda discontent? If this is the best they’ve got, they are truly grasping at straws.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 10, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"He's going to move into a working class Hispanic neighborhood, lowering wages and conributing to Guality of Life degradation because he and his 17 illegal house-mates, even if they break no other laws, are not about to call the cops for any other law-breaking that occurs in their neighborhood."

Whether or not this is true, the AZ law makes it that more likely that anyone in the immigrant community documented or not, to see the police as a threat instead of a resource. That is the stupidity of this law. It makes people LESS likely to cooperate with police.

Posted by: srw3 | May 10, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, my wording left my point too easily misconstrued.

There is a necessary dilemma in play. That is, helping to push this (or any administration) in directions which that administration will find difficult (for reasons of the power of status quo) while at the same time valuing/supporting progress made (particularly when we contrast with what would be going on with another conservative government in place). Again, to quote FDR - "Then make me".

As a simple consequence of this dilemma, not only will you and I or sg be in conflict at times but so will I be with myself. And the administration with itself.

It's all rather like that famous joke of two fundamentalists meeting, identifying their theological stances which prove to be identical all the way down to something incredibly peripheral and insignificant, at which point they go at each others' throats for blasphemy.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

@Beleever - your point on the Republican hesitancy to curb corporate/business use of illegals is an important one. To a great extent, immigration is made a valuable goal for folks down south because of the ease of getting work here. And the use of these people for work is agreeable to the corporate/business community because an endless supply of cheap labor becomes available AND this leads to the power to destroy any unionization movement.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 10, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Bernie said: "As pointed out, the scraggly-bearded shoe bomber was read his Miranda rights immediately while Bush/Cheney were running their wobbly show. Clearly, it was there first instinct too then. Clearly, yes? And Liz, at the time, said...?"

If you'd like to argue that Obama and Bush policies are the same, hence calling for the same response, that's a different argument.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 10, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Bernie, I really didn't take your comment personally, I was just confused by it I suppose. I think I have stated before that I feel I am in a constant state of conundrum. I lay low sometimes so as not to confound the debate going on here with my less than stellar support on occasion, and other times just feel compelled to express an opposing view. In general though I am satisfied with the slow progress on most fronts and certainly appreciate the nature of the difficult work facing all of us and what is certainly at stake.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 10, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"QB said; "\'That kind of hypocrisy [one-sided blame] plays really well with the voters.'"

That was one of your comrades.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 10, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I am with you all the way. The rather ineffectual handling of the HCR debate stemmed not from Obama’s hyper liberalism, but rather from his LACK of liberalism. President Obama and the Dems were handed one of the biggest majorities in the history of our nation and STILL managed to cower in fear at the prospect of facing the might GOP. I am beginning to think that if the Dems had a 99 to 1 seat advantage in the Senate they would STILL fret about the GOP.

Obama’s instincts are to always seek the middle ground and find consensus. That would be an admirable trait if his political opponents were rational and honest. They are not. I contend that the surest way to bring the GOP to the table is to open the biggest can of liberal whoopass in the history of this nation and deliver a painful partisan smackdown of epic proportions. If the GOP learns that Obama and the Dems are capable of passing their agenda without GOP support, the more pragmatic Rs who are more interested in self preservation than party unity will find it in their own best interests to be seen on the winning side.

In the HCR debate, if Obama had not compromised his giant cudgel of single payer, and he had been willing to use the bully pulpit right from the start, the debate could have been over months sooner. For all of the bowing and scraping that Obama has done in the direction of the GOP on all issues, what has he got to show for it? Has it won him even a single GOP ally to which he could turn? The president is wasting time and is giving oxygen to the GOP by charting this very unprofitable course.

I don’t really have a problem with Kagal, but this seems to be EXACTLY the right time for the most liberalist liberal in the history of liberalism as nominee to the Supreme Court. The problem isn’t that the GOP would stop the nominee. The problem is that the Dems lack the backbone to ram it down the GOP’s throat. With Scalia, Alito, and Roberts on SCOTUS, they have no grounds to complain about judicial activism. A less conciliatory president, say more in the FDR or LBJ mold might be able to get a liberal nominee confirmed.

Being a consensus builder is admirable, but it is not always the best course of action. There are times when it would be more appropriate for Obama to be a bloody knuckle liberal and induct the GOP into the bloody nose conservative club.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 10, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Gasman, I was actually looking forward to a substantial fight over a SC nominee. We're going to have a fight anyway, why not have it be meaningful instead of bickering around the edges. Our politics has become small in my mind when the times call for big policy disagreements. We're not fighting as hard as we should be on financial reform or renewable energy either, even after seeing the catastrophic results of corporate greed mentality and de-regulation policy. I don't get it sometimes. I'm not impatient, just discouraged about where the debate begins, smack in the middle. I think we could do better.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 10, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Obama seemed to think that he could avoid being called a socialist, communist, fascist, etc., ad infinitum, if he moved the HCR debate in only one direction - to the right. The GOP STILL labeled him all of those things AND he got nothing in return. He has nothing to lose by moving hard left. I maintain that it would be more productive than the course he has charted. He would gain many allies among the progressive Dems who are just itchin' for a fight and he could inflict real pain on the GOP.

As it is, there is no cost for the GOP to chart this course of stupidity and blind obstructionism. If Obama really wants to change their behavior, he must make their present strategy unprofitable.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 10, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

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