Strange bedfellows

After nominating Sonia Sotomayer to the Supreme Court last year, President Obama has followed up by nominating Elena Kagan, former Dean of the Harvard Law School and a former Soliciter General of the United States. Unlike Sotomayer, who was a career jurist, Kagan has worked mostly in academia and as an administrative lawyer. The press is pointing out that she has a limited judicial "paper trail" of published decisions by which to judge her political views. But it is a safe bet that she is a woman of the Left and not of the Center or Right.

A personal irony is that she served as counsel for Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Anita Hill's explosive testimony nearly derailed his nomination many years ago. If Kagan goes to the High Court, Justice Thomas will be welcoming as a colleague a former adversary. He has written eloquently about the collegiality of the Supreme Court, so he will no doubt strive mightily to rise to the occasion.

It may not be difficult. Carol Platt Liebeau, a conservative talk show host, reports that Elena Kagan is highly regarded by conservatives as well as by the liberals who dominate in her milieu. In fact, Dean Kagan is credited with making sure that the Harvard Law Faculty included some distinguished conservative scholars, to the dismay of some of the more partisan liberal faculty there. And she is credited with approaching problems in an open-minded and non-ideological way.

President Obama was no doubt looking for a reliably liberal vote on the Court. He has probably gotten that, but he has also given us a person of apparent decency and integrity whose friends and admirers include those who do not necessarily agree with her on all issues.