SPIN METER: Kagan urged substance, then dodged it

By CALVIN WOODWARD (AP) – 38 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — Elena Kagan declined to discuss her passions, demurred when asked anything that might tip her hand on the Supreme Court and invoked her right to remain inscrutable even on cases buried in the past.

In short, Kagan did her best to ensure her high court nomination hearing was just the kind of benign event she criticized years ago for lacking “seriousness and substance.”

Her dodges over two days of questioning prompted chuckles in the Senate Judiciary Committee as members, keenly aware of what she wrote in 1995, watched her rhetorical dances.

But the evasive maneuvers created frustration, too.

“Perhaps you haven’t answered much of anything,” snapped Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, one of her most persistent — and persistently thwarted — questioners.

After another Kagan sidestep, Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin could only manage: “My, oh my, oh my. All right. Let’s move on.”

And those were Democrats.

Kagan’s comportment was in keeping with past nominees, whether liberal or conservative, who stuck to truisms about the impartial judiciary no matter how hard senators tried to smoke them out on how they would lean on matters before the court.

But she demanded a higher standard in a 1995 book review when she wrote, “When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues, the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce, and the Senate becomes incapable of either properly evaluating nominees or appropriately educating the public.”

She says now, “It just feels a lot different from here than it felt from back there.” By back there, she meant where she once sat as a Judiciary Committee staffer witnessing the confirmation hearing for Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Some episodes from Kagan’s questioning this week:

AP News

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