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Kagan's Cocoons

Michael Barone writes an interesting piece today in which he opines that Kagan (like her booster, President Obama) has inhabited and grown used to, life in a world apart from the rest of American society.  As a consequence, "[t]hey bring to public service attitudes that are commonplace in the faculty lounge but not nearly so common in the rest of America."

Though generally played close to the chest, these attitudes cannot help but reveal themselves, eventually.  Consider, for example, their modern professorial approach to disagreement.  Both have acquired (it is not quite right to say that they have "earned") reputations for being conciliatory, civil, and exhibiting great empathy for the views of their ideological opponents in debate.  But in recent months, this view of Obama has been tarnished a bit by some unguarded expressions of frustration, and the consequent dulling of the gleam surrounding him has exposed more than a few chinks in his rhetorical armor. Barone astutely points to Obama's recent delivery of a commencement address in which he attacked and lamented the free expression of ideas via blogs, talk radio (read: Rush) and cable news (read: FOX). Though none were surprised to learn that Obama was not a fan of conservative talk radio, blogs or FOX News, there was a discernible amount of disgust with his inability to "suck it up," as a good coach might say. 

Yet to say that Obama contradicts himself when one compares this speech to his infinite calls for civility is to fail to understand the thinking of the modern professor.  Understanding such people as they understand themselves requires a visit to a cocoon--the university campus--which "far from being open-minded forums of opinion, are the most closed-minded parts of our society, with speech codes and something resembling re-education classes for those who violate them."  University administrators, Barone notes, "seem to believe they have a moral obligation to suppress speech that displeases or offends them."  After all, they are the change that they can believe in. 

Kagan is part and parcel of that world, Barone argues, and her record of banning military recruiters from Harvard because of her view that DADT is intolerable, supports the claim.  And it is likely that she will continue to act (and rule) this way on the bench.  I think Barone is on to something, here.

Jules Crittenden, on the other hand, brings our attention to another kind of cocoon Kagan inhabits: that of the childless.  In examining the bizarre (and, apparently, mostly Left-wing) obsession with Kagan's sexuality (inspired by the recent "controversial" printing of a photograph of her in the WSJ that showed her playing softball--gasp!) Crittenden is not eager to engage in the kind of identity politics that would spend time contemplating whether this photo was an intentional gay slur (huh?!) or celebrating the achievement of a country that can elevate a lesbian to the highest court in the land.  But, as long as the identity politics game is being played, Crittenden makes what seems to me to be a reasonable point:

I'd add that President Obama seems bent on packing the court with people who never had children, and would suggest that if you haven't had your sleep disturbed for years on end; haven't subjugated everything in your life to someone else's interests ... as opposed to subjugating everything to your career interests ... and never changed a diaper except, say, as a boutique experience; if you haven't seen your hopes and dreams grow up, charge off in their own direction and start talking back to you; if you haven't dealt with abuse of authority and human rights issues sometimes encountered in dealings with obtuse school officials, class bullies and town sports leagues; then there's a high risk your understanding of life may be somewhat ... academic.

It's a humbling experience, parenthood. As well as an inspiring one that gives life meaning. It also, as a friend of mine once put it, makes you sane. Even while it drives you crazy. Put another way, it's part of the maturation thing. 

Doesn't the president know any soccer moms who went to a state school?

What Crittenden says about parenthood (and about folks from non-Ivy League schools) rings true with me--particularly because it is flattering to my own circumstances.  Also, it is too clever and delicious not to re-print it here.  On the other hand, I'm not sure that the larger point about the problem of cocoons (be they intellectual or circumstantial)--at least taken by itself--is a fair one. 

Here's the thing: I'd be perfectly happy to take a cocoon dwelling Ivy League, lesbian, non-parent, with a professorial (and even worse, an outright snobbish) attitude if that person also inhabited another kind of cocoon--the one where people go to grow when they take the Constitution as it was written and as it should operate (barring changes wrought through the consent of the governed in the Amendment process) seriously.  Or, as Orrin Hatch is reported to have said through a spokesperson when questioned about rumors that Kagan may be a lesbian (snore), "The most important issue for Senator Hatch is whether she is going to follow the Constitution and the laws of the land or whether she will substitute her own views in their place."

Bingo.  Now let's move on, shall we (?), and discuss the substance of THAT.

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