These are words that David Brooks
(who, let's face it, when he's good is brilliant) uses to describe Elena Kagan's writing and, also, her general attitude toward politics, her career, and the advancement of ideas. Kagan's record of almost painful carefulness does not inspire--though it does seem to impress a certain kind of political actor. Brooks reminds us that these are the "Organization Kids"--this soul type that Brooks nails as "kind of disturbing."
Brooks does not really elaborate upon why he finds this ability to suppress the soul to be so disturbing, but he hints at a possible explanation when he notes her deadly-boring style of scholarship--with its cold, hard, lack of any poetical quality. I think I know what he means and I share his distaste for such prose. (The prospect of reading opinions authored by Elena Kagan makes it hard to regret not taking up Constitutional Law as a specialty . . .) But then, too, this attitude he describes is sometimes couched in poetical, even seductive language . . . think of President Obama's many speeches employing the "false choice" rhetoric and appearing--on the surface--to build bridges. There is something false in them . . . but it is not the choice he speaks of.
So I'd be careful of allowing distaste alone to color my explanation of what's disturbing in these "Organization Kids." There is something deeper to it, in my view. If a soul can suppress itself to this degree, is it not reasonable to assume that this same soul would have little problem with the methodical, cock-sure and robot-like suppression of the souls of others? If it pleased her teachers and her benefactors, I suppose she might be pleased to do it . . .