Elena Kagan and the evolution of political correctness

As you chew on some ’cue this weekend, consider this:

In the last weeks of America’s 234th year of independence, our political elites fired a general who spoke his mind and prepared to put on the Supreme Court a law professor who did her darndest not to speak hers.

Neither of these cases involved a legal barring of free speech. As commander of the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal served at the pleasure of the president, whom the general displeased with his remarks about his civilian bosses. McChrystal lost his command; he didn’t go to jail.

Similarly, Elena Kagan didn’t plead the Fifth in her confirmation hearings when asked whether Congress has the constitutional authority to require Americans to eat three vegetables a day. She just bobbed and weaved, as judicial nominees do in the post-Bork era.

We celebrate “free speech” but don’t reward candor from public figures (the cast of “Jersey Shore” excepted). Why? Political correctness.

It may sound odd to say Kagan was bound by P.C. norms that her fellow liberals largely created. But the impulse to avoid controversy — to become a “blank screen” through verbal shadowboxing and linguistic contortions — is a product of this forced inoffensiveness. And it’s a problem.

Twelve years ago, we heard Kagan’s then-boss say, under oath, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Wednesday, Kagan reprised that Clintonian line in the following exchange with Sen. Orrin Hatch about a memo for a medical association about partial-birth abortion:

Hatch: “Did you write that memo?”

[The senator and nominee clarify which memo he means.]

Kagan: “Yes, well, I’ve — I’ve seen the document. And the document is …”

Hatch: “But did you write it, that — your memo?”

Kagan: “The document is certainly in my handwriting.”

Read that again:

Did you write that memo?

The document is certainly in my handwriting.

Hatch wasn’t interested in the penmanship of the memo, but rather the thoughts expressed in it. Those thoughts mirrored the policy President Clinton supported at the time (allowing partial-birth abortions in limited circumstances). They may have reflected the opinion of the medical association; that matter is disputed.

Yet, here was a 50-year-old woman, one who represents the U.S. government before the Supreme Court and now stands to sit on that court and issue opinions that will affect millions of Americans on hundreds of issues, talking around her stance on a topic that has launched a thousand op-eds.

She knew that sharing her thoughts could doom her nomination. But I don’t consider her a coward. She’s just another product of the system.

I mean the system of political correctness that preaches tolerance but practices the opposite, by demonizing those who disregard it. That, coupled with too many people’s insecurity in the basis for their own beliefs, harms our public discourse.

It doesn’t take Congress passing a law abridging free speech. The dictum not to offend, and increasingly not even to be disagreeable, saps our willingness to exercise that right fully.

“Laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression,” Albert Einstein said. “In order that every man present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”

That’s a tolerance we’ve lost, in the name of tolerance.

95 comments Add your comment

Georgia loses

July 2nd, 2010
7:25 pm

Nice try Wingfield,12 yrs ago what president clinton said should be used to judge ms. Kagan 12 YEARS LATER?(Gimme a break!). Then you quote Orrin Hatch, are you kidding me? only the most ink stained rightwing true believers will buy your BS, Oh! I forgot, the south has an abundance of them. Then you wonder why you cant attract northerners to your state or maybe you really dont want to.

Georgia loses

July 2nd, 2010
7:28 pm

Enter your comments here

mrs. w

July 2nd, 2010
8:47 pm

“Then you wonder why you cant attract northerners to your state”.

Are you kidding me!? What planet are you from? Ga. is and has been full of northerners for years. Sounds like you don’t like it here sugar and if you don’t you are more than welcome to leave.

Jim Jr

July 2nd, 2010
8:58 pm

Mr. Palin (Todd) — not doing your job — barefoot and pregnant.

retiredds

July 2nd, 2010
9:33 pm

It’s very simple Kyle: the right dislikes “judicial activism”, and the left dislikes “conservative activism”. Sort of like a coin, there’s the front side and the back side, but it’s the same coin.

I have decided to take myself off this blog. Not that I have not enjoyed it, but there comes a time when one finds themselves wasting time then it’s time to do something different. What I have learned here is that there is no room for compromise. The party line is, Obama = bad, conservative right wing = good. There is no in between. So I am moving on to some other blogs where stimulating discussion can take place without the invective “if you are liberal or have liberal leanings you have to be from hell”. So good bye to those who were willing to discuss intelligently many sides of an issue and I won’t miss the others.

retiredds

July 2nd, 2010
9:37 pm

Kyle, I can’t find where to remove my name. If you would do it for me it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Claude

July 2nd, 2010
10:46 pm

Yes, it’s sad. The perfect Supreme Court nominee is someone who’s made it to middle age without saying much of anything about the important issues of the day, someone too bland or mysterious to cause any offense. Only the mediocre need apply.

BS Aplenty

July 2nd, 2010
10:56 pm

Reitired guy. Your somewhat lame excuse for leaving reminds me of a kid I met on the playground. After kicking his arse in one-on-one, he promptly took his basketball and went home. I think he was sniffling when he left the court (I was pretty good in my younger days).

He was probably a liberal, too.

MikeB

July 3rd, 2010
1:38 am

Thesehearing have become a waste of taxpayer money plain and simple…… They are done in a manner that is supposed to reinforce a citizens faith in the notion, that our leaders have the capability and the intestinal fortitude to flush out the most truthful answers of all that may ever come to appear before commitee’s such as these………

I think its been proven that we cannot always count on candor with regards to the probative depth of the questions, or answers that should be plain as day open and straightforward vs, the double talk that exists……Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of this. Neither party can take the moral highground here….

Time to get back to saying what you mean, and meaning what you say……… This country needs some real leadership like yesterday, that can come in and clean house like Alan Mulally is doing at Ford Motor Company.

Alot of folks were hoping President Obama was that guy. As Peter Heck so accurately wrote http://www.onenewsnow.com/Perspectives/Default.aspx?id=1059248 even a blind person can see, he is not “the one”.

Because he is such a failure, he has caused some extreme things to happen in places they rarely do…… Again, Peter Heck: http://peterheck.com/columns/2010_articles/view/169/mcchrystal_was_talking_to_you

Because this adminstration has been such a failure to date, how can a citizen or more importantly a tax paying citizen have faith that these hearings accomplish a thing other than showing off the pagentry of the beltway dog and pony show???

Portrayal Betrayal

July 3rd, 2010
6:42 am

Kyle’s piece today is short sighted. Kagan certainly didn’t appear intimidated by the senators during the hearings, even if Kyle is disappointed by her performance.

Sen. Hatch? Who’s that, Kyle? Did you say, “snatch”?

I think we all know who the clown is here. (me)

jklol

Joel Edge

July 3rd, 2010
7:20 am

You would think that if you write a memo, letter, opinion piece, or blog, that you have enough faith in your own beliefs to acknowledge it. That’s my problem with Kagan. She seems like a shape shifter.

DeborahinAthens

July 3rd, 2010
7:40 am

Kyle, read the transcripts of Chief Justice John Roberts–talk about not giving the inquisitors any rope with which to hang himself!!! It is sad, but with our political atmosphere, anyone running for any political office or looking to be appointed to a political office would be insane to speak their true mind. Everyone appearing in front of Congress nowadays is thoroughly coached by lawyers so that all we get is lawyer-speak. The right-wingers are upset because Kagan sailed through with flying colors–meaning she gave them nothing to hang her with (just like John Roberts). So what do they do? The talk show wing-nuts attack her appearance, her sexual orientation–all things that matter not a whit when it comes to being a Supreme Court Judge. Mike Savage even made fun her her wearing pearls, for God’s sake! Bottom line, you right-wingers are impotent, just like we were impotent when George Bush was peppering the administration with his know-nothing good buddies not to mention trying to get his good know-nothing lawyer friend Harriet on the Supreme Court. When he couldn’t get Harriet on, he comes up with John Roberts, a super example of a slithering, slippery lawyer. Until this country grows up and starts electing representatives that can work together and compromise, we will never get anything done and no one will ever reveal their true intentions until they are safely in office. John McCain was a great Senator until he realized he couldn’t get elected unless he told the far right what they wanted to hear. It made me ill to see this heretofore honorable man cave to that ilk! This is not the country that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had in mind. The people that created this great country had strong personalities, powerful opinions and conflict and disagreement was frequent, but they compromised. I don’t see any spirit of compromise in this country, so welcome to the USA, 2010! Happy 4th of July!

Halftrack

July 3rd, 2010
7:56 am

She was not asked the real important questions. Where in the Constitution the prohibition between Church & State spelled out and what do you think about that? Also, what does “free exercise” mean?

How Did We Get In This Mess?

July 3rd, 2010
7:59 am

Political Correctness, that’s how…….it’s killing our country.

Truth-o-meter

July 3rd, 2010
8:02 am

The most profound truth spoken at the hearing was spoken by Sen. Lindsey Graham, SC. “Elections have consequences.” Thus, the president gets to nominate individuals for the SCOTUS. If the president is a Democrat, one should expect that the nominee will be someone who shares that president’s ideals of what course the nation will take, but who can still be objective in ruling on the law. The same can be said if the nominee is named by a Republican president. What Americans need to realize is that the cat fight and attempts to neutralize this president by the conservatives is all about the next presidential election and who will be able to “stack” the court.
Now this is all sad, because either party should truly want what is in the best interest of all Americans. But after witnessing the behavior of the Republican Party since Pres. Obama took office, I don’t see how I can ever vote Republican. I can’t look at my ex-military son who needs surgery but is uninsured and vote for anyone who doesn’t understand what it feels like to watch that kind of suffering.

jt

July 3rd, 2010
8:05 am

Those nine clowns on the SC have only as much power as the American people allow them to have.

Their relevancy is decreasing everyday.

Get thee behind me.

Fang1944

July 3rd, 2010
8:08 am

And some of the Republicans were dancing around, not quite saying what they wanted to. “Good heavens, you’re an educated Jew from up North!”

Truth-o-meter

July 3rd, 2010
8:17 am

DeborahinAthens: Well stated.
I wish the politicians would stop for one moment and consider what kind of examples they are setting for the young of our nation. The talk show jocks only care about ratings, so they insult, demean and throw red meat to their listeners/viewers all day. Who in their right mind would opt for public service?

Here’s one I can’t wrap my hands around: Some on the left claim that the unemployed are lazy and don’t want work, yet in the next breath they blame the administration for high unemployment. Well, if the unemployed are undeserving of extended benefits and are too lazy to work then there should be plenty of jobs for those who do want to work.

Fred

July 3rd, 2010
8:50 am

“Kyle, I can’t find where to remove my name. If you would do it for me it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.”

That’s rich.

No he cant. It’s permanently embedded in historical perpetuity. You are branded forever as a hateful, gutless, totalitarian.

Don’t let the door hit you on your old behind, genius.

jconservative

July 3rd, 2010
8:50 am

“In the last weeks of America’s 234th year of independence, our political elites fired a general who spoke his mind…”

Kyle I am stunned that you make no pretense toward facts and simply allow yourself to become a party hack. I expected better.

What McChrystal did was prove that he was a poor excuse for a soldier. There are certain things you cannot do when a member of the US military. I was a SGT E-5 and if I had said to my superior officers what McChrystal said to his superior officers I would have been court martialed.

Members of the US military do not “speak their mind”. They obey legal orders. “Keep your mouth shut and do your job.” Anyone who has sat through a class on the Uniform Code of Military Justice knows McChrystal should have been court martialed. McChrystal reported to Petraeus, who reported to Mullen, who reported to Gates, who reported to Obama. If McChrystal had a bitch all he had to do was call his CO, Petraeus and discuss with him.

But McChrystal allowed a reporter from the most liberal magazine on the planet to spend weeks in his headquarters. What did you say his IQ was?

If you want to attack the Obama administration on the McChrystal affair you should be demanding to know why McChrystal was not court martialed.
You should demand to know why he was allowed to retire with the pay of a 4 star general instead of being busted back to 1 star.

jconservative

July 3rd, 2010
9:10 am

“That’s a tolerance we’ve lost, in the name of tolerance.”

I agree completely. Only when the day arrives that a Court nominee can say “I believe the “dotdot case” was wrong and will work to overturn it if confirmed” and still have those opposed to his views vote for his confirmation, will we get to where you want us to be.

The problem has never been the nominees. The problem has always been the senators who will vote NO on a qualified candidate just because of their views on a single issue. The famous “litmus test” is alive and well in the Senate chamber.

Bork should have been confirmed. Kagan should be confirmed. Whether they are liberal or conservative is simply a reflection of the last presidential election. We, the American people, asked for a liberal nominee when we elected a liberal president.

The Democrats screwed up when they rejected Bork. The Republicans screwed up when they rejected Harriet Miers.

Morrus

July 3rd, 2010
9:20 am

in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.

Bob Loblaw

July 3rd, 2010
9:34 am

Please, no more Kagan! I can’t stand looking at him.

booger

July 3rd, 2010
10:08 am

I’m sure Retiredds will feel much more comfortable with Jay and Cindy. No partisian sniping over there. Sounds to me like he is making your point. He can’t seem to tolerate people who have a different view of the world than he.

tar and feathers party

July 3rd, 2010
10:13 am

I long ago noticed the Republicans were far more tolerant of my nasty Inflammatory comments than the Democrats. I bashed Dick C, and George long and hard here in the ajc, and seldom got deleted by the Kyle and the Repukes. On the other hand, I am frequently deleted by Cindy Lou and J the Jerk on the Dummycrat side, for far milder comments at that. It appears the Dummycrats are proponents of censorship, while Repukes support free and open expression of ideas and contempt. In that I side with the Repukes.

Left wing management

July 3rd, 2010
10:22 am

Georgia loses: You’re wrong about GA being unable to attract “Northerners” (not sure why you choose this designator, I assume you’re including Californians here too). Haven’t you followed the data on Atlanta’s explosive growth in the past decade? Don’t you get out much here? I mean, just drop in to any Starbucks in Roswell or Alpharetta and then tell me with a straight face that Atlanta can’t attract “Northerners”.

Dusty

July 3rd, 2010
11:20 am

Good words, Kyle. I find them very true. When I look back in history, there certainly was a time with little political correctness. Would Patrick Henry have mumbled “I don’t want to offend anybody but don’t you think we might look at this issue again and see if there is something here on which we can establish a compromise?”

ah…..”Give me liberty or give me death!”said Patrick Henry.

IF Winston Churchill has said “Listen, Brits, take up knitting and remember that many of our kings had a German heritage and just because the Nazis act up some time is no reason to get upset.”????? .

.Ah..” we will fight on the beaches….we will fight…”said Winston Churchill.

IF Truman had said , “When cherry blossoms bloom in Japan I will NOT be responsible for burning the daylights out of those pretty places. That’s offensive. Let millions of our brave boys go and give ‘em hell. Millions will die but it is worth the risk!” NO!!

Ahhh…..take off Enola Gay! I’m not sacrificing millions of Americans and Japanese in an overall killer invasion.of mainland Japan,,,,,,,,….decisions .from an honest .Pres. Harry Truman .

I think political correctness should be called disguised dishonesty. It is a coverall of the truth by not pronoucing it. Thus we have the famous words”The truth shall set you free!” Now freedom, by way of truth , gets tied down by political correctness every day in politics. Kagan, the subject of this blog, seems to be an advanced student in the cover-up of personal politics.

Troy Spencer

July 3rd, 2010
11:29 am

Speaking of Political Correctness…did you see this piece on Sheriff Lynda Coker, who is running for a Senate seat in East Cobb, and how she and Sheriff Neil Warren are breaking Federal Law?

Check it out… http://politicalvine.com

get out much?

July 3rd, 2010
11:30 am

jconservative – Robert Bork’s role in the Saturday Night Massacre alone was reason enough to keep him off of the Supreme Court.

Port O'John

July 3rd, 2010
12:04 pm

I loved that question by Lindsey Graham about what Ms. Kagan would be doing on Christmas Day.

That was about as clumsy and ham-handed a way to point out that Kagan is “one of them” as I’ve ever seen. I love it when SC politicians make our Georgian numbskulls (both GOP and Dem) look almost rational.

BADA BING

July 3rd, 2010
12:09 pm

Speaking of PC, I see where some are making a racial issue of UGA’s Evans affair. Some think he is getting criticized because he was with a White girl. Ask his wife if she cares what race the woman was. GO DAWG.

Yankee in gooberville

July 3rd, 2010
12:10 pm

P.C. like calling torture ‘harsh interrogation’?

I’m a northerner and came here for the work and only the work. I can’t wait to leave this miserable state and cruel hateful creatures that live here.

Dusty

July 3rd, 2010
12:25 pm

Port O’John,

Perhaps you need to study the words of famous numbskulls such as Barbara Boxer of California or Nancy Pelosi of same state or even our famous Prez Clinton who was not sure about the meaning of “IS”.

If you are looking to denigrate the South, forget it! We did not produce the California Crowd or the Chicago Crowd now in power. They are all yours, honey. We are honest here in the South and know a double talking, politically correct Harvard hoodlum when we see one and don’t mind saying so.

Dusty

July 3rd, 2010
12:34 pm

Yankee in gooberville,

Your warm personality is such an asset here in the South. We do appreciate you coming here and taking money from our generous hands. But, do not let us keep you from departing to your favorite frozen land of the north. They too should share in your happy spirit.

Do hasten and depart to spread joy. We wish you well. Just HURRY!

Mitzymy

July 3rd, 2010
12:37 pm

General McCrystal got what he deserved. Employers don’t even put up with that, let alone the Military. Kagan is already confirmed, but what you fail to realize is that she will not be on the bench alone. There will be 8 other judges there to voice their opinion on all matters no matter what her opinion is. She was trying not to give the senators anything to hang on, and they were not smart enough to get around it. She is smarter than they are and it showed. She double-talked them, and found humor in the elementary questions they were asking her. What kind of question for a nominee supreme court judge is “what will you be doing on Christmas Day?” What does that have to do with anything?

Bob Loblaw

July 3rd, 2010
12:41 pm

“On the other hand, I am frequently deleted by Cindy Lou and J the Jerk on the Dummycrat side”

Cindy doesn’t tolerate other opinions even though she’s an opinion writer. I thought that she had left the AJC to move up next to her messiah but I guess she came back. Too bad too.

Bill O’Reilly showed some column that she wrote about Obama and the BP spill. What it came down to was the fact that she could care less about the spill. She, and other liberal retards, want Cap and Trade passed.

November can’t get here soon enough.

somewhereinga

July 3rd, 2010
12:57 pm

Kyle…I can only wonder what your column would be if Gen. Stanley McChrystal had said those same things about Bush and his staff. Would you have wondered why the “political elites” fired him?

As for Kagan, did you question why Roberts and Alito beat around the bush so badly that the bush was stripped of it’s leaves? Did they even answer any questions? Oh! That’s right, Obama nominated Kagan. The main problem (with Republicans) with Kagan seems to come down to the fact that she’s not a beauty queen.

booger

July 3rd, 2010
1:13 pm

Yankee in gooberville,

I understand your sentiments completely. My job took me to Conn. for two years and Boston for three. Five years of pure hell among some of the most narrow minded creatures imaginable. However being a southern gentleman, I never said a word while I was there.

gatorman770

July 3rd, 2010
1:16 pm

Mu question and concern with Kagan, besides her appearing to be Al Capone’s (mentor of Chicago political machine) twin, is that she’s from New York City! Why would that be a concern since were not talking about real picante sauce? The other 2 female SCJ are also from New York City (Brooklyn and the Bronx) and I believe Congress should insist on SC Justices coming from all areas of the country for real honest taste and diversity.

Bawney Fwank

July 3rd, 2010
1:24 pm

Is it really true that if you get your friend to take off his/her red panties (or shorts) and hold them between your legs, while you drive, you will be more successful in getting your friend home safely?

somewhereinga

July 3rd, 2010
2:03 pm

Yankee in Gooberville….”I can’t wait to leave this miserable state and cruel hateful creatures that live here.”

Don’t judge all of us by Dusty and her ilk. There are plenty of wonderful people here in Georgia. We do have a tendency to hide though. We don’t want to change the reputation of Georgia from the most backwards state to one step up from that.(What other state would brag on having passed a “You can take your Road Kill home with you” bill?)

Scout

July 3rd, 2010
2:22 pm

Supreme Court nominee “Lady Kaga” is junior varsity, no strike that ………. freshman team quality when we should have a varsity appointee to that body.

Pretty sad …………………..

BADA BING

July 3rd, 2010
2:30 pm

The cop asked Evans who the girl was and why were her panties in his lap. He said she was a friend. Yeah, a GOOD friend ! I remember when I had a lot of ‘friends’ like that.

Scout

July 3rd, 2010
2:51 pm

BADA BING:

It’s a good thing the panties were red and not gold or he would already be outta here !

Scout

July 3rd, 2010
2:52 pm

Bawney Fwank :

Easier than holding them in your teeth …………..

vuduchld

July 3rd, 2010
3:43 pm

As I have said time and again, you speak of things you have no experience about. First of all, Kagan hasn’t done anyhting differently than the last several SC aspirants. Clarence Thomas ran away from everything he said he believed during his nomination process, then cried “high tech” lynching when his hypocrisy was exposed. Alito, Roberts, all of then did the same thing.

As for McCrystal, since when does a military grunt, yes grunt, have the authority to belittle the civilian leader of our nation. But then again, it’s President Obama so per you and others, the military gets a free pass.

As each day passes you expose yourself as the most, boot licking shill that has ever graced a computer keyboard. I hope the rest of your generation is a little smarter than you or our nation will be in serious trouble. You knowledge on anything is truly embarassing.

If you’re the “best and brighest” among young conservatives then God help us all!!!

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 3rd, 2010
4:06 pm

I’m a northerner and came here for the work and only the work. I can’t wait to leave this miserable state and cruel hateful creatures that live here.

Atlanta has one of the nation’s busiest airports and there are several Interstates leading out of Georgia in all directions. Unless you’re incarcerated, there’s no reason you can’t leave today.

Bob Loblaw

July 3rd, 2010
4:25 pm

Hillbilly Deluxe

Amen to that. If only we could get rid of all the liberals who state that they want to leave.

Recovered Demoholic

July 3rd, 2010
4:51 pm

Kagan — O.K. if law bans books, because government will not enforce.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBqdKKKRrrg

No big deal. Given our public education, nobody will know how to read anyway.

Scout

July 3rd, 2010
6:00 pm

vuduchld @ 3:43

Look ……….. there goes a puppy !