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Sedate showdown: Elena Who?

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 30, 2010; 9:02 AM

A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico was bigger news. David Petraeus's quickie confirmation was bigger news. Larry King giving up his talk show was bigger news.

I knew that Elena Kagan's first day of Senate questioning was receding on the media radar as I saw less and less of her -- except as a visual backdrop -- and more and more of John King and Candy Crowley, Bret Baier and Chris Matthews.

By mid-afternoon the cable news networks had almost completely given up on live coverage of the Judiciary Committee hearings.

You know an event hasn't made much hard news when the most popular sound bite is the nominee, having been asked by Lindsey Graham what she did on Christmas, replied: "Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant."

She is the funniest high court nominee in recent memory. That didn't buy her much good will with the Republicans, who had their preordained lines of attack. But they seemed resigned to the political reality that she will become the third woman on the Supremes.

NYT: "Elena Kagan deflected questions about her own views on gun rights and abortion during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Tuesday, instead describing Supreme Court precedents. She declined to say whether terrorism suspects must be warned of the right to remain silent, saying the issue was 'quite likely to get to the courts.' "

WP: "Elena Kagan told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that her political outlook is 'generally progressive,' but the glimpses she offered of her legal views defied Republican efforts to pigeonhole the type of Supreme Court justice she would be."

The LAT says Kagan "was accused of shading the truth about her role in a controversy over military recruiters at Harvard University. 'The overall picture that she portrayed of the situation seems to me to be disconnected to the reality,' Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the panel, said after an extended spat with Kagan. 'I believe that's a serious matter.' Sessions also said that she was not 'rigorously accurate' and that he expected 'intellectual honesty' from prospective justices."

But that issue had already been thoroughly aired, so, in purely political terms, there were no real surprises.

Kagan made clear at the outset that she wasn't going to divulge much in the way of specifics, prompting this observation from Commentary's Jennifer Rubin:

"Shocking, I know, but Elena Kagan tells the Senate she's not going to talk about any cases 'that might come before the court in the future.' And she's not going to talk about past cases. What then, will she talk about? The weather? So far she's been asked about cases, and she's explained the rulings, like a competent law student. (Professors actually critique cases in class.) So the hearings are largely a waste of time and, frankly, any senator who votes to confirm her at this point is throwing in the towel on a reasonable standard for vetting nominees."

Byrd's final months

This Politico piece troubled me, but no one will want to make an issue of it after the long-serving senator's passing:


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