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« Additional Arrests Made In Times Square Bomb Plot | Main | Kagan's Sexuality, the Prisoner's Dilemma, and the Politics of Personal Destruction »
May 13, 2010

Kagan's Friends: She's Totally Not Gay, Not That There's Not Anything Not Wrong With That


Elena Kagan is not a lesbian, one of her best friends told POLITICO Tuesday night, responding to persistent rumors and innuendo about the Supreme Court nominee’s personal life.

“I’ve known her for most of her adult life and I know she’s straight,” said Sarah Walzer, Kagan’s roommate in law school and a close friend since then. “She dated men when we were in law school, we talked about men — who in our class was cute, who she would like to date, all of those things. She definitely dated when she was in D.C. after law school, when she was in Chicago – and she just didn’t find the right person.”

Walzer, half amused and half appalled to be discussing her friend’s sexual orientation, agreed to be interviewed after Kagan’s supporters decided they should tactfully put an end to the rumor, which White House officials had already tried to squelch in background interviews with reporters. She said she decided to talk to POLITICO because the discussion of Kagan’s personal life has become a “distraction.”

“It’s taking away from substantive discussion of the issues from a really substantive person who deserves to be given the opportunity to address the substantive issues,” she said.

Another friend, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, a member of Kagan’s social circle at Princeton University, wanted to make the same point as Walzer. “I did not go out with her, but other guys did,” he said in an email Tuesday night. “I don't think it is my place to say more.”

See Allah for why it ultimately doesn't matter and InstaPundit arguing it's a fair question. (Although he'd probably say it ultimately doesn't matter much, either.)

In terms of a purely logical transaction, it is true that if Obama is going to fetishize identity politics it's fair to inquire about the identity of his nominees, and if he's going to pander to tribal loyalties we can fairly ask what tribe a nominee is loyal to.

On the other hand, the point of asking is to smoke out her position on gay marriage, which can be asked straight (ahem) without the need to get at the question through proxy questions.

But, on the third Zaphod Beeblebrox hand, we can expect Kagan to lie about/evade this question if it is posed straight, since she already did that on the questionnaire put to her upon her nomination to Solicitor General.

On the fourth double-armed robot hand, however, we can do what we usually do in such situations, and assume she's hiding the answer because the answer would be politically problematic, and assume, since she won't say either way, that she supports discovering a federal right to gay marriage. (Her overly-stingy non-responsive evasion on that questionnaire buttresses this assumption.)

Many gays have taken gay marriage as a 21st-century new civil rights freedom march crusade, and that position continues to be resisted by 55%-60% of the public, and the cool thing about being a judge is that you no longer have to give a fig what the public thinks at all. As impertinent and disrespectful as the question is, I guess I'm reluctantly talking myself into InstaPundit's agreement with the shrieking shrill Andrew Sullivan: If someone's campaigning for a position in which they will have a key role in shaping laws about sexuality for the next 30 years, we have a right to know, fully, her beliefs and inputs about this topic.

A clear statement of her actual beliefs on the issue itself would obviate the need for such digging -- i.e., if she says "I think the Constitution demands the right to gay marriage," I don't need to know about her sexuality at all, because I was just using that as proxy for her real, hidden beliefs, and since I now know her real belief, I have no further need of proxy information.

But I don't expect her to say that; I expect her to continue to be maddeningly and deceptively non-responsive to questions, a technique she herself decried at the youthful, callow age of 35, but has now re-thought and now considers dodging relevant questions to be a matter of basic prudence.

Do her friends' statements settle the issue? Of course not, and not just because as friends they can be expected to keep any secrets she might have. (That's what friends are for.)

The thing is, the media doesn't want to cover this, and by and large hasn't, and the rationale they'd give for that is that it is irrelevant or only barely relevant and thus outweighed by the invasion of privacy such inquiries constitute.

The thing is, though, that if Kagan herself said she was straight, and then others came forth to dispute that, you know what you'd have right there? You'd have a story which you could not contain and could not avoid covering. Like Gary Hart's famous "follow me around, I ain't a cheat" statement -- the statement itself gave the media license to do just that, because it was no longer just a question of sexuality (which they deem off-limits, at least with Democrats) but now a question of the truthfulness of public statements, and it's hard to ever argue a direct lie on a provable factual matter from a politician is wholly irrelevant.

A simple two word sentence ("I'm straight" or "I'm gay" or "I'm bisexual" or even "I'm nonsexual") from Kagan would settle the issue either way, and it seems pretty odd to me that she refuses to do so, instead relying on friends and surrogates to attempt to quell speculation.

Kagan is a stealth candidate. She has, for careerist reasons, refused to publicly state her positions on almost all issues. Even where it seems she did in fact have a strong position -- on the military's DADT policy -- her surrogates now rush forward to say even that is not her actual position, necessarily, but rather simply her executing Harvard's institutional policy.

So we know nothing about her, and she knows -- she actually wrote a paper criticizing this -- that it's unfair for a judicial nominee to sail through a confirmation process simply by refusing to give any critics (or any supporters, for that matter) any information whatsoever about what sort of a judge she'd actually be.

Asking about her sexuality -- or any biographical data -- might only be barely relevant to these questions, and sound like grasping at straws -- but she's a cipher. A ghost, and deliberately so. She has been a phantom by choice precisely so that no one would have have evidence of any reason to vote against her (or, again, for her, for that matter).

It's grasping at straws, but what has she left us with but straws?

People resort to reading tea-leaves when they wish to know the unknowable, like the future. We shouldn't have to resort to tea-leaves when we're discussing a possible 30 (or 40, or even 50 -- who knows?) year appointment. And yet we do, so here we are, playing with chicken-bones and goat-intestines.

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posted by Ace at 02:09 PM

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