But I Was Not One of Them

I liked this bit from Megan McArdle on Elena Kagan because it fit so well with a category of people I saw all the time at Princeton (Kagan and I overlapped somewhat though I did not know her).

But I do think that David Brooks is onto something when he notes that her relentless careerism, her pitch-perfect blandness, are a little creepy. Not in themselves, but because they're a symptom of a culture that increasingly values what Brooks calls Organization Kids: the driven, hyperachieving spawn of the Ivy League meritocracy who began practicing Supreme Court nomination acceptances and CEO profile photo poses long before they took notice of the opposite sex.

The discussion of late is whether these Ivy Leaguers really are representative of the broader country, but I would add that these folks really were not liked even within Princeton.  A great example is Eliot Spitzer.  His treatment of Princeton and its student government as a sort of minor league tryout for future political ambitions drove everyone nuts, to the point that he even triggered an outlandish opposition party, the Antarctic Liberation Front.

Back when I was an undergrad at Princeton, one of my fondest memories was of a bizarre Student Body Governing Council (USG) election.  The previous USG administration, headed by none other than fellow Princetonian Eliot Spitzer, had so irritated the student body that, for the first time in memory, the usually apathetic voting population who generally couldn't care less who their class president was actually produced an energetic opposition party.  Even in his formative years, Spitzer was expert in using his office to generate publicity, in this case frequent mentions in the student newspaper that finally drove several students over the edge.The result was the incredibly funny and entertaining Antarctic Liberation Front.  I wish I had saved their brochures, but their proposals included things like imposing a dawn to dusk curfew on the school and funding school parties by annexing the mineral rights between the double yellow lines of the US highways.  All of this was under the banner of starting jihad to free Antarctica.  The ALF swept the USG election.  This immensely annoyed Spitzer and other USG stalwarts, who decried the trivialization of such an august body.  The pained and pompous wailing from the traditional student council weenies (sounding actually a lot like liberals after the last presidential election) only amused the general student population even further.  After a few student-council-meetings-as-performance-art, the ALF resigned en mass and life went back to being just a little bit more boring.

(Don't miss Virginia Postrel's take on the whole episode, occasioned by Spitzer whining about the episode 20 years later in the New Yorker.)

One other data point:  Two years later, after drinking a few adult beverages, it came into my head that it would be a really good idea to moon the USG meeting being held nearby.  I asked for volunteers, expecting a handful, and got over 40.  The episode saddens me only because I did not think of it soon enough to have mooned Spitzer.

Update: Hilarious


  1. morganovich:


    i'd gladly buy an adult beverage for anyone who once mooned spitzer.

    well done.

  2. me:

    Ah, there's man much in need of a good mooning. Greenwald had a series of cautionary articles leading up to the Kagan nomination - Kudos to him for trying to prevent this disaster. Do we really need more folks atttempting to reign in the excess of freedom and rights Americans have sitting on the Supreme Court?


  3. Truth is Out There:

    When asked about Elena's being a lesbian, ever the gentleman Eliot was quoted in NY papers: "I did not go out with her, but other guys did..."

  4. Truth is Out There:

    In the end, Obama has the votes. Kagan will be approved.

    In theory, you don't have to have gone to law school or been a lawyer to be put on the Supreme Court. In theory, you don't have to be Catholic to be made Pope.

    Especially with the growth of the regulatory state, most of the cases that the Supreme Court handles these days are actually over statutes and are very technical. You really have to be a legal uber-nerd to do the job. Earl Warren -- who was never a judge before Eisenhower made him Chief Justice -- would be bored to tears on today's court.

    Kagan is a legal uber-nerd, and hence qualified in way that Harriet Miers wasn't. But Kagan's best qualification is that she's a friend of Obama going back to Chicago Hyde Park days.

    So, the better analogy for Kagan is Abe Fortas. Fortas was "well qualified" -- but his best qualification was that he was a friend of LBJ. Fortas even had a hand in "fixing" LBJ's first time Senate win in 1948. All neutral observers believe that LBJ only won by 87 votes because of outrageous ballot stuffing. Harold Ickes was responsible for putting Fortas together with LBJ -- it all goes back to Chicago politics.

    Once on the Court, Fortas got in trouble because he kept talking to LBJ -- he was LBJ's mole -- and other sins. LBJ then wanted to make Fortas Chief Justice, but it wound up with a theathened impeachment and Fortas resigning.

    Obama has already co-opted the legislative process. Now he's working on the Third Branch. Can you say "separation of powers."

    This is the best ground on which to attack Kagan. At a minimum, given her current work as Obama's head appellate lawyer, she should be pressed to promise to recuse herself on things like Obamacare. One SCOTUS vote could mean the difference

  5. dr kill:

    The only circumstance to make Progressives smile is the misfortune of someone else.
    Truly they lack humor.