Tuesday :: May 11, 2010

Elena Kagan's Personal Life Is Not Our Business

by Turkana

USC law professor Mary Dudziak lays it out:

Since when is marriage a job requirement? It hasn’t been on the United States Supreme Court, but this hasn’t kept some commentators from speculating about the single status of the Court’s latest nominee, Elena Kagan. On Airtalk today on NPR, Larry Mantle went so far as to ask Mark Tushnet: “On the personal side did you have any sense of whether she was in a relationship, or dated?” For Mantle it seemed relevant to know “what kind of a personal life a nominee for the Supreme Court has been living.” Andrew Sullivan also feels a need to know about Kagan’s personal life. “Did Obama even ask about it? Are we ever going to know one way or the other?"

What kind of work she does, what kind of citizen of her community she may be, what her values are. I’m fine on all of that. But I think Larry Mantle, Andrew Sullivan, and the rest of the press have no business in Elena Kagan’s bedroom.

I will particularly note Andrew Sullivan, whose recent status as liberal favorite merits some scrutiny.

Dudziak points out that while there was talk about David Souter being single, and Sonia Sotomayor being married, it was mostly confined to biographical background. There was no notable push for more personal revelations. She also notes that a large number of Supreme Court justices have been single men, and points to this Boston Globe article about the particular personal pressures faced by women lawyers. But there does seem to be a particular focus on Kagan's personal life, and there is no just reason for it.

In this environment, it is not surprising that a leading legal figure, the U.S. Solicitor General and former Dean of one of the nation’s leading law schools, is consistent with this demographic: a highly successful single woman. We might all hope for the day when success at the highest levels of the profession is more of a reality for women with families and children. But in the meantime, let’s lighten up on Elena. And let’s focus on her ideas and accomplishments, and not on the unsurprising idea of a single Supreme Court nominee.

In the past couple decades, there has been an increasing invasion of public political figures' personal lives. This has largely been for the purpose of practicing the politics of personal destruction. It can't have anything but a dissuasive effect, when competent and qualified people consider public careers. It has to stop.

If asked by anyone about her personal life, Kagan's answer should be blunt and succinct. She should say that her personal life is, by definition, personal. It is not public. Whatever we think of Kagan's qualifications and ideology (I'm agnostic on her nomination, although I'd have preferred Pamela Karlan, who apparently wasn't considered), we should be even more blunt and succinct. Elena Kagan's personal life is none of our damn business.

Turkana :: 8:31 AM :: Comments (23) :: Digg It!