Stateside

Elena Kagan: “as a Jew” in the best sense

Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to the US Supreme Court, had a couple of good (as opposed to bad) “as a Jew” moments at her confirmation hearings Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A number of conservatives have expressed unhappiness that she called Aharon Barak, former chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, her “hero.” Among them is Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa.

“I am troubled by the fact that you hold up Barak as a judicial role model,” Grassley said. “He’s been described as creating a degree of judicial power undreamed of by most U.S. justices.”

Grassley quoted Barak saying “a judge has a role” in the lawmaking process and asked Kagan if she agreed.

Kagan said she did not, but also noted that Barak operated in a fundamentally different system — one without a written constitution.

“Justice Barak’s philosophy is so different from anything that we would use or would want to use in the United States,” she said.

Instead, she said, she admired Barak for creating an independent judiciary in a young state surrounded by enemies.

“He is very often called the John Marshall of the State of Israel because he was central in creating an independent judiciary for Israel and in ensuring that Israel — a young nation, a nation threatened from its very beginning in existential ways and a nation without a written constitution — he was central in ensuring that Israel, with all those kinds of liabilities would become a very strong rule of law nation,” she said.

She also admired Barak for personal reasons.

“As you know, I don’t think it’s a secret I am Jewish,” she said. “The State of Israel has meant a lot to me and my family. And – and I admire Justice Barak for what he’s done for the State of Israel and ensuring an independent judiciary.”

Another good “as a Jew” moment came when Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina brought up the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a plane near Detroit and asked Kagan where she was that day.

“Like all Jews,” she responded, “I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York added: “Those are the only restaurants that are open!”

More for Pat Buchanan and Kathleen Parker to mutter darkly about?

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