Just to catch you up, CBSNews.com inexplicably published a piece by Ben Domenech (who was hired by The Washington Post and then fired after his extensive plagiarism was revealed) claiming that a key segment of the Dem base would be pleased if Obama appointed the “first openly gay justice.” This echoed an ongoing whisper campaign on the right about Kagan.Which means the odds of Elena Kagan actually being President Obama's pick as a Supreme Court nominee just became all but certain. The White House went white-hot on the attack this morning, and that absolutely has to mean that Kagan is Obama's choice for the high court. To move this hard, this fast on killing this rumor (once again, Kagan's sexual preference should not matter, but politically the GOP will crucify her for it and they can filibuster her) means that the White House has just invested a lot of political clout in somebody who, up until now, may be the nominee to the Supreme Court.
CBS initially refused to pull the piece, which prompted a scorched earth response from the White House that Howard Kurtz wrote up this morning:
CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: “The fact that they’ve chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010.”She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger “with a history of plagiarism” who was “applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers.”…A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said he complained to CBS because the column “made false charges.”CBS unquestionably deserved to take a hit for this. But what’s more interesting than CBS’s role is the White House’s aggressive response. People who follow the ins and outs of nomination battles closely are interpreting it as a sign that Kagan has a very good shot at being picked. As one of these people put it to me this morning, this is the most hard-hitting pushback by the White House to misinformation being spread about any nominee.
Sargent is correct when he says that you can basically remove the qualifier now. Clearly Kagan is Obama's choice. And as I've pointed out before, there are compelling arguments on the left against Kagan.
It remains on the table however that the White House has tipped their hand in defending Kagan so vigorously and vociferously. Is she a good choice? Greenwald makes a very strong argument that Obama could do better. But that's actually not the real story here either.
The real story is that the White House said from beginning that they did not want a nasty fight, and wanted an easy confirmation process with an obviously qualified nominee (of which Kagan is). And yet, the White House has now absolutely signaled a fight for Kagan even before she is presumably going to be announced as Obama's pick.
If the White House is fighting this hard for Kagan, why are they not in fact picking a more obviously more liberal nominee and taking the same level of fight to the GOP?
That's the story. The White House leaned towards Kagan to avoid a fight. But within hours of the CBS story on Kagan, the White House went full-bore in her defense.
Which mean the White House said "screw you" to progressives. Again. Here's hoping that Kagan's not the nominee and that Obama surprises us all.
I wouldn't count on it however.