I worked for Liz Holtzman last summer — some 14 hours a day, six days a week. So that night I was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, attending what I was fairly certain was going to be a celebration. Instead, it was a wake. And let me tell you there is nothing more depressing than drinking vodka and tonics and watching Walter Cronkite with 500 other people whose expectations had differed similarly from reality.Go ahead, read it all: link. See also link. It's got exactly what I've missed up to now: the flash of humanity. I think what we are seeing here is Kagan back when she was too young and ignorant to have been captured by the mentality that David Brooks described in this morning's Times:
I got kind of drunk that night. A lot of people did. Most of us had grown to admire, even to love, Liz or rather, not Liz herself — actually, she was not terribly personable — but her intelligence, her integrity, her ideals. The defeat of those qualities by an ultra-conservative machine politician just come from the town of Hempstead was not a pleasant thing to watch.
About a decade ago, one began to notice a profusion of Organization Kids at elite college campuses. These were bright students who had been formed by the meritocratic system placed in front of them. They had great grades, perfect teacher recommendations, broad extracurricular interests, admirable self-confidence and winning personalities.Works for me. I don't suppose the Supreme Court is likely to be the venue to lure Kagan back into her sharp-tongued, vodka-swilling adolescence, but it's nice to know she was there once.
If they had any flaw, it was that they often had a professional and strategic attitude toward life. They were not intellectual risk-takers. They regarded professors as bosses to be pleased rather than authorities to be challenged. As one admissions director told me at the time, they were prudential rather than poetic.
If you listen to people talk about Elena Kagan, it is striking how closely their descriptions hew to this personality type.
Meanwhile, if you want to get your blood pressure up, go read this account of Kagan's Civ Pro class--though not, I suppose, for the reasons the author intended. Let's just say that if there is anything more annoying than a Harvard kid, it is a self-pitying Harvard kid. I hope she was just as mean to him as he thinks she was.