Infusing new blood
Q: In appointing a new Supreme Court Justice to replace John Paul Stevens, President Obama was seeking someone who could provide intellectual and personal leadership of the liberal block. His gamble in nominating Elena Kagan is bringing in someone from outside the 'priesthood' of appeals-court judges. What are the advantages and disadvantages of selecting a leader with non-traditional qualifications?
President Obama wants to be an agent of change - and whenever any organization (be it public or private sector) is in the midst of a transformational period, it makes sense to infuse that organization with new blood. That's not just because a leader from outside the traditional ranks brings fresh perspectives and new insights; it's also because of what the choice of an outsider says to the organization's stakeholders.
Consider the recent selection of former Dupont CEO and banking-outsider Chad Holliday, Jr. as Bank of America's new board Chairman. That move - which comes fresh on the heels of naming Brian Moynihan, a well-entrenched insider, as the bank's new CEO - sent messages that many financial institutions are trying to articulate these days: that a new day has dawned, that business as usual is a thing of the past, and that a bright and exciting future lies ahead.
In nominating appellate court outsider Elena Kagan, President Obama is essentially sending the same message; that we as a people have embarked on an era where sound judgment supersedes holding the title of "judge" when it comes to serving on the highest court in our land.
Of course, good judgment is a subjective quality - and any Senator that might disagree with Solicitor General Kagan's views will likely leverage any perceived lack of experience (the key vulnerability of an "outsider") into a powerful talking point during the confirmation process.
Many Americans see the Supreme Court as a stabilizing force in our Democracy and don't want judges legislating from the bench. If those opposed to her nomination can succeed in painting Ms. Kagan as unprepared for the tremendous responsibility she may soon assume, then the president's choice of a nominee without the traditional pedigree may turn out to be politically costly.
Posted by: CoughlinC | May 11, 2010 8:16 PM
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