CNN's Toobin Says He Was In Kagan's Study Group at Law School, But Her Views are a 'Mystery' to Him?

At The New Yorker website (his other gig), CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin explained that he is a longtime friend of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and went to law school with her, even studied with her in a small group -- and yet, her political views are somehow a "mystery" to him. Not even liberals are buying this (take Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress). Toobin stated:

The justices are not really managers of people, certainly not in comparison to the dean of a major law school. Judgment, values, and politics are what matters on the Court. And here I am somewhat at a loss. Clearly, she’s a Democrat. She was a highly regarded member of the White House staff during the Clinton years, but her own views were and are something of a mystery. She has written relatively little, and nothing of great consequence.

As it happens, this weekend I was finishing “The Bridge,” the new biography of Obama by David Remnick, our boss here at the magazine. Since Kagan’s nomination was imminent, I was struck by certain similarities between the President and his nominee. They are both intelligent, of course, but they also share an ability to navigate among factions without offending anyone. Remnick’s Obama is very… careful. He takes no outlandish stands or unnecessary risks. He is an exquisite curator of his own career. All of this is true of Kagan as well.

But on the Court, Kagan will have to do something she’s not done before. Show her hand. Develop a clear ideology. Make tough votes. I have little doubt she’s up to the job, but am less clear on how she’ll do it.

If I were at CNN, I would make sure Toobin discloses his friendship with Kagan regularly so viewers know he's not a distant observer -- and I would also expect him to bring some real insight into her views, not pretend that because she doesn't have much of a written record, that he doesn't know what (or how) she thinks on major issues. This is how close he reports they are:

I should make a disclosure. I met Elena on our first day of law school at Harvard in the fall of 1983. We were introduced by a mutual friend, and we were assigned to the same section—the group of a hundred and forty or so students who took our first-year classes together. Elena and I and two other students (joined occasionally by others) formed a study group, and we worked together for the entire year. In our second and third years, we were on law review together. When she ran for president of the law review, I was a sort of unofficial campaign manager for her. She finished second.

Elena danced at our wedding in 1986. When my wife, Amy, and I bought our first apartment, Elena’s father was our lawyer; he had a small real estate law firm in New York. (He died in 1994.) When Elena’s mother died last year, I sat shiva with the family in the apartment where she grew up on the West Side.

It's additionally ridiculous that Toobin can't bring details to the table when he has seemed to make them up about justices he hates, like Clarence Thomas being "furious all the time," without even being granted a meeting.  

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis