Argument will be simple: Clinton & Obama like and trust her, and most liberals (myself included) like and trust Clinton & ObamaTo which Greenwald replies:
Just think about what that means. If the choice is Kagan, you'll have huge numbers of Democrats and progressives running around saying, in essence: "I have no idea what Kagan thinks or believes about virtually anything, and it's quite possible she'll move the Court to the Right, but I support her nomination and think Obama made a great choice." In other words, according to Chemerinksy and Yglesias, progressives will view Obama's choice as a good one by virtue of the fact that it's Obama choice. Isn't that a pure embodiment of mindless tribalism and authoritarianism? Democrats love to mock the Right for their propensity to engage in party-line, close-minded adherence to their Leaders, but compare what conservatives did with Bush's selection of Harriet Miers to what progressives are almost certain to do with Obama's selection of someone who is, at best, an absolute blank slate.This is nonsense.
Elena Kagan is not, of course, a blank slate. She's nothing like Harriet Miers. Miers was, in political terms, a pure Bush creation; she had no political experience other than her work for George W. Bush. By contrast, Kagan worked (briefly) for the Senate Judiciary Committee; for the Clinton White House; and, of course, for the Obama White House (see here for details). In other words, Kagan has behaved exactly as one would expect a committed liberal to behave. That's not a blank slate; that's action which reveals her politics. Liberals who support her may not have extensive writings on which to judge her, but they do have her political actions. Conservatives, with Miers, had no similar record to consider.
(Update: See Jonathan Chait on the same point today).
Next is the trust question. Conservatives in the case of Harriet Miers really did have to rely on George W. Bush's judgment. Liberals, with Kagan, have a far wider group of endorsements to use to judge her as a nominee: not just Obama, but also Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and the people who worked with her when she worked for those pols. That's a far different situation. Any one pol might make an idiosyncratic choice, but Kagan won the support not of one president, but of the liberal establishment.
And, on that trust question, there's a reason that conservatives didn't trust George W. Bush: he had a record of misleading them. By the time Miers was nominated, Bush had already misled conservatives in Congress about the cost of his Medicare expansion, and had already been proven wrong about so-called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. These were not just cases in which conservatives disagreed with Bush (in fact, many of them were enthusiastic supporters of war in Iraq); they were cases in which the Bush administration turned out to be saying things that were not true. I don't think any similar examples exist for Barack Obama to date. It is true that some liberals have opposed some of his policy choices, and it is true that some liberals have a deep mistrust of Obama's Chief of Staff, but I don't think there's anything in particular that gives liberals good reason to think that the president might be trying to put one over on them. It's probably worth mentioning as well that George W. Bush was neither a lawyer nor an apparent expert in constitutional issues, whereas those who have hired Kagan -- Biden, Clinton, and Obama -- are all lawyers, with strong qualifications for being able to judge legal arguments and to assess a nominee.
(I should add that opposition among conservatives to Miers wasn't just on the basis that she was ideologically unreliable; conservatives also believed she was not well qualified for the position. I don't think that was a controlling factor, but it may well have been a contributing one. Presumably, no one has similar qualms about Kagan).
The bottom line here is that Greenwald is conflating two very different types of party loyalty. It's one thing for a president to nominate someone unknown to the wider political world and asking everyone to simply trust him. It's a completely different phenomenon for people to support a nominee with Kagan's background and endorsements, and to consider each of those endorsements evidence on her behalf. Yes, of course, she could have been fooling everyone...but that's just as true, it seems to me, of speeches, law review articles, and even lower court opinions. You don't get to know what a nominee "really" thinks. Her writings are only hints, just as the support of those who she's worked with, and her behavior, are only hints.
I'll add some qualifiers here. Obviously, there's a big difference between supporting a nominee and believing she was the best possible nominee. As I've said, I think that much of the parsing in these situations amounts to people kidding themselves over tea leaves, but then again Supreme Court nominations are legitimately thought of as very important, and it's understandable that people will speculate about which potential nominee is the best. Second, it is of course a plausible position to simply be far to the left of where Obama, Clinton, and Biden are on constitutional issues. Plausible, but lonely -- one who is in that position should realize that his or her ideal nominee would have little chance of being selected or confirmed.
But to say that the Kagan nomination is in any way similar to the Harriet Miers nomination is garbage, and to say that liberals who take the endorsements of the Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and other party leaders as strong evidence on her behalf are the "pure embodiment of mindless tribalism and authoritarianism" is garbage, too.
(Updated to add Chait link above).