That quote above is the headline for Instapundit's take on Elena K., seen here swapping SCOTUS-asskicking stories with Sandra Day O'Connor. Writing in The New York Post, Univ. of Tennessee's Glenn Reynolds says
She is an establishment pick. Just the phrase "former dean of Harvard Law School" can be expected to provide Obama with some insulation against charges of picking a left-leaning extremist: Harvard and Yale are brands that provide some protection, just as in the old days corporate purchasing agents used to say that nobody got fired for buying IBM. And many voters still think (erroneously) of Harvard Law School as a conservative place where professors like the imposing Kingsfield of "The Paper Chase" hold court.
…one of the perennial selling points for the Ivy League is that Ivy League hires are easier to defend in this fashion.
As an establishment pick, she'll also get some breaks from the establishment. As dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan banned military recruiters from her campus and fought legislation aimed at ending such bans, because of her (and the legal academy's) opposition to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. But many, many law school deans are in the same position, and can be counted on to defend her, or at least to soft-pedal any criticism.
Likewise, Kagan's relative openness to conservative and libertarian organizations like the Federalist Society, and her willingness to hire conservative scholars at Harvard, leaves her with a reservoir of goodwill among people on the right who might otherwise be inclined to try to torpedo her candidacy. There will still be opposition, of course, but it will likely lack the edge and intensity that might have been provoked by a different candidate.
Last week, Salon laid into Kagan for not hiring enough women and minorities as head of Harvard Law:
When Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, four-out-of-every five hires to its faculty were white men. She did not hire a single African American, Latino, or Native American tenured or tenure track academic law professor. She hired 25 men, all of whom were white, and seven women, six of whom were white and one Asian American. Just 3 percent of her hires were non-white—a statistic that should raise eyebrows in the 21st Century….
Do women and people of color find a tenured or tenure-track professorship at Harvard Law School less attractive than white men? Do they really prefer to teach at less prestigious schools? Or if they only prefer not to teach at Harvard because of perceived hostilities to women and people of color, why is it that Kagan could somehow overcome these perceptions when it came to conservatives, but not women and people of color? After all, part of the praise for Kagan is that she made Harvard Law School welcoming again for conservatives—in this case, conservative white men.