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Kagan Fits Mold of ‘Organization Kids’ Who Didn’t Take Risks, Columnist Says

Posted May 11, 2010 7:56 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Elena Kagan’s personality type appears to be in the same mold of the “Organization Kids” who joined elite colleges under a “meritocratic system” and displayed an aversion to intellectual risk, an op-ed columnist says.

The kids had great recommendations, broad extracurricular interests and pleasing personalities, columnist David Brooks writes for the New York Times. “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.”

Brooks believes Supreme Court nominee Kagan is in the same mold. She appears to be “prudential, deliberate and cautious,” he says, a “carefully nonideological” person who, unlike most legal scholars, shows little interest in the contest of ideas.

“I have to confess my first impression of Kagan is a lot like my first impression of many Organization Kids,” Brooks writes. “She seems to be smart, impressive and honest—and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.”

The Washington Post makes a similar point about Kagan's consensus-oriented approach in an article that says she exhibits “a pragmatism rather than a passion for her own ideas.” People close to Kagan told the newspaper she is less ideological and more intellectual and analytical.

The Post describes a “rare moment” when Kagan broke out of the mold. In an opinion column she wrote for the campus newspaper in her senior year at Princeton, Kagan told how she cried and drank too much vodka after the Senate candidate for whom she had worked as a press assistant had lost the election. She told of worrying "there was no longer any place for the ideals we held” and wondering “where on earth I'll be able to get a job next year."

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