When President Obama announced that he was nominating Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement saying that Kagan had “a first-rate intellect,” but that she was “a surprising choice because she lacks judicial experience”:
There is no doubt that Ms. Kagan possesses a first-rate intellect, but she is a surprising choice from a president who has emphasized the importance of understanding ‘how the world works and how ordinary people live.’ Ms. Kagan has spent her entire professional career in Harvard Square, Hyde Park, and the DC Beltway. These are not places where one learns ‘how ordinary people live.’ Ms. Kagan is likewise a surprising choice because she lacks judicial experience. Most Americans believe that prior judicial experience is a necessary credential for a Supreme Court Justice.
Like his colleagues Sens. Mitch McConnell (KY) and Jim DeMint (SC), Cornyn’s experience attack is hypocritical, considering his past support for President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers (who had no prior judicial experience) to the Supreme Court in 2005. Salon’s Mike Madden notes Cornyn’s comments on Oct. 27, 2005 after Miers withdrew her nomination:
I mean, one reason I felt so strongly about Harriet Miers’s qualifications is I thought she would fill some very important gaps in the Supreme Court. Because right now you have people who’ve been federal judges, circuit judges most of their lives, or academicians. And what you see is a lack of grounding in reality and common sense that I think would be very beneficial.
Challenged about his hypocrisy in an interview on MSNBC, Cornyn defended himself by saying Miers had more “practical legal experience than Kagan.” “She, like Ms. Kagan, has not been a judge, and I don’t think that should be a disqualifier,” said Cornyn, ignoring his assertion that “most Americans believe that prior judicial experience is a necessary credential for a Supreme Court Justice.”
Roll Call reports another inconsistency in Cornyn’s rhetoric on Kagan today. Earlier this month, Cornyn was asked about the possibility of Obama nominating a woman to replace Justice John Paul Stevens and he replied that there are “a number of highly qualified [women], including Elena Kagan and Diane Wood.” A Cornyn spokesman claimed that “there was no contradiction in the Senator’s words since his earlier comments were about there being a wealth of female lawyers in the country.”
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes Cornyn’s effusive praise for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who had no judicial experience either before joining the Supreme Court. Cornyn said in 2005 that Rehnquist “truly loved and revered the Court, as only a devoted scholar and student of that great institution could.”