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Friday, July 02, 2010

Hello, Pot. Kettle Here.

Over at the National Review's Bench Memos blog, Ed Whelan writes, concerning Elena Kagan's praise for former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak (about whom I have written somewhat critically), that it may be part and parcel of her "meteoric rise in two environments -- legal academia and D.C. politics -- in which fawning is richly rewarded."

I tend to think Whelan is right about that, if nothing else.  Anyone who has sat through an introduction of a visiting judge or speaker, or through many a political speech, or a staffer talking about his or her boss -- or, for that matter, a law clerk talking about his or her judge -- is familiar with the phenomenon.  Praise is easy for a person who makes his or her living working with words, and measured criticism is less comfortable, especially at ceremonial events.  (See, e.g., virtually every set of "tribute" articles for a retiring or deceased judge or academic ever published in a law review; but see Richard Posner's fond but gimlet-eyed obituary tribute to his former boss Justice Brennan in the Harvard Law Review.)  

For more on the culture of "fawning," by the way, see also this post by Whelan, in which he praises Senator Orrin Hatch, "my former boss," for his "careful assessment" of Kagan and decision to vote against her confirmation, and the post immediately preceding it on Bench Memos by Carrie Severino, titled "Ed Whelan's Excellent Testimony."     

Posted by Paul Horwitz on July 2, 2010 at 02:35 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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