What Kagan can expect

WHAT KAGAN CAN EXPECT…. There’s been some talk about delaying the start of the confirmation hearings in light of Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) passing*, but the Senate Judiciary Committee may well proceed this morning with Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination.

Senate Republicans have struggled of late to come up with a coherent line of attack — though, as of yesterday, there was still plenty of rhetoric about a possible filibuster — and today, a leading Republican senator trotted out a new argument.

Judiciary Committee member Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote in a column Sunday evening that “it is reasonable to worry that [Elana] Kagan is a judicial activist simply because President Obama nominated her.” […]

“The president’s judicial nominees over the past 17 months show an unmistakable determination to create a more activist federal judiciary,” Cornyn writes of Obama’s picks for lower federal courts.

I kind of like this, in large part because the argument reflects a certain degree of honesty. Why don’t Republicans like Kagan for the high court? Because President Obama nominated her. Cornyn’s concession makes this plain — if the president chose her, she necessarily has to be considered suspect.

This kind of partisanship is the opposite of substantive criticism, but I do enjoy the argument’s circular quality — Republicans are inclined to oppose Obama’s nominees because they’re Obama’s nominees.

Likewise, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued on “Meet the Press” yesterday that he’s “disturbed” by Kagan’s “obvious steadfast and even zealous opposition to military recruiters.” Host David Gregory didn’t inquire further — except to ask, “Is that disqualifying?” — and that’s a shame. In reality, as has been discussed repeatedly and even acknowledged by other Republicans, McCain’s argument is contradicted by reality.

It’s going to be a long week.

* Update: It looks like the hearings will get underway today, as scheduled.