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How Quickly They Forget

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the chamber floor this morning to question whether Elena Kagan’s close relationship with President Obama — he calls her “a friend” — makes her an appropriate choice to join the High Court.

“As solicitor general, Ms. Kagan is a member of the President’s administration,” McConnell said. “The President on Monday also said that they’re ‘friends.’ … ”

But in our constitutional order, justices are not on anyone’s team. They have a very different role to play. As a Supreme Court justice, Ms. Kagan’s job description would change dramatically. Far from being a member of the president’s team, she’d suddenly be serving as a check on it. This is why the Founders were insistent that judges be independent arbiters, not advocates.

Funny, though, that McConnell had no such concerns in 2005 when President Bush nominated Harriet Miers — Bush’s personal lawyer who worked on his campaigns and ultimately landed in the White House as senior confidant — for the Supreme Court. Indeed, McConnell threw his full weight behind the nomination.

“Ms. Miers has an exemplary record of service to our country,” McConnell said in a floor speech in April of 2005. “She will bring to the court a lifetime of experience in various levels of government and at the highest levels of the legal profession. She is a woman of tremendous ability and very sound judgment.”

How quickly they forget.

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