On Tuesday Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported this tidbit from the opening day of confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan, Obama's nominee to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.
Democrats described her as a brilliant thinker with what Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York called "unprecedented practical experience."
Stolberg had expressed the same feelings about Kagan the day before, roughly two minutes into the Monday edition of TimesCast, a brief news preview that airs every weekday at nytimes.com.
Kagan is so "brilliant," gushed Stolberg, that she didn't even need help from White House staffers in preparing to face her Republican critics. Stolberg was confident the GOP would "have a tough time" confronting the "very funny and warm and witty" Kagan.
They will try to paint her as a partisan, as a political lawyer, as someone who is more interested in a politically driven agenda than in applying the law in an even-handed way to judicial cases. And they'll take her to task for never having been a judge. But I think they'll have a tough time.
Let's not forget that Elena Kagan has been an academic. She is a brilliant woman. She's somebody who is also very funny and warm and witty, and I think Americans will see that when they-when she comes before the Senate today. They will see somebody who has studied and thought deeply about the law, and it's interesting. Many Supreme Court nominees go through the process known as 'murder boards,' where the White House will stage kind of a mock hearing, and people will play the role of senators, and they'll grill nominees on how would you answer this or that. Elena Kagan has done some of that, White House officials tell me, but in fact she's also spent a lot of time preparing for these hearings just on her own, just thinking about the issues and thinking about what she wants to say. White House officials say that that's how she wanted to prepare, and frankly she doesn't really need the kind of murder boards that other Supreme Court nominees have needed.
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