On President Obama’s choice of Elena Kagan:
If you look at this on an ideological scale, it’s Obama going [from] left to center. He starts with Sotomayor at a time — in ‘09 — when he’s strong, he’s riding high, he has control of the Senate. She’s pretty left, [as in] the “wise Latina” comment. He’s in a position where he can risk it [with Sotomayor].
Now he’s a lot weaker — 41 Republicans in the Senate. So he goes with a more mainline liberal. He knows that after next year, if he gets another pick, he’s going to get really weakened in this [election], especially in the Senate. He could even lose the Senate — unlikely, but possible. But he’ll certainly have a much smaller majority. He’s going to have to [then] go to a fairly centrist liberal like a Merrick Garland whom he overlooked now.
I think he’s planned it politically very well. You go more ideological when you’re strong — and you go to the center when you’re weaker.
On Arlen Specter having voted against Kagan for solicitor general, now shifting his position:
You almost feel sorry for Arlen Specter. I mean: Almost. This is a guy of so many twists and turns and retreats and swerves and reverses. It reminds me of a line in a Graham Greene novel where he speaks of his protagonist who says: “I prefer to tell the truth. It’s easier to memorize.”
Specter‘s got a lot of memorizing to do . . .