History has a way of repeating itself so for some political outsiders the Elena Kagan appointment is conjuring up memories of the old story from the Roman Empire. Ms. Kagan is the consummate presidential friend and insider, appointed only one year ago by Barack Obama to Solicitor General, who the President has surprisingly now appointed to the Supreme Court.

Elena Kagan Caligula





Students of Roman history are aware of Emperor Caligula who ironically lasted only four years in power. The emperor had such disdain for the proper processes of governance that he appointed his favorite horse named Incitatus as his personal council and even seated him in the senate.

For 2,000 years since, Caligula’s horse has been used metaphorically for nepotism appointments by those who break the public trust in their power positions. Most recently George Bush’s appointment of White House council and friend, Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court was a glaring example.

Like Elena Kagan she was a trusted confident of the president and consummate insider with the administration. But upon closer examination she was unveiled as woefully unqualified for the job compared with others who were not the favored employees of the president. The Harriet Miers appointment was eventually derailed by those on the left and right who dared tell truth to power.

Which brings us to Elena Kagan who is the latest presidential appointment to be compared unflatteringly (and perhaps unfairly) to Caligula’s horse. Critics point out that she has no practical judicial experience or traditional background for the bench, no law review articles of any note, and practically no substantive writings at all.

Her fortune changed considerably when she fell in with Obama while they taught together at the University of Chicago Law School in 1991. She later became one of the many Chicago insiders who the president took with him to Washington DC. It is nothing new in politics that sometimes the victor shares the spoils with his friends.

The highlight of Elena Kagan’s career appears to be an appointment as Dean of Harvard Law School, a largely ceremonial position that is primarily tasked with fundraising with the alumni. Her fortuitous political connections perhaps made the job a natural fit. Beyond that role at Harvard, her supporters are quick to point out that she once clerked for appellate court and supreme court judges. They gloss over the fact that countless thousands of others have as well.

But to the public, perhaps more important than her lack of experience may be the mere appearance of impropriety. In a time when the public’s confidence in their elected officials is at an all time low, should Barack Obama’s old friend from Chicago get a Supreme Court appointment over more obviously qualified individuals outside of the President’s inner circle?

Your thoughts on the Elena Kagan appointment are welcomed in the comments, but first let us enjoy this entertaining movie video of Caligula’s horse in the senate.