Julian Sanchez has a judicious post on last week’s commotion regarding Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation. Like Julian, I found the White House’s response to be totally tone-deaf:
They could simply have said that Kagan has never publicly discussed the details of her private life either way, which would have been enough to establish that the CBS story overreached. By going further and asserting that Kagan is straight—though in the absence of a verbatim quote, it’s possible that a spox really just flubbed an attempt to deny the “openly” part—they’ve made it actually newsworthy if the claim turns out to be false. Moreover, as many have noted, responding as though being called a lesbian constitutes a “charge” is a stupid goof in 2010.
If Kagan is straight, why have so many people simply assumed she’s gay? If Kagan is gay, why is there such pushback against such a “charge”? I fear this is an instance where shifting mores has left someone stranded. The kind of “I’m-out-but-not-really-out” straddle cannot work any more in national public discourse. But now the White House has boxed itself, and Kagan, in.