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First impressions of Kagan's opening remarks


She didn't offer a memorable line like John Roberts' "balls and strikes" metaphor. She didn't have a devoted spouse looking on like Samuel Alito did. And she didn't have a proud parent sitting behind her, a la Sonia Sotomayor.

Nevertheless, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan delivered quite a performance in her opening remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kagan was deferential to the senators who will decide her fate ("Each of you has been unfailingly gracious and considerate); she talked about her family's immigrant past ("My parents lived the American dream. They grew up in immigrant communities; my mother didn't speak a word of English until she went to school"); and she gave shout-outs to two past/current female SCOTUS justices, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Yet the meat of her remarks drew on politically neutral comments about the law. Kagan praised the law's "even-handedness and impartiality, even when it's not always even-handed or impartial ("What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American"); she talked about how the Supreme Court should be "modest"; and, sure to please court-watchers looking to see if she would uphold the health-care law, she said that the court should try to be deferential to the American people and its elected representatives ("the court must ... recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people").

And she channeled her inner Barack Obama. "I've learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide. I've learned that we come closest to getting things right when we approach every person and every issue with an open mind. And I've learned the value of a habit that Justice Stevens wrote about more than 50 years ago -- of 'understanding before disagreeing.'"

Today, of course, was the easy part of Kagan's testimony, and she didn't refer to any of the GOP critiques of her nomination (lack of judicial experience, the military recruiters at Harvard, that she was a political operative/adviser for Bill Clinton). Tomorrow and Wednesday bring us the Q&A, where we'll find out the answers to those questions.