We plan to shine a light on appalling situations, with hope that you as readers will share our concerns. The Framers, in their wisdom, avoided a statute of limitations on impeachment actions. So should the court of public opinion.
Early in my career as a newspaper reporter, I twice published stories that cost federal judges their jobs, although neither was a presidential appointee with a lifetime post. But each was highly respected, well-entrenched and quietly operating outside what were acceptable bounds of the time (although the misdeeds seem to me in retrospect fairly modest by today's lowered standards).
Researching the specifics was a professionally risky and otherwise challenging, of course. But what I most recall was the reaction afterward from remaining judges.
They liked the stories, a couple of the most eminent told me privately. They wanted their profession to be honorable, and understood that it sometimes takes an outsider to initiate necessary questions. My news organizations (there were two) and I were like an office's daily cleaning crew, occasionally creating a temporary disruption in a routine and mostly unremarkable function.
By this anecdote, I don't mean to suggest that Kagan has any potentially career-ending secret that I've researched and want to expose. Instead, my point is that oversight procedures need to be aggressive on a more routine basis, while hopefully fair-minded.
In Kagan's situation, a few on both the right and left have suggested that her expansionist view of presidential power to fight terror threats may stem from a supposedly secret family relationship to conservative scholars Donald Kagan and his two sons, Robert and Frederick Kagan. The three male Kagans have been opinion-leaders among those advocating much-increased U.S. military presence in the Mideast wars and for more U.S. security against domestic terrorism threats.
This speculation about a potentially hidden family relationship involves a variety of coincidences. Among them, the first names "Robert" and "Elena" are in each family tree, and standard biographical sources are elusive on certain family details.
So, for what it's worth, I'll now share that I phoned the Yale University historian Donald Kagan last spring at home.