President Barack Obama‘s likely nominee to replace retiring Chief Associate Justice John Paul Stevens is said to be solicitor general (and former Harvard Law School dean) Elena Kagan. The general understanding is that she’s (a) quite brilliant, (b) ideologically centrist if not conservative (Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald wrote yesterday that “replacing Stevens with Kagan would shift the Supreme Court substantially to the right on a litany of key issues”), and (c) openly gay.

If Kagan is in fact nominated Team Obama will be viewed as having gone the cautious if not vaguely chickenshit route, considering that Kagan’s conservative leanings will make it hard for Republicans to sqawk all that loudly and will deprive them of an election-year issue. Unless, of course, they want to play the anti-gay bigot card.