WASHINGTON (CN) – Two dozen witnesses appeared before the Senate Judicial Committee Thursday to voice their support or opposition of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, with most focusing on the Harvard Law School dean’s action to ban military recruiters on campus.
“Ms. Kagan is clearly a very capable academic, and the president has the right to nominate whomever he pleases,” said Army Capt. Pete Hegseth, executive director of Vets for Freedom. “But in replacing the only remaining veteran on the Supreme Court in Justice John Paul Stevens, how did we reach a point in this country where we are nominating someone who unapologetically obstructed the military at a time of war?”
Answering questions about the military recruiting issue Wednesday, Kagan said that she was defending the school’s antidiscrimination policy and pointed out that recruitment numbers actually increased during her tenure. She said that even when she did not allow military recruiters to work out of the school’s career services center, students still had access to recruiters through the campus veterans’ office.
“I don’t think there is any way you can say that that was equal access,” Hegseth said. He said Kagan “used the military as the focus” to wage an attack on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a Congressional mandate.
“It’s not an issue of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” said former army captain Flagg Youngblood. “It’s that Kagan, as dean of Harvard law school, decided to strictly ignore the law.” He said Kagan “acted hoping that the law wouldn’t be enforced” and accused her of “flabbing the foundation of the rule of law, which is to say the Constitution.” He urged senators to deny her confirmation.
“Clearly she does not respect the military because she bowed to the demands of the sexual counterculture,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also asking the Senate to reject her nomination.
“She is not opposed to veterans,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., kicked back. “She is not opposed to the military. It was a matter of conscience for her to speak out. I respect her for that. She has emphasized her respect for the military.”
Army Capt. Kurt White, president of Harvard Law School Armed Forces Association agreed with Durbin. He said Kagan created a “pro military environment” as dean of Harvard, and cited a speech she gave to students at the beginning of the semester that highlighted veterans and members of the military and urged students to make their acquaintance during the year. “It was really wonderful to be recognized on that first day,” White said, adding that he entered Harvard with some “trepidation” for serving in the military and attending an Ivy League school.
Several of Kagan’s law school colleagues praised her legal capability throughout the hearing.
Former Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark, who preceded Kagan as dean and helped select her to fill the position, studying her work, said Kagan knew legal doctrines “inside and out” and said she was “unlikely to get too creative or loose” with the law.
Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith, who was hired by Kagan while she was dean of Harvard, praised her “immense competence” and open-mindedness. Goldsmith he served as “the example for how open-minded she was” because he had served as a legal adviser for the Bush administration. Goldsmith said Kagan’s decision to hire him demonstrated her “commitment to frank and open exchange of ideas” and insisted that the decision was not merely to establish “balance for balance’s sake.”
Despite the varied opinions on Kagan’s record, Senate Judiciary Committee members said they had no doubt that Kagan would be confirmed.
Kagan was nominated by President Obama in May to fill the vacant seat of retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced his retirement in April.
If confirmed, Kagan would become the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court in U.S. history and the third to currently sit on the bench.