Kagan dodges questions, defends Harvard military ban 

Despite writing that Supreme Court nominees should be more open about their views during the confirmation process, Solicitor General Elena Kagan mostly rejected that philosophy during the first day of questioning at her own hearing, frustrating some on the 19-member Judiciary Committee.

At the outset of the hearing, Kagan was forced to dispute her own writings, in which she said in 1995 that the Supreme Court nomination process was so lacking in forthright answers from the nominees, it "takes on an air of vacuity and farce."

She told Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. that she has since adjusted that view after consultation with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who told her to avoid answering "veiled" questions that would indicate how she might rule on a future case.

"I basically said to Senator Hatch that he was right, that I thought that I did have the balance a little bit off and that I skewed it too much towards saying that answering is appropriate, even when it would, you know, provide some kind of hints," Kagan said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tried to pin down Kagan on whether she believes suspects like Umar Farouk Abdumutullab, a Nigerian who allegedly tried to ignite a bomb on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day, were entitled to Miranda rights. Graham asked her viewpoint "as an average everyday citizen," to which Kagan responded, "I'm reluctant to say how I would think as an average everyday citizen because I might have to think about it as a judge."

But Kagan was willing to acknowledge her political leanings, telling Graham, upon persistent questioning, "My political views are generally progressive."

She also signaled support for limits on campaign finance spending and televising Supreme Court hearings.

Kagan had only one serious run-in during the day-long hearing and it occurred at the outset when the panel's top Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., questioned her about a ban on military recruiters at Harvard Law School in 2004 and 2005, when she served as dean.

Sessions went on the attack, accusing Kagan of violating federal law and giving the military "the runaround," in her efforts to keep recruiters off campus.

Kagan argued that the military had "full and good access" and that recruitment actually rose during the years she was battling recruiters.

"All that I was trying to do was to ensure that Harvard Law School could also comply with its anti-discrimination policy, a policy that was meant to protect all the students of our campus, including the gay and lesbian students who might very much want to serve in the military, who might very much want to do that most honorable kind of service that a person can do for her country," Kagan said.

Sessions told reporters after the exchange that Kagan's answers left him feeling "less comfortable than I did before," about her nomination, because it suggested she might lack "clarity of mind and the ability to rigorously analyze a complicated situation with intellectual honesty."

According to the Pentagon's 2005 report about Kagan's skirmish with recruiters, "The Army was stonewalled at Harvard."


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