June 29th, 2010
04:57 PM ET

What we've learned about Elena Kagan

After a long day of questioning by senators hoping to find out more about Solicitor General Elena Kagan, there's one thing they now know for sure: No matter how they try to get her to discuss her judicial philosophy, there's no hard answer. For Kagan, it's all on a case-by-case basis.

At least, that's the sense Kagan conveyed today over and over again when asked about her political views and how they might influence her role on the Supreme Court.

Asked about issues including abortion, military recruitment, "don't ask, don't tell," executive power and other hot-button issues, Kagan always asserted that the law was the law, precedent was binding, and that's how she'd plan on ruling if any of those issues fell before her if her nomination was confirmed. She often answered questions with phrases indicating she felt she would bring no bias to the bench.

"I think I will take this one case at a time," she said several times. Others times, it came in the form of "I will try to judge each case as it comes."

The remarks were ironic, some congressmen noted, especially for someone who had once before written that the nomination process had become somewhat of a farce with barely any substance. So, she was asked her own question that she said would be fair to ask any nominee: How she felt she might move the institution, politically. Kagan said she expected that she wouldn't, but was pressed further, saying it was a question she herself obviously thought was fair and important.

"It might be a fair question ..." Kagan said, her voice rising, then pausing before it trailed off. It was almost as if she wanted to answer, or couldn't say "but I won't answer it."

Day 2 of questioning: Guns, abortion, jokes

Senators tried several ways to find out where she would fall as a judge - because she has never sat on a judicial bench - asking about her views on other justices, the court's prior rulings and previous precedents. She did answer questions about a military recruitment issue and abortion, and about several other issues in roundabout ways. But she didn't waver much in her answers, though she tried often to invoke some humor in them.

"I would not want to characterize the current court in any way - I hope one day to join it," Kagan said at one point, drawing comical remarks from senators that she may have some politician in her yet.

The hearing also had its contentious moments, including one between Sen. Jeff Sessions and Kagan, regarding her role as a dean at Harvard University and military recruiters being allowed on campus. At one point, Sessions said he thought Kagan was "unconnected to reality" in how she was classifying the situation. The hearing also had a few moments of sparring among committee members: Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Patrick Leahy got into a small debate when Leahy tried to tell his colleague to rephrase his questioning.

But like many other moments during the hearing, the tension was broken with some laughter.

"We have to have a little back and forth every once in a while, or this place would be boring as hell, I'll tell you," Hatch said, laughing. Kagan responded that she was happy it took the spotlight off her for a moment.

"By the way, I've been informed that hell is not boring," Hatch remarked, laughing.

And during a break in the questioning, when not everyone was back in time, Sen. Jon Kyl found a way to invoke some humor himself.

"General Kagan, you can see how important my colleagues think my questions are here," Kyl said, with Leahy, the committee's chairman, chiming in quickly that he was there.

Kagan offered a quick-witted response that perhaps couldn't be more ironic: "Or how important my answers are."

soundoff (315 Responses)
  1. Lu

    Yes, she is smart enough to know how to avoid telling the truth about herself and her real views during the hearing.

    And for you, liberals on this thread who like to call everyone thinking differently than you "a fossil", "a far right-winger" or "an extremist", keep dreaming that it is only "the fossils" who you are going against. The less you appreciate the fact that this country is chock full of independently thinking middle-of-the-road moderates, the better.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobber

      Go back to tea-party lu-lu.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abraham Lincoln

      Most independants are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lu

      Can't really go back there, little bobbie, as I have never been there before, but since you brought up tea party, I am proud of America that it is still capable of giving birth to a new independent movement .

      And you liberals HATE it so because you can't (and don't know how to) control or buy these people.

      But hey, you still have amnesty as your last resort, then even drug cartel criminals will be able to vote and help you.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tommie

    One thing is for sure. The Libs will lead the way! Libs will not only tell you what you are thinking, but will also tell you what you should think. Hence the headline – WE KNOW THIS – who knows this? The Libs? Plus everybody else?

    June 29, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobber

      Can't make any sense of your comment...sorry. I must be too liberal but thanks anyway! Smooches!

      June 29, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gladiator

    You know what they say, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” So this must mean that she is not going to be the brightest person to serve Americans.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      lol, like dubya?

      June 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gladiator

      It's Bush, Chuck. Not dubya. So much for Liberals having their OWN minds.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      After what 'Dubya' did to this country, he doesn't deserve to be called by his real name. It is a thief and crook and deserves to be called a lot worse.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SMB

    Interesting that some are co

    June 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DocJake

    Just what the country needs is someone with no real experience. Oh, wait a minute we already have that with Obama!

    June 29, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      Compared to what this country endured under the so called experienced Dubya, then this is exactly what the country needs.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gladiator

      What this country needs is more people like DocJake who understand what experience is.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hawaiikaos

      Experience does not necessarily equate to competency or intelligence. Mozart had no experience when he started composing and one could argue that he was the best ever had what he did.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jagger55

    It seems that all the newscasters who have prime time shows have a serious agenda these days. But just because you disagree with them does not mean they are lunatics. I'm really getting tired of this strawman argument liberals put forth concerning the right (especially fox news). Fox news is obviously biased, however that does not mean that what they present is not news. EVERY news source has some type of slant. It's fine you disagree with the agenda Fox subscribes to, but to try and argue Fox is not a news channel...well, your credibility loses merit especially with the informed public.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      Fox news is nothing more then an extended branch of the rebulican party. They are about as much 'news' as Rush or Hannity or Beck. Nothing but a bunch of hot air.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • DocJake

      Chuck@ And CNN is just at the other end of the spectrum of idiots.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      Yet here you are over at cnn responding!!!!!!
      Why are you here again?

      June 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • DocJake

      Chuck@ Because, unlike most I like to consider both sides and make up my own mind rather than following some one blindly without question.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gladiator

      We're here to keep people like Chuck in check with reality and get you out of your liberal la la land.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      lol, you keep telling yourself that. the reason beck and rush and hannity are so popular is because repubs cannot and will not do a thing without finding out what they are supposed to think first. There's a reason there are no super popluar left wing shows like that, we have our own mind. We don't need to be told how to think. that is the whole reason fox news and it's sequeals 'rush, hannity and beck' are popular. They have the entire rightwing nutjobs tuning in everyday for their marching orders.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim H

      I don't quarrel with Fox News running Beck or Hannity. But their news coverage is almost entirely fictionalized to confirm to their views. It DOES affect their news programs too. For instance, if you listened to Fox this morning, you saw one thing: Republicans questioning Kagan. No Democrats questioning Kagan. Should conservatives THANK them for that, or realize they're being treated like retards, and switch to CSPAN for honest coverage.

      As for CNN, it has completely lost its soul and has become a collection of "personalities" saying random things. It's not organized well enough to be left, right or down the middle. It's all over the place, and THE PLACE to go to get your murder trials and child kidnapping accounts, and twitters.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gladiator

      The reason there is no Liberal reporters is because they have nothing good to say about what their party is doing right now, ruining the government and the ocean!

      June 29, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      lol, sounds like a 'faux news' supporters view to me!!!!!!
      I guess you think things went so perfectlly under retard dubya, huh?

      June 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jilli

      Fox isn't a news station, it's a propaganda network.

      You only have to fact check one days worth of programming. Do an honest fact check, using a variety of sources. I'm quite sure regular Fox indoctrinees would be astounded at the inaccuracies and sheer nonsense they present as the truth. You'd smack yourself upside the head for every spending 10 minutes listening to Glenn Becks hooey. Pay attention to how often the talking heads preface their commentary with "some people are saying…" – that's one que that should set your manure meter off immediately. Problem is, Fox doesn't care about facts. Fox plays off peoples anger and emotion – they're out to make a buck, and they are masters at stoking the flames of the intellectually incurious. It's a win/win – republicans maintain a steady stream of shallow thinking lemmings, and Fox and their personalities make millions. Unfortunately, in the big picture, it's the American public that loses.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jagger55

    See you just proved my point. You took two hours worth of shows (Beck and Hannity) and used those TWO hours to represent an entire news channel. Logic must be a dirty word.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Nemo

      OK, then, try this: Fox News went to court to defend itself for broadcasting as news facts that they knew were false. Fox's defense was that, although they knew the facts were false, no law prevents them from broadcasting them.

      That is one amazingly corrupt position for a purveyor of news (that is, true fact) to take, don't you think?


      June 30, 2010 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. JRM

    As a female lawyer who has practiced in the Courts for nearly 20 years, Harriet Miers' resume for the U.S. Supreme Court was a joke. Your local elected judge has more experience and intellectual prowess than Ms. Miers. I might not agree with Justice Robert's position, but I respect his ability to be an effective judge. Similarly Kagan has the chops to be a good judge. Again, I might not agree with her politics, but her ability makes her a very good candidate. I think laymen often see lawyers as lawyers, but this is a misnomer. Trial lawyers in federal court and those who do appellate work on a daily basis can easily distinguish a lawyer who will be good as a state judge, federal district court judge, federal appellate court judge and U.S. Supreme Court judge. Kagan is in that top group,which is a very small group of maybe a couple hundred people are qualified to join. Think of high school football stars versus NFL Hall of Fame and you'll get the concept.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • rudy

      Yes she was a joke and so is Kagan

      June 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cmjt

    We have learn that Kagan is loyal to the administration that nominated her. Her frequent dodging of questions due the "policy" of her current position leaves little doubt that politics matter more than real legal decisions. She interviewed as if she was more concern about her current job than being a real judge.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chris

    This is Obama's fault.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tailman

      True dat!!

      June 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kenny Merriken

    Someone needs to ask
    Elena Kagan if human life begins at conception.
    End Abortion nationally
    or face national bankruptcy

    June 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kenny Merriken

    I believe Elena Kagan supports Roe V. Wade. How sad. I have a new word and poem for this sadness.
    A plague from sea to sea;
    To Christ our knees must bend,
    Then Roe V. Wade will end.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      Really? and you are surprised? Who would you expect obama to nominate? someone with totally opposite views then himself? He was elected, He won. He gets to choose the nominees and of course he is going to choose someone with the same views. Same thing happened with dubya, same thing is gonna happen with every single nominee ever. get over it.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JR

    Her writings over the years have NOT made her seem liberal or conservative, but instead varied on an item by item case. Sessions personal vindictiveness aside, the cons don't really have anything to point to and make her appear left leaning. If anyone wants to point to an example of political activism on the supreme court they only have to look at Thomas or Scalia, they won't find it in Kagan and I'm afraid that down the road she's probably going to side with the cons on many issues. I wish she WAS a liberal.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe citizen abroad

    As president, Mr. Obama is permitted to exercise his judement regarding who he believes will best serve the nation on the highest court in the land. It is up to the opposition to demonstrate why she should NOT be confirmed. The burden of proof is on them. Not her.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zack

      And they do that by asking her questions and getting real answers from her! If it's just days of questions and non-answers, how does that help the country? We need to have a true evaluation of her. Don't defend her just because she's in the same party as you! Use your mind, not your emotions!

      June 29, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jilli

    I'm impressed. A Supreme Court nominee that actually displays some personality. She appears to be intelligent, informed, and not at all pompus like many of the others on the SC. She'd be a real breath of fresh air. I get the impression she'd work well in a group and be a consensus builder. She has a humanity and an obvious understanding not only of the law, but also of what's resonable to regular people.

    I'm impressed. I think she'll be easily confirmed.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
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