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. Congressmen

    In trying to find some objective and unbias information on Kagan I found this article by the Wall Street Journal (a conservative source) that cites all Solicitors General appointed since 1985 consider Kagan to be qualified for the bench. For those of you that really are not aware of judicial trends, the Solicitor General is the lawyer that represents the federal government in cases that the federal government is party to. It is also considered one of the more prestigious judicial appointments that often leads to the Supreme Court.


    To you conservative ideologues that cry "unqualified" know that previous justices such as White, Powell, and Rehnquist (champion of states' rights) never served as federal judges... I say that YOU are unqualified in making such a criticism along party lines. When Reagan appointed Robert Bork, he was considered one of the least qualified candidates available by the BAR (the BAR's evaluation of judicial appointments is considered by many judicial scholars to the best apolitical sources for grading judicial qualifications).

    June 29, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DEW

    why put this on tv,obama wants her end of story.

    June 29, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    Does Obama appoint white men to anything?

    June 29, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Markle

      Vice President....so he can look down his nose at him.

      President Barack Hussein Obama has boasted that racist, anti-American and anti-Semite Rev. Wright was his and Michelle's mentor and was "part of his family" for 20 years. Obama has stated that the Supreme Court erred when they made their Civil Rights Decisions in not going far enough and should have ordered reparations.

      Is any one surprised?

      June 29, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TrumpetPants

    What is Obama trying to do this time? Why was Kagan nominated when there were tons of REAL judges to choose from?

    June 29, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      What? You don't value diversity?

      June 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grafixer

      What, specifically, is wrong with the Kagan nomination? Over 36% of the SC judges did not have previous bench experience. Or is is... just that she was nominated by a Democratic President?

      June 29, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Beck? who cares?

    You not so bright individuals who would endorse this traitor should suffer the same fate as she. She is not a true American. Regardless, she has zero experience as a judge; much less a supreme court judge. I noticed that the 2nd amendment vote passed narrowly 5 to 4. This traitor, from the traitor training school ( Harvard), will only bring the usurpers of this country agendas even further along. I am furious that in all of courts, supreme and otherwise there is not ONE SINGLE BETTER QUALIFIED JUDGE to join the most powerful judiciary in the world.

    June 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Why so serious

      The true traitor to this great counnty can be seen within your mirror.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Why so serious

      errr Country not counnty 😉

      June 30, 2010 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bruce H

    The ideal nominee for the Supreme Court is one who comes to the court with no bias, no political agenda and no prejudged positions on points of law. We have an adversarial system of court cases where the advocates for both sides bring arguments to support their position. The justices should consider both sides of a case as argued by the advocates together with legal precedents. They should not allow any personal preferences to enter into their rulings.
    The Senate should reject any nominee who demonstrates a fixed position based on any ideology whether liberal or conservative.

    June 29, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny Mo

      Everyone has an idiology. The scary ones are those who insist they do not and that they ought to be the impartial mediators of the world. Theirs is a rather self-centered idiology.

      Lets hear what she thinks and what her judicial philosophy really is.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. Grafixer

    The hearings taught the American people as much about the Republicans as it did about Kagan. Kagan was cool and confident, professional and polite. Sessions showed prejudice, rudeness, and lack of professionalism. Amazing to watch this man, and his partners, spin whatever they could to discredit this educated and poised nominee. 36% of the SC Judges have not had bench experience. This new judge will bring a sorely needed balance (still not enough) to this court. And, the Rep Senators have done the Dems a tremendous service with their display today – showing all just exactly what they are about, and what they stand for. Keep it coming boys!! We will thank you again in November!

    June 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. chris stratas

    I applaud Elena Kagan for restricting military recruiters on Harvard's Campus because of the unfair "Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy. It's too bad that Senator Sessions isn't more sympathetic to the gay civil rights battle.

    June 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Don'tBASucker

    What do we know about her?...
    She's against the 2nd amendment, She thinks the current court doesn't understand the "Modern Meaning" of The Consitution ....Not only 'No'–But–HELL NO !!!

    June 29, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grafixer

      Did Rush tell you that you think that? Of course, there is nothing to back up that statement, but sure... keep regurgitating Rush dribble. LOLOL

      June 29, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don'tBASucker

      Hey graf

      Straight out of her own mouth

      maybe if you un-corked your mouth from Obamas butt and Rubbed the "D's" out of your eyes you would have tme to do a little research

      "The only things liberals hae more thanguns is gun Facts"

      June 29, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • bama

      really, I watched the hearings, guess you didn't.. What did you do – listen to some radio show!

      June 29, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paspat

    OK, most women in America are either married or mothers, or both. Obama continues to select bright women who are NEITHER. Certainly there must be thousands of brilliant, qualified women lawyers/ judges who have lived the full American experience, with all the everyday frustrations. African American, Hispanic, Asian, White- who cares?? How can they judge any part of the true American experience from academia or the political world?? What is wrong with this picture??

    June 29, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. anonymousposter

    How often are Supreme Court nominees NOT confirmed?
    Can someone refresh my memory?

    Also, Obama will not make it through 2 terms. America is too racist for him to live through 2 terms.
    He will be assassinated, possibly before 2012.
    Think of all the assassination attempts already committed.

    Some crazy American will shoot him in a cold blood and get
    their 15 mins of fame when they are caught.

    Although, I would love to see the economy improve by 2012. Crossing my fingers
    and hoping for a steady recovery in the coming year.

    June 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • anonymousposter2

      Hey, no worries, anonymousposter – with Obama's economic policies, the economy is NOT going to improve by 2012.

      Also, what racism are you talking about? The guy is not really black, more white I would say, raised by white people, having lived half of his young years in foreign countries, and I am just as brown as he when I get tanned....His views are the problem, not his skin color!

      June 29, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Please...

    For those who say Kagen does not need court experience or not be penalized for refusing to render an opinion on such judicial issues being questioned in order to be confirmed outright...well then why not nominate the Dos Equis "most interesting man in the world" and he can give the same thoughtful, non-committal answers she is giving. Stay thirsty my friends!

    June 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JekyllIlsand

    When asked if the Commerce Clause allowed Congress the ability to pass legislation telling citizens what they had to eat, she didn't answer; she stated it was or would be a dumb law, but still side stepped the answer. ww.youtube.com/watch?v=DSoWGlyugTo

    I pray that you get what you ask for & then live for forever

    June 29, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • bama

      She did answer – It would be a dumb law. what else could you say to such a stupid question/

      June 29, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ctt

    Well Grafixer, she is purposely slippery, not transparent at all for people to easily see what her views and thoughts really are so people repeat after Rush or whoever.....

    June 29, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Zunt

    Anyone thinking of getting an abortion should check out the movie: The Silent Scream. The woman who filmed it was pro-choice until she actually saw what happened during an abortion. She is not pro-choice anymore. She will not even talk about what she saw that day when she filmed it.

    What DID she see? She saw (Through Ultra Sound) the unborn baby try to desperately move away from the tool of death being used by the Doctor. She saw it fight for its life while still in the womb. She saw it move its tiny arms and its tiny legs whenever the doctor came too close to it. Yes, it was aware. When the Doctor (Murderer) did finally get the baby by the legs, she saw the baby open its little mouth and yell. There was no one there to hear it scream though because it was still inside its Mother, who was having it murdered. That is why the movie is called : The "Silent" Scream.

    June 29, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don'tBASucker

      Thats why you hae the abotion te second you find outr yur pregnat and don't want it...no pain ...no knowledge

      June 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
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