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. Surthurfurd

    Noncommittal answers are only a problem if it is a candidate from the "other" party. We excuse away all the same lack of information by those in our own party. This uproar about her not answering the question is no more than political maneuvering.

    June 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • ctt

      Not true, I hate slippery politicians on whichever side. And I do not even have "my own party".

      So much for your "political maneuvering".

      June 29, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Surthurfurd

      CTT – I appreciate that you do not let yourself fall into the trap. I try to do that myself. I just note that those on the hill and many of those supporting or attacking her do tend to have this partisan problem.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Don'tBASucker

    boi i kneed a nu kibored

    June 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Laura

    Why does Sen. Kyl call her "General Kagan" - as quoted at the end of this article?
    Are they confusing her with Gen. Petraeus?

    June 29, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ps

    I am sure pro-choice liberals know about this movie Zunt, but most of them have not seen it and have no desire whatsoever to see it.

    They absolutely HATE IT though, even without seeing it.

    That's because this movie shows without too many words what abortion really is.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Nemo

      Oh, we know. And we know making abortion illegal won't stop it. We'll just have more women being butchered to death or made sterile by unsafe procedures.

      June 30, 2010 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. dan

    The argument that Kagan is not qualfied for the court due to her lack of judicial experience is without merit. Thirty-six percent of previous justices joined the court without ever being a judge. Find a different line of attack and remember your history.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Surthurfurd

      Far too many of us do not let the facts get in the way of our opinions.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cartman

    What have we've learned about Elene Kagan? Absolutely nothing... Kagan once wrote that supreme court nominees should be more forthcoming and that the typical confirmation hearing was "a vapid and hollow charade." where nominees were uncommunicative about their views and senators accepted the evasiveness with a shrug. I completely agree with her on this yet she is now dancing around questions like a cat on a hot tin roof. Her broad view that the content of free speach can be prohibited based it's "societal" cost scares the hell out of me. She'll be confirmed but we could do better.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • wcl

      If Kagan once wrote that supreme court nominees should be more forthcoming and now she is reticent, evasive and holding back, then it looks like there is one thing we do know about her: she is a hypocrite.

      Or maybe she just changes her mind a lot, as convenient, "on a case by case basis"? Well, that would make her an opportunist.

      Either way, she does not come across as honest.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  7. tin davis

    never let this ga y postmenopausal bi*** be a judge. she has her nose abot a foot up the obamatrons @ss

    June 29, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Surthurfurd

      I gather that you are determined that people dismiss you are irrational and crude?

      June 29, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paspat

    Forget the judicial experience. She has no LIFE experience. She has spent her life in an office. Who are her people??
    What are her passions?? What do we know about HER?? What does she do in her free time? Who does she spend time with?? We know nothing about this woman!!! I don't care if she IS gay, but if she is- does she have a partner?? Does she have many partners?? What do we know about this woman?? Why can't anyone ask about her LIFE???

    June 29, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Nemo

      If you think you can become, or remain, dean of Harvard Law without professional and "life" experience, you are truly clueless.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
  9. billybob

    Have we learned whether she is a bull dike or not yet?

    June 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cal

      Why should we care, unless we are still living in the Sixteenth Century with draconian mentality!

      June 29, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Nemo

      I you'd learn to SPELL the slurs you use, we'd laugh at you less.

      But we'd still laugh.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. beatley

    Anyone nominated by this president is suspect. Just look at his czars. Their either rabid marxist or chicago gangsters.
    Kagen? Well she's got no experiance but academia. Ivey league clueless and good telepromter reading skills will win
    you the presidency but the Supreame court? I picture her to be as poor a choice as Van Jones meaning marxist philosophy first -quality proven real world experiance dead last.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • rar

      Please. You sound like you should be wearing a little white hood.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. sheIsALiar

    she evades questions to hide the truth. throw the wretch into jail for lying. and take that o-hole of a kenyan president and toss him in too.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • brenda

      You are right, she is hiding the truth about her convictions because she knows that she would not get confirmed if she fully disclosed what she believes in.

      And Obama purposely chose a person without any judicial record so people cannot figure out looking at her record what her convictions are.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Captain Nemo

      >And Obama purposely chose a person without any judicial record

      Did you complain when George W. Bush did the same thing? If not, then it is unseemly and hypocritical for you to complain now.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
  12. Brainless liberals

    CONSERVATIVES – believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. Believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.

    Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems. LIBERALS – believe in governmental action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all, and that it is the duty of the State to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. Believe that people are basically good.

    Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve people's problems.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • XWngLady

      You are so transparent. You all have the same story. You're so worried that someone is going to make out better than you. God forbid that you actually give something without expecting something in return. God forbid that grace is extended to someone who may or may not deserve it, even if in the long run is benefits the ENTIRE society and not a priveleged few. I am a Democrat and I work hard everyday and am taxed out the wazoo. I have two degress and am not a lazy, do for nothing. But I do understand the importance of helping those who are less fortunate than I am so that they can turn around and contribute more to society. One thing you fail to mention in your definition of conservative is that PEOPLE are power and money hungry and that when we had limited government and a more 'free market' the abuses we saw were such that it almost sent this country over the economic cliff. As for personal responsibility, from what I've seen, so-called Conservatives aren't very responsible with their personal behavior whether its extra-marital affairs or other scandals. Please clean your own house up first before attempting to criticize anyone else about theirs...Also, I do believe in paying down the federal deficit, but I think that many of those harping about the federal deficit don't even balance their own budgets and live WAY beyond their means and are blaming the government for their own personal mismanagement. They could care less about "our children's future"....Puh-lease!

      June 30, 2010 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
    • marni

      So that sounds like liberals should all move to and be happy in a communist country.

      They should hurry though, there are very few such countries left... I wonder why....

      June 30, 2010 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. Brainless liberals

    LIBERALS – believe in governmental action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all, and that it is the duty of the State to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. Believe that people are basically good.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. anonymous61

    Ugh. I hate these hearings where the person up to be confirmed doesn't answer questions. If you won't answer them you shouldn't be confirmed. Period.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. brenda moore

    Let's face it. If Obama wanted God to sit on the bench, the GOP would find faults with his choice. She's as qualified for the job as Obama was for President. Where would we be if we had a fear-mongering GOP as president? Where I come from (Hawaii) we nurture decent and respectful citizens. Our Queeen Liliuokalani was overthrown by white men that stole from the innocent Hawaiians and brought diseases that wiped out thousands of Hawaiians. Like middle class citizens, we fought against taxation w/o representation. Still since then, the white man dominates.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
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