May 17, 2010

Well, here's some of the nonsense we get to look forward to from Republicans during Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination hearings.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told ABC News' "This Week" that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan "violated the law" by not allowing military recruiting on the Harvard Law School campus when she was dean there, and added the issue is "no little-bitty matter."

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., appearing on "This Week" with Sessions, dismissed the argument as "sound and fury signifying nothing."

The controversy revolves around Kagan's decision to prohibit military recruiting directly on the law school's campus because the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy prohibiting gays from openly serving in the armed forces violated Harvard Law School's anti-discrimination policy.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last year, the fact that the Republican Party has Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III out there as their point man on the Senate Judiciary Committee replacing Arlen Specter when he retired is just disgusting to begin with given the man's racist past. I've got to wonder if he's going to embarrass himself during Kagan's hearing like he did when Sonia Sotomayor went before his committee. It probably won't be racism this time around that Sessions manages to make an ass out of himself over, but apparently he's getting a head start on lying about her as he did here.

Media Matters has more on Sessions talking point on Kagan and military recruiters that Newt Gingrich was out peddling as well. Imagine that... two Republicans repeating the same talking points and walking in lock step. When has that ever happened before, except every time a Republican opens their mouth?

Gingrich falsely claims "anti-military" Kagan "single[d] out the military" at Harvard:

Kagan did not block the military from campus

Harvard students had access to military recruiters during Kagan's entire tenure as dean. Contrary to Gingrich's claim that Kagan tried to "block the American military from Harvard Law School," throughout Kagan's tenure as dean, Harvard law students had access to military recruiters -- either through Harvard's Office of Career Services or through the Harvard Law School Veterans Association. Kagan became dean of Harvard Law in June 2003 and continued the school's policy of granting the military a special exception to its nondiscrimination policy so that the military could work with the law school's Office of Career Services (OCS).

In accordance with the nondiscrimation policy, Kagan barred OCS from working with military recruiters for the spring 2005 semester after the U.S Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that law schools could legally do so. During that one semester, students still had access to military recruiters via the Harvard Law School Veterans Association. During the fall 2005 semester, after the Bush administration threatened to revoke Harvard's federal funding, Kagan once again granted military recruiters access to OCS. Harvard's data show that Kagan's actions did not adversely affect military recruitment. The notion that military recruitment was adversely affected by Kagan's actions is contradicted by data Media Matters obtained from Harvard Law School's public information officer. The prohibition on Harvard Law's OCS working with military recruiters existed during the spring 2005 semester, meaning that it could have affected only the classes of 2005, 2006, and 2007. However, the number of graduates from each of those classes who entered the military was equal to or greater than the number who entered the military from any of Harvard's previous five classes. Read on...

Pat Leahy did a good job of trying to push back against Sessions b.s. on This Week, not that it's going to make any difference to the Republican noise machine. There are reasons to have issues about Kagan's nomination. This isn't one of them. It's a damn shame the media doesn't do a better job beating back instead of perpetuating this crap so we could spend more time on the issues that do matter. Although I doubt we're going to get any real answers on the ones that do since she's written little about them and she's rightfully not going to answer questions on cases that may come before the court. She'd have to recuse herself if she did.

I don't expect this to be of any comfort to anyone that has reservations about her which I do as well, but no matter what you might have to say about Democratic nominees to the Supreme Court, at least they're not Jeff Sessions. It always astounds me that we get all the carping over the Republican nominees that turned out to be centrist and at least not extreme right wingers and them being called "liberal". Our Villagers in the media have bastardized the label so badly most people don't even understand what it means any more. Kagan looks like an Obama pragmatist to me right now. I hope she moves to the left of what we've seen from her so far because this right wing Supreme Court needs some balance very badly and that's an understatement of how terrible they've been.

Transcript below the fold via ABC.

TAPPER: You have expressed concern about a step she took when she was dean at Harvard Law School, and she continued the policy of Harvard Law School of keeping military recruiters from using the Office of Career Services, although she did change that policy later in her tenure there.

The White House has said she had great relationships with veterans and with the military while dean. What's specifically your concern about this issue?

SESSIONS: I have great concerns about that. That went on for a number of years. It was a national issue. People still remember the debate about it. She -- she reversed the policy. When she became dean, they were allowing the military to come back on campus and had been for a couple of years.

TAPPER: But they were always on campus, right? They just weren't using the Office of Career Services.

SESSIONS: Well, look, yeah, this is no little bitty matter, Jake. She would not let them come to the area that does the recruiting on the campus. They had to meet with some student veterans. And this is not acceptable. It was a big error. It was a national debate. Finally, we passed the Solomon amendment. They really didn't comply with it. Eventually, she joined a brief to try to overturn the Solomon amendment, which was eventually rejected 8-0 by the United States Supreme Court, and she was not in compliance with the law at various points in her tenure, and it was because of a deep personal belief she had that this policy, which was Congress and President Clinton's policy--

TAPPER: Don't ask, don't tell, right.

SESSIONS: -- not the military soldiers' policy--


LEAHY: Could I have a word?

TAPPER: Yes, Senator Leahy, you're shaking your head. Do you disagree with Senator Sessions?


TAPPER: This is no itty bitty matter, he says.

LEAHY: Well, this is like in Shakespeare, sound and fury signifying nothing. She -- the recruiters were always on the Harvard campus. She's shown her respect for the veterans there. She every year on Veterans Day, she had a dinner for all the veterans and their families who were there at Harvard. Recruiting went on at Harvard every single day throughout the time she was-- she was there. She was trying to follow Harvard's policy. She was also trying to make sure that students who wanted to go in the military could.

Scott Brown, who is a Republican U.S. senator and a member of the Active Reserves -- he's still in the military -- he met with her and left and said he thought she had high respect for our men and women in uniform, and he had no qualms about that.

I think, let's, you know, I realize you have so many special interest groups on the far right or the far left who have points. Ignore those. We ought to make up our own mind. We should be bright enough to do it.

This recruiting thing -- if somebody wants to go in the military, they usually find a recruiter. I mean, I don't think there was a recruiting station on the campus when my youngest son went and joined the Marine Corps. He wanted to join the Marine Corps. He had no trouble finding a recruiter. And I think in this case, the recruitment went on at Harvard all the way through. This really is trying to make up something out of whole cloth.

SESSIONS: Jake, I don't agree. This is controversial at Harvard. That's one reason she began to try to meet with military to try to assuage their concerns. She disallowed them from the normal recruitment process on campus. She went out of her way to do so. She was a national leader in that, and she violated the law of the United States at various points in the process.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about the legal aspect of it, because Chairman Leahy, Senator Sessions points out that when she was dean, she joined a friend of the court brief suing the Pentagon effectively, challenging this law, and it was rejected. That point of view and the friend of the court brief were rejected 8 to nothing by the Supreme Court. That includes Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Stevens saying Elena Kagan, you're wrong, your side is wrong. Now, it was just a friend of the court brief, but doesn't that unanimous verdict basically show that Kagan was expressing her political beliefs and not looking at the rule of law?

LEAHY: You know, if we had -- if we said that any lawyer who ever filed a brief at the Supreme Court, that they couldn't serve on the Supreme Court because the case lost, half the members who are on the Supreme Court today would not be on the Supreme Court.

She stated a position. She challenged the law. The law was upheld, and she said we will follow the law at Harvard. I don't know what else you could ask for.

TAPPER: All right, I want to move on to--

LEAHY: Laws are challenged all the time. That's why we have appellate courts.

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