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What They’re Saying About Elena Kagan After Day 1 of Questioning

Kagan gets high marks for her openness and composure.

While yesterday’s time in the Judiciary Committee for the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan did see attacks from some quarters as we predicted, it was also noteworthy the praise she received. Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy  told her, “I can't remember anybody that's been asked such a wide variety of questions or answered them as forthrightly as you have” – a point echoed by Republican Senator John Cornyn when he congratulated on her testimony and said “I think you've done a good job of explaining from the witness chair how you would decide cases.” Senator Arlen Specter, a long time veteran of Supreme Court nomination. also praised her after the hearings, saying “she's been a lot more forthcoming than most” – and applauded her for her support of televised proceeding in the Supreme Court as a sign of her openness. Senator Whitehouse said she had been “candid”; Senator Cardin gave her “a high grade for being responsive to the questions”;  Senator Schumer called her “thoughtful and practical”; and Senator Klobuchar found her exactly as we expected: “incredibly charming and smart throughout… really never stumped once.”

When it did come to responding to attacks, media and legal experts applauded her there too. Here’s a sampling:

  • Fox NewsShannon Bream: Kagan “Stayed Very Calm, Cool and Collected.” [Fox News, 6/29/10]
  • Washington Post’s Eva Rodriguez: “Kagan Did Well Under Sometimes Intense Questioning [Washington Post, Rodriguez Post, 6/29/10]
  • Bloomberg News: Kagan’s Humor, Command of Law Deflect Republican Criticism. [Bloomberg, 6/30/10]
  • SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein: “Kagan Is Displaying a Very Solid Understanding of a Range of Legal Questions; Clearly Well Prepared.” [SCOTUSBlog’s Liveblog, 6/29/10]
  • The Atlantic’s Garrett Epps: “Kagan Has Been Able, Seemingly Without Trying, to Dominate a Room Full of Silver-Haired Senators. That’s an Accomplishment, Of Course: But What’s More Impressive Is That She’s Doing It Without Breaking a Sweat.” [The Atlantic, 6/29/10]
  • Politics Daily’s Andrew Cohen: Kagan Established Herself “as Judicial and Judicious – Precisely What Her Supporters Had Hoped She Would Do.” [Politics Daily, 6/29/10]
  • Former OLC Head Walter Dellinger Said Kagan “Had a Great Tuesday Morning, One of the Best of Any Nominee in a Long Time… I Really Believe She May Have Changed the Minds of Some Senators Who Had Been Looking for Reasons to Oppose Her.” Washington Post, Dellinger Post, 6/29/10]
  • Newsweek’s Stuart Taylor: “Kagan’s Testimony Was Truthful and Precise.”  [Newsweek, Stuart Taylor Post, 6/29/10]
  • AP: Republicans Have A “Tough Case To Make” On Kagan’s Opposition To DADT: “Judging By Her Own Words, Kagan Held The Military In High Regard And Stories Abound Of Her Praising And Thanking Veterans On Campus.” [AP, 6/29/10]
  • WSJ’s  Nathan Koppel: Kagan Sounded “Confident And In Full Command Of The Issues.” [WSJ Law Blog, 6/29/10]
  • WSJ’s Ashby Jones: “Kagan Survived The Morning Session Intact, Never Stumbling…”  [Ashby Jones, Wall Street Journal Blog, 6/29/10]
  • Washington Post : Kagan “Held Forth Fluidly Throughout Her Reponses, on Several Occasions Interrupting Senators With Quips or Asides.” [Washington Post, 6/29/10]

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart described the scene for one particularly aggressive line of questioning: 

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan endured a rather persnickety line of questioning from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R- Ala.) on the ban on military recruiting at Harvard when she was the dean of the law school. In a pointed challenge, Sessions demanded to know her stance on ‘don't ask don't tell,’ the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces.  And without hesitation, the woman who is a bit of an enigma when it comes to her personal views, answered forcefully that the prohibition ‘was unjust. I believed it then and I believe it now.’ Kagan's principled position is in line with Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen. Sessions, not Kagan, is the one out of step on this issue.