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Wednesday round-up – Part I

According to the AP (via the Atlanta Journal Constitution), Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are seeking to obtain documents from Elena Kagan’s stint in the Clinton Administration; Senator Jeff Sessions argues that such documents are necessary to “make sure she would faithfully apply the Constitution and not be a rubber stamp” for the Obama Administration.  As Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post reports, Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Biden, chief counsel, told reporters that he is “sure” that the White House will reach an “accommodation” with the Clinton Library on the papers.  Michael Gerson, at the Washington Post, writes that “the most prominent thing about Kagan is her extraordinary ability, while holding high-profile jobs in the legal profession, to say nothing on the major issues of the day.”  The AP (via ABC 7 News) summarizes Kagan’s “thin paper trail,” while Bloomberg reports that Senator Orrin Hatch and many conservative groups expect Kagan to be confirmed.

One avenue of attack for Republicans has been Kagan’s lack of judicial experience.  McClatchy reporter Michael Doyle (via the Miami Herald) observes that, “[u]ntil now…senators haven’t used judicial inexperience as a reason to oppose a president’s nominee”; to the contrary, forty Supreme Court justices have “come to the court without any prior judicial experience.” At NPR, Nina Totenberg similarly notes that, “historically, judicial experience has not been deemed a major qualifications for service”; the current court (including Stevens), she adds, represents the “first time the court has had such uniform professional pedigree.”  The Big Think more generally discusses Kagan’s record, while Joel Connelly from the Seattle PI disputes comments by opponents of the nomination.

Although the Republicans are not likely to filibuster the Kagan nomination, Glenn Thrush at Politico predicts that they will focus their efforts to “give Democrats a miserable ride and deny the administration the pep rally afterglow of the Sonia Sotomayor hearings.” Jay Newton-Small, at Time, examines reactions to Kagan’s nomination in the Senate and posits that Kagan “would be lucky to garner 65 votes.”

Kagan’s nomination, the New York Times reports, is “already becoming a flash point in midterm Congressional campaigns as candidates in both parties try to exploit the coming court fight.” In particular, as the Boston Globe writes, Kagan’s decisions regarding on-campus military recruitment as Harvard dean could play a large role in her confirmation hearings.  Gay rights, Politico reports, will be “central” to the confirmation battles, with conservatives already “trying to paint Kagan as a guaranteed liberal vote for issues like gay marriage.” Within hours of the nomination, the BLT reports, the Democratic National Committee and Senate Judiciary Republicans launched separate websites in “preparation for the confirmation hearings.” And as the DailyNews reports, Kagan has eight appointments with Senate leaders today on Capitol Hill.

The Washington Post reports that “a chorus of black commentators and civic leaders” has criticized Kagan’s hiring record at Harvard, which in their view lacked in racial diversity.  The White House has responded by “emphasizing that Kagan did not have the final say in hiring decisions at Harvard where such decisions are made by a committee.”  At the Wall Street Journal, Laura Meckler reports more generally on Kagan’s tenure as Dean of Harvard Law School.

The White House has released a short video about the life and experiences of Elena Kagan which is narrated by…Elena Kagan.  It can be found on Youtube with a basic summary of the video contents on the Huffington Post.  According to CBS, at least one reporter expressed disappointment to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that, instead of being interviewed in the video by a reporter, Kagan was instead interviewed by a White House staffer.  Nonetheless, it appears “to be unprecedented for the nominee to be heard from at all before the confirmation hearings, other than in the initial introduction and in brief photo ops with senators.”  In an opinion piece for the SF Examiner, however, Julie Mason dismisses the video as “just another infomercial.”