Kagan, Harvard, and military recruiters

KAGAN, HARVARD, AND MILITARY RECRUITERS…. As part of the Supreme Court confirmation process, just about everything Elena Kagan has ever said, written, or thought will be subjected to quite a bit of scrutiny. It’s hard to know what, if anything, will prove to be contentious.

But given what we currently know, there’s one part of Kagan’s background that’s likely to generate questions. Conservative Jonathan Strong published this item this morning.

Elena Kagan’s most notable foray into public life was kicking military recruiters off of Harvard’s campus.

President Obama’s latest choice for the Supreme Court has held a number of high-profile jobs over the years, but she has left a relatively thin paper trail, with one major exception. As the dean of Harvard’s law school, Kagan fought to bar military recruiters from the university’s campus. Her reasoning? Even with two wars in progress, she contended, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should disqualify the US military from having any association with the school. “I abhor the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” she said, describing it as a “moral injustice of the first order.”

Knowing that Kagan felt this strongly about DADT makes me like her more, not less, though that probably wasn’t the reaction Strong had in mind.

Nevertheless, there’s less here than meets the eye. Kagan’s efforts at Harvard on military recruiters were part of the record when she was considered last year for solicitor general — the far-right Washington Times ran a piece labeling her “an anti-military zealot” — but Kagan was nevertheless confirmed with bipartisan support.

Moreover, the argument that Kagan “kicked military recruiters off of Harvard’s campus” is, by all accounts, an exaggeration. Media Matters research shows that Kagan “briefly restricted (but did not eliminate) access to recruiters only after the U.S Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that law schools could do so.” It also noted this NYT report from last week.

[Kagan’s] management of the recruiting dispute shows her to have been, above all, a pragmatist, asserting her principles but all the while following the law, so that Harvard never lost its financing. […]

[E]ven when she … briefly barred the military from using the law school’s main recruitment office, she continued a policy of allowing the military recruiters access to students.

Not exactly nomination-killing stuff.