The Spectacle That is Jeff Sessions: Kagan Confirmation Hearings

The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan have begun.

Dan Abrams tweets:

What a weird spectacle. Kagan has to sit there expressionless as Sessions insults her again and again.

Glenn Greenwald tweets:

I hope progressive legal groups will refrain from heaping praise on Kagan unless/until they learn a little about her judicial philosophy.


What Sessions said (Via Andrew Cohen tweets):

Sen Sessions: Americans want a judge who will be a check on overreaching by government-- not a rubber stamp.

Sen Sessions: suggesting Kagan is elite, intellectual; says Obama wants judges to base their decisions on "empathy."

Sen Sessions: Kagan's career has been consumed with politics and not with law; says she's associated herself with "activists" in the law.

Sen Sessions: demeaned military during her stint at Harvard Law School through her position on military recruitment.

Sen. Sessions: Kagan was "key person" on Clinton Administration's view on late-term abortion ban.

Sen. Sessions: It's not a coronation, it's a confirmation. Says he has "real concerns" about Kagan nomination. She has not been a judge.

Sen Sessions; Kagan's thesis in college seems to mourn the death of Socialism.

Sessions is nothing if not predictable. What a cartoon, and a blowhard.

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    EJ Dionne (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 01:10:22 PM EST
    Has a good article today about the tack the Democrats are going to take:

    But if Kagan's job is to get confirmed, the task of progressive members of the Senate Judiciary Committee is to reverse the effects of years of conservative propagandizing over the stakes in our debates about the nation's highest court.

    They will be pushing the narrative away from the hot-button social issues that have been a distraction from the main game: the use of the Supreme Court as a redoubt against progressive legislation, the right of plaintiffs to call corporations to account before juries, and the ability of the political system to protect itself against corruption.

    Leading this charge will be two recently elected Democratic senators who are free of the constraints imposed by the controversies of the past, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Al Franken of Minnesota.


    This time, Whitehouse told me he plans to focus on how conservative courts have limited the rights of plaintiffs to challenge corporations before juries by restricting the right to sue and on the evidence that can be brought into play.

    "Corporations hate juries," Whitehouse said. "It's the one part of government you can't buy." He will link this argument with a challenge to the Supreme Court's appalling Citizens United decision, which gives corporations virtually unlimited rights to spend money to influence elections. Invoking the baseball umpire metaphor made popular by Roberts, Whitehouse observed that "corporations have a different strike zone in the Supreme Court than regular people."

    Franken previewed his own approach earlier this month in a powerful speech to the American Constitution Society that has already made conservatives unhappy. Franken argued that the right has dominated the judicial debate by suggesting that "the Court's rulings don't matter to ordinary people" through a focus on cases involving late-term abortion, flag-burning and pornography.

    The time has come, Franken said in an interview, for progressives to recognize that Roe v. Wade has distracted attention from what is now at the heart of the judicial controversy: the ability of individuals to assert their rights against corporations.

    "If you use a credit card, if you work, if you drink water, you're affected by the court," he said. "Roe is important, but there's this whole other area we weren't talking about."

    The Dionne article (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by christinep on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 03:20:12 PM EST
    Excellent points by writer EJ Dionne. And, Solicitor Kagan's opening statement leads precisely in that direction...especially with her description of the Supreme Court as responsive ultimately to the will of the people and with her view that the SCt should be "a modest institution" in that respect.  
    Ah, I would love to hear voice given to that "modest" view. Think about all the access denied matters before the Court in the past several years, with increasing limitations on standing put before the public and shutting out the public. As Dionne points out, that just may be the real definer of that new breed of "activist conservative" judges who use their positions diminish the average citizen. While we were all busy with an almost sole focus on the "social issues" before the court, the real deconstruction was occurring elsewhere. I look forward to the framing and discussion of what "judicial activism" really is.

    Just wish (none / 0) (#17)
    by BDB on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 04:54:53 PM EST
    I had more confidence that Kagan won't uphold the executive's ever-growing authoritarianism.  I assume that's why Obama picked her.  

    I don't trust her and just because Jeff Sessions hates her, that's not enough for me to embrace her and hope for her confirmation.  


    I do trust her (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by christinep on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 05:26:58 PM EST
    And, I suspect that several reasons underlie her selection. Again, her characterization today of what the Supreme Court should be--"a modest institution" (with deference to the people/legitimate intent of legislation)--says a lot. It says something broader than a characterization of the Executive as the strong predominant authority.
    If she is confirmed, it will take years to know the philosophy that she has developed about the Executive in its interplay with the Legislative branch. Whatever my feelings are about her or whatever your feelings are in a different vein really only amount to feelings. Speaking of how that aspect takes awhile to play out: Recall that it was President Kennedy who named the late Justice Byron White as an early selection...and, so many (like my dad) believed that he would be in the vein of the liberal Justices. Well, a retrospective now shows that White, in matters viewed as "national security" and related areas, continually deferred to the Executive more than all but the most conservative Justices.

    No doubt Pres Kennedy (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by brodie on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 09:23:13 PM EST
    also thought Byron White would be in the vein of the liberal Justices.  His first choice, a black fed ct judge, was given a thumbs-down by CJ Earl Warren because he wasn't liberal enough.  Presumably though, White passed muster with Warren on ideological grounds.  His second choice, Harvard Law Prof Paul Freund, was also considered liberal (but eventually nixed because too many Harvards too soon for the admin).

    Nothing is guaranteed with a Scotus pick.  Kennedy had one good one (Goldberg) and one disappointment, just as FDR had a few good ones and at least one disappointment in an unexpected conservative direction (Frankfurter).  The supposedly "great" president Truman picked all personal cronies, none distinguished themselves on the Ct.

    I doubt if Kagan, given how nominees are much closely scrutinized these days (Byron White went from nomination to a voice-vote senate confirmation within a matter of days), has it in her to turn into a crusty conservative crank once she's had the robes on a few years.


    But I have to go on my feelings (none / 0) (#20)
    by BDB on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 06:02:16 AM EST
    because she's apparently spent her entire legal career not taking any position on any issue (not even in private) other than what her bosses wanted her to.  Given that she's spent her entire career sucking up to an elite class that has been wrong about everything and now expects the rest of us to pay for it, I'd like some indication that she's going to stop doing that when she gets on the court beyond platitudes about how the court's role is "modest".  

    I'm not one to just accept blank slates.  She's a blank slate nominated by a neoliberal corporatist authoritarian.  That's simply not sufficient information for me to support her.  


    Don't you think that's weird? (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 07:56:53 AM EST
    Or a lie - that she's never taken positions on any of these important issues in private?

    Remember, that Sessions himself (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by Peter G on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 02:27:24 PM EST
    was nominated by Pres. Reagan in 1985 to be a federal judge, and the Judiciary Committee did not recommend his nomination.  He was not confirmed.  I wonder if he is still bitter about that experience?  

    Imagine if he'd been confirmed (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 02:30:16 PM EST
    Yes he is still bitter from what I've read. (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 04:05:55 PM EST
    As a descendent of Alabama folks, I have to say that he is a terrible embarassment.

    Jeff Sessions...just typing his name (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 03:06:35 PM EST
    triggers my gag reflex; what's sad is that he's not the only less-than-100-watt light bulb in the Congressional pack, although he does seem to brown-out and flicker more than most.

    I missed his "performance" in the Committee this morning, but I did catch a little of his appearance with another low-wattage colleague - John Cornyn - before I had to hit the "mute" button.

    On the flip side, there was an awful lot of gushing praise and over-the-top rhapsodizing about Kagan from the Dems on the Committee, and what particularly grated was the suggestion by a couple - Feinstein was one - that there was almost no need for a hearing at all, that's how much of a done-deal, no-brainer, the nomination is.

    Not sure I have the stomach for the kabuki anymore; watching/listening just makes me sad and angry that this is what we've been reduced to.

    The Dionne article again (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by christinep on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 03:27:47 PM EST
    I'm being my usual cockeyed-optimist (maybe.) But, Anne, it may be that after the initial positioning by both sides, we could see and hear a genuine give & take about "activism." If so--after all these years of the conservative right having an almost unchallenged view of the judicial ballpark (together with Roberts' umpire)--this hearing might inject a much needed different perspective.

    Has Abrams been on Mars? (none / 0) (#1)
    by coast on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 12:28:04 PM EST
    What was his expectation?  Was he expecting for members of the committee to ask well thought out, intelligent questions?  These are politicians for goodness sake.

    Jeff Sessions is one of my senators (none / 0) (#2)
    by Romberry on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 12:46:59 PM EST
    Richard Shelby is the other. I'm ashamed that they are my senators, doubly ashamed that my state elected them and triply ashamed in the knowledge that the two of them will probably be re-elected until they die if they so wish.

    I didn't realize you were stuck here with me (none / 0) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 01:07:39 PM EST
    Perhaps you mentioned that long ago and I furgot.  I used to be appalled often, I've gotten over initial shocks now, and now I do ask what can be done to change up willful celebrated wholesale ignorance. csendrick says it can't be done :)

    Yeppers, stuck in Alerbammer. (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Romberry on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 01:16:12 PM EST
    Used to live in the Black Belt of the state (Selma, Prattville, Montgomery) but now reside in the very tiny town of Heflin.

    Email me sometime. My registered user name at gmail dot com.


    This is the kind (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 01:03:52 PM EST
    of stuff that reinforces my decision not to watch.

    It is sad that Sessions is always so (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 01:10:45 PM EST
    determined to make it clear that we are the long term product of apes.  Will any of this matter in getting Kagan confirmed?  If it will perhaps Obama should have selected someone his base would fight vigorously for.  I don't condone what Sessions is doing but I don't feel like getting in a swingfest for Kagan either.

    It won't matter (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by ruffian on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 02:13:49 PM EST
    Sessions is the designated GOP hitman. Kagan has to just sit there and take it, serenely knowing she will be on the court long after he is gone.

    He really does play the role to the hilt though, doesn't he?


    Solicitor General Kagan (none / 0) (#13)
    by KeysDan on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 03:22:08 PM EST
    just needs, sit there, be pleasant and count the votes; good practice for when she is on the Supreme Court.

    And, sadly, that's probably what will (none / 0) (#15)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 03:33:42 PM EST
    happen - and I say "sadly" because it really is way too important a position for the advice and consent responsibility to be given mere lip service, and for Kagan - or any nominee - to be treated as somehow exempt from rigorous examination because she looks so good on paper.