Kagan’s thesis on socialism suddenly hot news again

posted at 9:46 pm on May 13, 2010 by Allahpundit

Red State has a copy, leading Erick Erickson to declare, “This proves Elena Kagan is an open and avowed socialist.” Andy Levy‘s sardonic reply:

BREAKING: SOMEONE IN COLLEGE THOUGHT SOCIALISM WAS A GOOD IDEA!

I had trouble loading Red State’s PDF; if you’re having trouble too, no worries. The Weekly Standard was all over this a year ago when Kagan was up for Solicitor General and Doug Ross has compiled some of the more incendiary bits here. (People who knew her at Princeton insist she wasn’t a radical.) I’ve made my own thoughts about college theses clear before, but my esteemed colleague said it better than I did so I’ll just quote him:

I have received a lot of e-mail regarding Princeton’s apparent decision to embargo Michelle Obama’s college thesis. A few purported quotes have begun floating through the ether, which seems surprising if the Obamas have conspired to keep the paper buried at Princeton. The messages all seem to believe that the thesis contains something explosive, especially in terms of racial politics.

Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn’t. Why would anyone be surprised if it did? To paraphrase one of the great lines from South Park, there’s a time and a place for radical thought, and it’s called college. Mrs. Obama wrote the paper 20 years ago, while living in the cocoon of academia. I doubt that it reflects her current state of mind.

It’s not quite as bad as going back to Barack’s kindergarten essays, but it’s just about as irrelevant.

The GOP should and will ask about it — that’s what the Obama standard for “blank slate” nominees requires — but does anyone seriously think she’s going to get Borked over this? Vote in the comments!


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AP, I would think that your view on the college thesis only applies in cases where someone can produce evidence that the writer has since changed. But without some evidence that they have somewhere since college held different views, it might make more sense to consider that the thesis is just one more view into the loon’s head. Suspicions are even more heightened in the case of someone like Kagan who has gone to lengths to not say what she believes. Is she trying to hide something that would disqualify her for the court? And the strange phenomena such as Toobin claiming long, close friendship paired with complete ignorance of where she stands on issues. We might not have proof that she is a socialist. But a lot of the wrong people seem to want the question not pursued. A few hours of close grilling by some senators might clear up a lot of things. You have to wonder if that will even happen when people towards the center like yourself want to give her a pass. If she is going to be on the court for 35 or 40 years, what harm is there in moving slowly and carefully while we can.

snaggletoothie on May 14, 2010 at 12:51 AM

I was going to say Republicans should Clarence-Thomas her, but then I made myself sick thinking up a Coke can joke.

JavelinaBomb on May 14, 2010 at 12:57 AM

What I found interesting in this thesis was the part Kagan left out.

Nowhere in trying to describe the failure of the US socialist movement of the teens and 20′s does she mention the tens of millions killed all around the world by their socialist movements. Somehow, she reduced the failure of the US socialist movement to internal squabbles and IGNORED the REALITY that people of that age saw every day in the newspapers.

I wonder if she would use these kinds of blinders to ‘inconveniances’ she does not want to see as a judge?

Freddy on May 14, 2010 at 1:08 AM

Mrs. Obama wrote the paper 20 years ago, while living in the cocoon of academia. I doubt that it reflects her current state of mind.

If liberals don’t want to talk about Kagan’s academic record, that’s perfectly fine by me.

Because that was the ONLY thing this person ever had going for her.

Seriously. Can anybody — without reference to Kagan’s academic record, or any title she held as a direct result thereof — please explain to me why this person is more qualified than any randomly-selected bag lady?

And btw, no; You can’t just say she’s qualified because she is “clean and articulate.” Liberals have made it perfectly clear they believe that’s only the highest accomplishment of which a black man is capable.

logis on May 14, 2010 at 1:08 AM

Anyone who isn’t a communist when they are 20 has no heart. Anyone who is still a communist when they are 30 has no brain.” -Errol Flynn (paraphrasing a popular quip).

Does Kagan have a heart or a brain?

profitsbeard on May 14, 2010 at 1:12 AM

I hope the GOP Senate takes a stand against socialism.

We’re stuck with Obama for four years before we get a second crack at him. We’ll be stuck with Kagan for decades.

Time to demonize Democrats as socialists for voting for her. Fine, some Democratic senators remain untouchable. But how many others?

This is still the United States of America. Let’s not slit our wrists.

BuckeyeSam on May 14, 2010 at 1:40 AM

Realistically, socialism is locked in the box of its own premises, which its adherents believe is infallible. Take their most basic tenet: capitalism will inevitably fail.

The problem, for socialists, is that capitalism is dynamic. Capitalism changes with the times, maybe even with the moment.

Kagan is the real dinosaur here. Socialism is a demonstrable failure, every place and every time its been tried. The reason capitalism works is because freedom works better than a commanded/planned society or economy ever will.

I have no doubt Kagan will be confirmed. I also hope the worst on the Pubs who won’t fight against her confirmation, and I hope the grandchildren of those cowardly Pubs curse their names.

Liam on May 14, 2010 at 1:51 AM

I’m in college and I don’t think socialism is a good idea.

YoungAmerican on May 14, 2010 at 2:18 AM

I think she looks like a female version of Jackie Gleason.

Captain America on May 14, 2010 at 3:49 AM

does anyone seriously think she’s going to get Borked over this? Vote in the comments!

In and of itself, no. As yet another example of obama’s preferences for socialists…ABSOLUTELY…an astute Republican would spell out this narrative for all to see. Media and some bloggers will advise…”Move along…nothing to see”…they are wrong…DEAD wrong.

winston on May 14, 2010 at 5:45 AM

In the LSM’s view “Socialist” = “Moderate”.

Now, if she were a Marxist, then that would mean she’s a Liberal according to Newspeak.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 14, 2010 at 6:16 AM

Again – the thesis is ALWAYS relevant. Let her explain how she was wrong in that thesis – or defend it.

Pretty simple really. If she doesn’t believe that stuff any more then she can really score some points by excoriating her own thesis. It’s a very fair proposition. Ask her to explain her thesis – and how her views over the years may have changed her views – or … not.

Why not “go there”?

HondaV65 on May 14, 2010 at 7:32 AM

I’d like to see Ms. Kagan asked to take a position on the Breyer/Scalia decision process dichotomy.

And I’d like to see her asked to explain her judicial philosophy as it relates to Justice Blackstone’s observation: “The liberty of considering all cases in an equitable light must not be indulged too far, lest thereby we destroy all law, and leave the decision of every question entirely in the breast of the judge. And law, without equity, though hard and disagreeable, is much more desirable for the public good than equity without law, which would make every judge a legislator, and introduce most infinite confusion; as there would be almost as many different rules of action laid down in our courts, as there are differences of capacity and sentiment in the human mind.”

I’d like to see her asked whether she personally believes: that an egalitarian society is a goal of justice; whether the pursuit of equality of outcome through govt. infringes upon freedom; whether she believes freedom is more important than equality or vice versa. And asked how she understands the U.S. constitution treats with these two values, whether it sets forth as the task and the purpose of the state to protect the freedom of its citizens; whether it sets forth the task and purpose of the state to guarantee the equality of its citizens (not just under law but in outcome and circumstance). And if necessary whether asked how she defines freedom, whether according to the socialist definition: as “economic freedom,” a.k.a. freedom from circumstance; or according to the classical liberal definition: as freedom from government intrustion.

I’d like to see her asked bluntly that: if the law (including the constitution) results in a ruling which she finds inequitable will she seek to find a way to reconcile the law with her own empathic sense of justice or will she simply set her sense aside and rule according to law?

John E. on May 14, 2010 at 7:37 AM

Just a reminder here from our astute 20th century classical liberals. What we are dealing with from Obama & Co. in the post-socialist progressive era is incrementalist socialism rather than the failed radical systematic socialism of the past. They haven’t given up on the idealistic dream of a circumstantial egalitarian society; they haven’t recognized how it endangers individual liberty. They have only given up on systematic nationalization and central planning

F.A. Hayek from the 1956 preface to American release of the Road to Serfdom.
“It now seems unlikely that, even when another Labour government should come into power in Great Britain, it would resume the experiments in large-scale nationalization and planning. But in Britain, as elsewhere in the world, the defeat of the onslaught of systematic socialism has merely given those who are anxious to preserve freedom a breathing space in which to re-examine our ambitions and to discard all those parts of the socialist inheritance which are a danger to a free society. Without such a revised conception of our social aims, we are likely to continue to drift in the same direction in which outright socialism would merely have carried us a little faster.”

Milton Friedman: Free to Choose
“The failure of planning and nationalization has not eliminated pressure for an ever bigger government. It has simply altered its direction. The expansion of government now takes the form of welfare programs and regulatory activities. As W. Allen Wallis put it in a somewhat different context [in 1976], “[Socialism], intellectually bankrupt after more than a century of seeing one after another of its arguments for socializing the means of production demolished — now seeks to socialize the results of production.””

John E. on May 14, 2010 at 7:59 AM

If ObaMao nominated her, it seems a no-brainer that she’s a transnational ‘socialist’, regardless of what she may have written in school.

petefrt on May 14, 2010 at 8:11 AM

John E. on May 14, 2010 at 7:37 AM

Very well framed, John E. I hope you will forward those questions to (at least) the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They get right to the heart of the matter.

Re the undergraduate thesis, I attempted to post the following on the earlier Kagan thread, where it was brought up, but the comments never appeared:

Miz Kagan may or may not be a socialist, but we should not place too much weight on youthful writings and enthusiasms. When I was young (and naive) I was enamored of C. Wright Mills’s laudatory account of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Now I know better.

That said, she and Obambi appear to be kindred spirits, and he ain’t no conservative.

MrLynn on May 14, 2010 at 8:18 AM

Given the dearth of information about Ms. Kagan’s political views and her philosophy regarding the role of the judiciary in our system, this should be a starting point for Senate Republicans to ask probing questions regarding these issues.

Until the process is complete, I will withhold judgment about Kagan’s suitability for this incredibly important appointment.

hillbillyjim on May 14, 2010 at 8:28 AM

Mrs. Obama wrote the paper 20 years ago, while living in the cocoon of academia. I doubt that it reflects her current state of mind.

“Barack can get shot going to the gas station”

Nope, it doesn’t reflect Michelle’s state of mind.

devil dog on May 14, 2010 at 8:36 AM

The simple fact is that just like Obama, Kagan has no real paper trail to accurately define her positions and based on that alone she should not be confirmed.

JeffinSac on May 14, 2010 at 8:49 AM

At the very least it is fair game to question Kagan about these views and force her to either affirm or denounce them. Lest one accuse me of McCarthyism, frankly my dears I don’t give a damn.

The kindest thing one can say about her is that she was ignorant of the evils of Socialism/Communism because the history has been hidden. See this vitally important piece by Claire Berlinski for context.

Buy Danish on May 14, 2010 at 9:09 AM

A handy dandy guide to how the Dems reacted to Alito’s nomination here.

Buy Danish on May 14, 2010 at 9:14 AM

I don’t know about this line of attack. Some of us went pretty nuts when the Washington Post tried to end Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Governor of Virginia by publicizing his law school thesis, which could have been written by Jerry Falwell. He insisted that he no longer held a lot of those archaic views, especially about women. So why should we believe Elena Kagan still thinks what she thought when she was 22?

In college you write what you think your professors want to read so you can get a good grade. My master’s thesis at Harvard was pretty liberal, because I knew I could get a bad grade of I wrote a thesis that said what I really thought, that government generally screws up everything it tries to do except national defense and flood control.

rockmom on May 14, 2010 at 10:10 AM

I don’t know about this line of attack. Some of us went pretty nuts when the Washington Post tried to end Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Governor of Virginia by publicizing his law school thesis, which could have been written by Jerry Falwell. He insisted that he no longer held a lot of those archaic views, especially about women. So why should we believe Elena Kagan still thinks what she thought when she was 22?

So, let’s ask her!

Vince on May 14, 2010 at 10:48 AM

So why should we believe Elena Kagan still thinks what she thought when she was 22?
rockmom on May 14, 2010 at 10:10 AM

I see your point, but Bob McDonnell was able to demonstrate through his actions and life that what he did not hold the views he wrote favorably about years ago in this thesis. Can Kagan do the same? And sadly, a romantic view of Socialism is not only embraced by eager-beaver college kids, but is the accepted world view of far too many ‘adults’.

Buy Danish on May 14, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Well, I heard her college essay was pro-killing baby seals, pro-whaling, pro-pollution, anti-abortion, like to dress in both NAZI and KKK clothes.

The confidential source could be wrong, but since she won’t produce it, I can’t say the source was a liar.

barnone on May 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

To paraphrase one of the great lines from South Park, there’s a time and a place for radical thought, and it’s called college.

No, that’s just the time and place where you don’t feel the need to conceal it. It’s convenient to say that you no longer believe in it once you need employment and votes.

Buddahpundit on May 14, 2010 at 1:13 PM

If a college student wrote a favorable thesis about an anti-Communist, like McCarthy, during college, it wouldn’t be written off by the Commiecrats when that college student becomes a SCOTUS nominee. The Democrats would oppose the nominee in lockstep.

Buddahpundit on May 14, 2010 at 1:18 PM

I doubt that it reflects her current state of mind.

Well heck, I guess that should be good enough for the rest of the country then. We can all relax and assured by the writer’s “doubts”, no need to actually ask any questions or do any investigating. After all, no one maintains their belief system from college to adult life, right? Not Mr. Ayers, or Rev. Wright, or Rev. Sharpton, or Ms. Clinton or . . .

What a stupid thing to claim!

Fatal on May 14, 2010 at 2:14 PM

I was conservative in college (class of 83) and, if anything, am more conservative today. Why should we assume Michelle O or Kagan are less socialist today? What have either of them done or said to make you think they are less radical. Writing that ideology off as the product of the college experience and isn’t true today is dangerously stupid.

SKYFOX on May 14, 2010 at 4:04 PM

I,too, have made a political journey over the course of my life, including being on campus through the last year of the 60′s and the early into 70′s. I have a lot of stuff I regret doing and not doing but thinking sympathetically about socialism or communism was never one of those regrets. Words mean things even over time.

thegreatbeast on May 17, 2010 at 12:33 AM

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