The Rehabilitation of Elena Kagan and the Military

This morning, the unenviable task of spinning Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s history with military recruiters on campus fell to Valerie Jarrett. She appeared on Morning Joe (on MSNBC) and immediately dove into the task of “setting the record straight.” (This comes at roughly one minute into the video below. Transcript follows.)

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“I do want to straighten out one thing that was alluded to earlier. Elena Kagan welcomed the military on campus. She encouraged them to come. They worked very closely with the Veterans’ Affairs Office. What she didn’t do was… she continued the practice of her predecessor of preventing employers who discriminate on the basis of race or sexual orientation or religion from working directly with the office on the campus that’s in charge of helping people find jobs. That’s it. That’s it. So Joe, earlier you were just flat out wrong.”

Scarborough, to his credit, responded by reading back something that Kagan had written herself.

“The military was barred f(rom Harvard) for many years. Last year, the Dean of Law School, (speaking of herself) in consultation with other officers of the university, reluctantly lifted this ban for the military. The Dean took this action because of a new ruling by the Department of Defense stating that unless the law school took this action, the entire university would lose federal funding.”

“It seems to me, Valerie, that what you’re talking about is a distinction without a difference. She was disappointed that recruiting was allowed back at her law school.”

Give Jarrett credit here. She was totally unflappable. Even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary, she continued marching on with the spin of the day as if Joe had never spoken a word.

“Joe, you know I love you, but you’re absolutely wrong.”

Oh, really? Over at Redstate, Brian Darling gives us a refresher course, reminding us that Senator Jeff Sessions already addressed this issue at length.

During her tenure as dean, Ms. Kagan barred the U.S. military from coming on the Harvard Law School campus to recruit young law graduates to be JAG officers in the U.S. military. That was from November of 2004 through September of 2005. She barred them from coming and recruiting on campus while 150,000 of our finest men and women in this country were serving in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and during a time in which 938 troops died in combat, preserving the rights of people like law deans, faculty, and students to have all the opinions they want. Her decision to bar the military from her campus during a time of armed conflict represents exceedingly poor judgment and leadership, particularly for someone who wants to lead the Department of Justice, the executive branch, and support the military of the United States. By refusing to allow military recruiters on the Harvard Law School campus, she placed her own opposition to military policies above the need of our military men and women to receive good legal advice, even from Harvard lawyers. And she did so at a time when the military, serving in conflicts in two foreign countries, was facing a host of complex legal issues. We are still fighting over them, for that matter.

I think we all knew that Team Obama was going to try to spin this issue up, but I assumed they were going to cook up a plan that was slightly more creative than a flat denial of reality and the Dean’s own record of published statements. Will this be enough to derail the nomination? Should it be? Time alone will tell, but they’re coming out of the gate limping on the first day. Kagan may still be confirmed, but either way she’s already beginning to look like the Harriet Miers of the Obama administration.