David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

Kagan Confirmation – Day 1: Set-Up For An Inside-The-Beltway Bitch Slap?

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, June 28, 2010

I’m sure President Obama’s appointee to the United States Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, has had worse days in her career but Monday’s confirmation hearings certainly had to make her somewhat uncomfortable.  Hell, if it were me, I’d be taking deep breaths into a brown lunch bag before the session was called to order.

Kagan sat in the chambers on Capitol Hill for the first the first day of, what is expected to be, a grueling confirmation process, surprisingly calm.

Imagine sitting in a room full of people who are itching to take swings at you like a piñata at a kid’s birthday party; and all you can do is sit there silently and do your best not to let the cameras catch a glimpse of you showing emotion of any sort.

That’s exactly what Kagan endured for hours Monday.  And, like her or not, she did it with poise, professionalism and an obvious sense of the great honor that’s been bestowed upon her by the President of the United States.

If Monday’s opening statements are an accurate barometer of what the rest of the week may bring, those looking for a good ol’ fashioned Inside-the-Beltway bitch-slap may get their wish.

Opening statements in Kagan’s first day of confirmation hearings set a harsh tone as Senators from both sides took stabs at the appointee’s “lack of experience” and decisions she made as dean of Harvard Law School.

Just after 12:30 ET, Republican Jeff Sessions, who will lead the GOP’s arguments against Kagan, promised a fair and respectful hearing.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

But moments later, Sessions’ tone changed as he reminded Kagan that her confirmation hearings would be a tough process: “It’s not a coronation but a confirmation process.”

He then raised concerns about Kagan’s lack of judicial experience and expressed “serious concerns” about her ability to serve impartially on the court.

The highlight of the day came as Kagan prepared to take center-stage with her opening statements.  As she spoke, I blogged up-to-the-minute highlights on the David Shepherd: News Blog.

3:37 PM (eastern):  Senators Kerry and Brown will introduce Elena Kagan within the next few minutes.  She will then be able to make her opening statement.

3:50 PM (eastern):  Kagan has been sworn in and begins her opening statements at her confirmation hearing.

Alex Brandon / AP

4:00 PM (eastern) Kagan says, “The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals.”

4:05 PM (eastern) Kagan says, “The joy of my life has been to teach thousands of students about the law, and had the sense to realize they had much to teach me.  I’ve led a school whose faculty and students examine and discuss and debate every aspect of our law and legal system.  And what I’ve learned most is that no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom.”

4:10 PM (eastern) Kagan says, “I will make no pledges this week other than this one; that, if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons.  I will listen hard to every party before the court and to each of my colleagues.  I will work hard and I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly; with commitment with principal and in accordance with the law.”

After Kagan’s statement, the committee chair called the hearing to recess until Tuesday morning.  If you thought Monday’s hearing was tough, just wait!  Now, the same Senators who sliced and diced Kagan in their opening statements Monday get the chance to ask her extensive questions about her publications, previous media statements, advice and counsel she’s given as a Supreme Court clerk and Clinton administration adviser; and that will just be the beginning.

The members of the Judiciary Committee are sure to hit all of the political “G-Spots” from gay marriage to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;” and abortion to illegal immigration.

It appears Christmas comes early this year for political nerds (like me) who love nothing more than watching democracy in action; after all, it’s moments like these that make the United States the best country in the world.

Check back every day this week for my day-by-day political analysis of the Kagan confirmation hearings.

June 29, 2010 - Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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