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White House: Of Course Elena Kagan Loves the Military!

White House Internet wizard Jesse Lee writes to defend the record of the solicitor general and Supreme Court nominee:

Most prominently, a handful of Republican Senators and conservative commentators have attempted to portray Kagan as “anti-military” due to her opposition to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” during her tenure as Dean of Harvard Law School, citing her continuation of Harvard’s non-discrimination policy that required employers using the recruiting services provided by the Office of Career Services to agree not to discriminate based on sexual orientation or other criteria. Of course Kagan’s opposition to the policy was in no way anti-military — just as opposition today from figures such as General Colin Powell or Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen is rooted in admiration for all those who serve, so too was Kagan’s. Indeed, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, dean of the academic board at West Point, described such characterizations of Kagan as “ludicrous.”

A common claim from these critics is that the military was “banned” from the campus altogether during Kagan’s tenure as Dean – in fact, not only was the military allowed to continue to recruit in classrooms on campus and through the Harvard Law Students Veterans Association, a review of the recruitment figures has shown that recruitment kept completely on pace with previous years during Kagan’s time. Even more absurdly, some have claimed that Kagan’s upholding of Harvard’s nondiscrimination policy somehow violated the law – in fact, there has never been a law requiring that campuses allow military recruiters, only that the government was empowered to deny federal funds if military recruiters were not given access, so this claim is preposterous on its face. As the New York Times reported, “Her management of the recruiting dispute shows her to have been, above all, a pragmatist, asserting her principles but all the while following the law.”

It would certainly be ironic if a line of conservative attack against Kagan is that she was far too inflexible about adhering to the letter of existing policy and existing law. That said, the guy who first concocted the idea that Kagan had a problematic relationship with the military because of the way she handled Harvard’s position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a liberal (and my former boss), Peter Beinart.

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