GOP Attacks Kagan As Too "Liberal" For Agreeing With Reagan

June 28, 2010 12:50 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

From Playboy

Yesterday, President Obama observed that the conservative attacks on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, whose confirmation hearings are about to get underway, have been "pretty thin gruel." Since her nomination was announced, Republican lawmakers have attempted to cast Kagan as anti-military, pro-jihad, and uniquely inexperienced — all with blatant disregard for the facts.  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) gave an uncharacteristically honest assessment last night, declaring that Republicans are worried about Kagan "simply because President Obama nominated her." 

To that end, the Nation's John Nichols calls attention to a particularly unreasonable attack on Kagan courtesy of the Republican National Committee.  Last week, the RNC released a "research briefing" purporting to expose Kagan's history of liberal activism, including a section on her apparent opposition to forced registration for the draft in 1980:

As Editorial Chairman Of The Daily Princetonian, Kagan Argued Against Draft Registration, Calling It "A Manifestation Of A Growing Militarism." "At stake is not simply the adoption of Carter's proposal — although it is, in itself, something we deeply oppose. After all, the rally is not just for the 19- and 20-year-olds recently pinpointed for registration. We should also demonstrate against the proposal because it is a manifestation of a growing militarism in which politically motivated bravado plays too large a part." (Editorial, "Rally At Noon," The Daily Princetonian, 2/12/80)

It's not entirely clear that Kagan actually wrote the words in the op-ed, which was unsigned. Nonetheless, the RNC's criticism should raise eyebrows for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the American people's overwhelming rejection of the draft in recent years.  In fact, opposition to the draft — or "conscription" — was not even a "liberal" idea during Kagan's college years.  Here is what Ronald Reagan had to say at the time:

Conscription rests on the assumption that your kids belong to the state. If we buy that assumption then it is for the state — not for parents, the community, the religious institutions or teachers — to decide who shall have what values and who shall do what work, when, where and how in our society. That assumption isn't a new one. The Nazis thought it was a great idea.

Reagan also likened the draft to "slavery," describing it as "morally repugnant to the ideals of a free society."

Despite the conservative movement's hero worship of Reagan, this isn't the first time the Republican Party has contradicted his ideals.  Last November, the RNC flirted with, but ultimately rejected, a 10-point purity test for candidates that Reagan would not have passed.  As Newsweek recently quipped, "Even Reagan Wasn't A Reagan Republican" by the standards of today's party.