Sen. Sessions Undermines GOP's Main Attack On Kagan

June 29, 2010 11:12 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

This morning, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) essentially admitted that the main attack on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is disingenuous. 

Since Kagan's nomination was announced, many conservatives have persistently claimed that she "banned" the military from recruiting at Harvard Law School during her tenure as dean.  In reality, Kagan maintained the school's longstanding policy of restricting employers who practice discrimination from the Office of Career Services while facilitating military recruitment through other channels.    

At her confirmation hearing this morning, Sessions pressed Kagan on Harvard's recruitment policy.  Kagan informed the Alabama Republican, correctly, that "the military had full access to our students at all times, both before I became dean and during my deanship." Obviously flustered, Sessions snapped back, "That's not the question" before being implored to let Kagan finish.  Watch:

It may not have been the question Sessions asked, but Kagan's response cut to the heart of the conservative argument, as voiced by Sessions and others, that her actions somehow hampered the military.  For example:

Sen. Sessions: Also deserving review is her decision as dean of Harvard Law School to personally and aggressively restrict the U.S. military's ability to recruit some of the brightest law students in the country because Dean Kagan opposed President Clinton's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.

Sen. Sessions: Her actions punished the military, and demeaned our soldiers as they were courageously fighting for our country in two wars overseas.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): I'll tell you one thing I am disturbed about was her obvious steadfast and even zealous opposition to military recruiters, to the presence of military on the campus of the most prestigious university in the view of many in America, that's disturbing to me.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX): When Elena Kagan was dean of the Harvard Law School, for personal and biased reasons, she banned military recruiters from campus. By her actions she violated the right of free speech in a university setting of all places...she denied students the right to even discuss the military career as a choice because of her own prejudices.

Sessions went on to rehash the history of Harvard's policy, claiming that Kagan mishandled the situation before concluding that her answers were "unconnected to reality."  Nevertheless, his initial response tacitly acknowledged that Kagan did not actually affect the military's ability to recruit at Harvard, and that Republicans claiming otherwise are really the ones "unconnected to reality."