Here's the live stream. Yesterday was tedious beyond words, and, accordingly, I wrote nothing. Today, there's some potential for a spark or 2, and I'll do some live-blogging here.
8:03 CT: Senator Leahy invites Kagan to talk more about her parents. This is an incredibly soft softball question, and Kagan receives it the right way: as an opportunity to exhibit her warmth and humanity. Her face immediately radiates what looks like real love for her parents, and her words go straight to what is relevant: Her parents embodied and taught the values that will make her a fine judge. Kagan seems fully at ease and far more natural than the stuffy Senator. She gestures. She seems affable. Leahy is scripted and speaks in a gruff tone. His words are supportive but he sounds like he's scolding her.
8:09: Kagan is wearing a gray jacket. It's tailored with lapels like a man's jacket. Perfectly standard and stunningly dull and undistracting. I approve. Away with the goofy big-collared "political blue" thing she had on yesterday. She's speaking like a law professor, explaining how to do constitutional interpretation. Leahy is trying to drag her through his stodgy script, but she is seizing control. I sense the presence of a lawprof — being generous to a student who's asked a question and pulling the discussion to a more sophisticated level. The level of expression here is excellent.
8:45: Senator Sessions is taking an aggressive tone, interrupting Kagan in a way that doesn't make a very good impression. He quotes E.J. Dionne and [name needed] who have labeled Kagan a "legal progressive," and Kagan says she doesn't know what that term means and would like to decide for herself what labels apply to her. Instead of supplying a definition for "legal progressive," Sessions bluntly insists the meaning is known. Kagan keeps her cool and decisively wins this round. Someone give Sessions a clear definition of the term and a way to ask particular questions to determine if she fits within it.
8:51: The question of the way Kagan, as Harvard Law School dean, handled military recruiting has come up twice now. Leahy stopped Kagan from talking about the law school's specific policy and steered her into a much more general discussion of the great value of the military and respect for individuals who choose a material career. Sessions is now pushing Kagan on the legal position she took. Did she comply with the Solomon Amendment (which required schools to give equal access to military recruiters)? Kagan claims to have followed the amendment. Sessions smiles, but testily snaps: "You didn't do what the DOD requested!" Kagan is good at remaining poised and calmly re-explaining her position, which contains no whiff of antagonism to the military or even to the Solomon Amendment. She is displaying a judicious, careful approach: She needed to balance the school's anti-discrimination policy, the importance of providing full access for the students to military recruiters, and respect for the Solomon Amendment as interpreted by the Department of Defense. There is absolutely zero hostility to the military or to the law. She's not giving Sessions anything to turn against her. There's no righteous criticism of Don't Ask, Don't Tell or assertion of the law school's right to maintain its anti-discrimination policy despite the Solomon Amendment. His time running out, Sessions lets loose with his frustration: "I know," he says emphatically, that you opposed Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
9:09: Now, it's Wisconsin's own Herb Kohl. Rest time!
9:13: Kohl's laughable question: "I'm sure you're a woman of passion — Where are your passions?" He seems to be channeling Obama's empathy idea and wants her to identify some social or political issue that she's excited about pursuing through judging. Kagan, wisely, restates her devotion to deciding cases according to the law. This isn't a job where someone should come in with a particular substantive agenda and try to shape that job to meet that agenda, Kagan says (unsurprisingly).
9:36: Cameras in the Supreme Court would be great — for the Court and the people, she says.
9:40: Senator Hatch is now questioning Kagan about Citizens United. This is a good time to watch live.
9:53: As Hatch stresses the effect of the McCain-Feingold law on small corporations that would like to express an opinion at a time close to an election, and Kagan reminds him that her job as Solicitor General is to defend acts of Congress. When Hatch presses her on whether the law violates free speech rights, Kagan quips: "Senator Hatch, you should be talking to Senator Feingold."
10:57: I skipped Dianne Feinstein. Then, there was a break. Now, we're up to Senator Kyl. He's reading Obama's empathy statement — you can read it here: In 5% of cases, Obama said, "adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon," and one must at that point rely on "one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy." Kagan is forthright: "It's law all the way down." She says that several times — and I note that her statement isn't really at odds with what Obama said. A good follow-up question would have been: But do you think that law includes a component that comes from deep values and human empathy? The secret answer is: Yes.
11:10: Kyl is trying to get at whether Kagan is biased against corporations and would find ways to favor the little guy, but there really isn't a way to drag out a confession like that. Kyl is using things Justice Thurgood Marshall said, citing her great praise of the man whom she clerked for, and asking her if she'd say that too. She's able to finesse this: Marshall was wonderful, but she's her own woman. And, of course, the overarching theme of every hearing on a Supreme Court nominee: She's going to decide cases according to the law.
11:22: "How do you decide who's 'on the side of the angels'?" Kyl asks, repeatedly pushing Kagan on a phrase she used in her notes when she was a law clerk. Kagan asserts (and I hear shakiness in her voice) that it meant who was on the right side of the law.
11:56: Russ Feingold notes that the lack of Supreme Court Justices from the Midwest. How will Kagan, a New Yorker, understand the people of the Midwest? Answer: She's lived in Chicago and something along the lines of being very good about understanding whatever she needs to understand.
12:02: I'm taking a break from the live action. I'll catch up with transcripts and recordings later.