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June 30th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Kagan videos show nominee praising Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Videos of Elena Kagan show she raised questions about Harriet Miers and praised Obama. CNN's Jim Acosta reports."]

By CNN’s Jim Acosta and Bonney Kapp, CNN

(CNN) – President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court has gone out of her way to avoid controversy during her legal career. But she can be seen and heard letting down her guard at times in videos posted on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Web site.

Kagan’s appearances at various seminars, graduations and alumni dinners were recorded on video by the Harvard Law School, where she served as dean. Watch Video

At a 2005 Harvard alumni awards dinner for then-Senator Barack Obama, Kagan gushes over the man who would become president as “her hero.”

Recalling how she witnessed his speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention Kagan says, “He said a few words and the place was mesmerized. You could have heard a pin drop and that's all in part because of these rock star qualities. The eloquence, the magnetism, the great looks, the brilliance."

At a panel discussion at the law school in 2005, Kagan led a panel discussion in which former Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers was criticized as a “stealth candidate.”

"Here's the first thing. How do you pronounce her name?” Kagan asked to cackles in the audience. Miers, who was selected by President George W. Bush for the high court, withdrew her nomination following complaints she lacked legal heft.

“Honestly, the Republicans have a little bit of reason you know to you know want to know better who this person is too,” Kagan added.

Kagan, who is known among friends for having a wicked sense of humor, is seen on another video taking some digs at an event honoring Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. She jokingly said Scalia’s Harvard law degree was, in her view, the best thing about him.

The dean was injecting some humor into a 2008 panel discussion that featured CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “Of course Jeff’s greatest claim to fame is that he is my classmate, the HLS class of ‘86. He’s my section mate, my study group mate, all right? Jeffrey taught me everything I know about law!” Kagan joked to the audience.

But her comments can also be serious. At a 2007 graduation ceremony for Harvard Law graduates, she sharply criticized key members of the Bush White House over the administration’s secret wiretapping program. Signaling out former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and ex-chief of staff Andy Card by name, Kagan blasted the program to secretly eavesdrop on phone conversations involving terror suspects.

"This is a story to put it bluntly of some lawyers who failed to respect the rule of law and of others … who stood up for and vindicated it,” Kagan said, praising former Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith who opposed portions of the wiretapping program.

Filed under: Politics • Supreme Court
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Mike M.

    This was an excellent opportunity to see our elected officials all out there under the lights of the cameras doing their dutyful jobs. It almost makes me not want to throw out the encombents........Hmmm, no. Not really I guess.

    July 1, 2010 at 8:12 am |
  2. chuck

    All i have to say is it nice to see our elected officals are still making the big bucks and they all have nice new suits on for these hearings and the average american is out of work and getting help, why havent they offered to take a pay cut and pay for part of there insurance

    June 30, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  3. art

    I could understand all the hubris had President Obama nominated, oh, let's say, Oprah, as the next justice to sit on the Supreme Court. Kagan is fine with me, if for no other reason than she does have a sense of humor, and this alone would make me want to tune in to hear her take on some of the 5-4 rulings on the court. Don't let me down, Elena!

    June 30, 2010 at 8:18 am |
  4. mike sey

    What in Heavens does this have to do with anyone's fitness to be a Supreme Court Judge ? Is this kind of gossip what this so-called solemn proceedings and its media coverage have been reduced to ? Sadly, the answer seems to be Yes ... on both counts!

    June 30, 2010 at 7:54 am |
  5. larry

    Sure the confirmation hearings are a "hollow charade". Don't you think the Republican giving Kagen a hard time about the military didn't know he was going to get some "facetime"? Just look at his perfectly cut hair and well planned and costly suit and tie!!! You think he didn't know that his questions would be seen on all of the networks, and that he could use them for political gain? Seven hours of stage time for both sides, a waste of time and, in this difficult economic time, a waste of taxpayer money. Shame on Washington and both parties!!!!

    June 30, 2010 at 7:40 am |
  6. L.A.Ward

    Nobody noted that when Gen.Kagen was tap dancing around the recruiting issue she was advocating "Separate but equal" treatment of the military. Didn't the Supreme Court say that was unconstitutional during the civil rights debate, shouldn't she have known that.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:36 am |