Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Harvard Law School student Kurt White, a decorated Iraq war veteran, joined in a press conference this morning to counter Republican assertions that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was hostile to the military as dean of the law school.
"Not only does she respect the military, she reveres the military," said Reed, himself a West Point graduate and former Army captain who got his law degree at Harvard Law School (HLS) in 1982. Critics of Kagan, he said, are "grasping at anything at all" when they accuse her of being "indifferent or worse" toward military service.
The "anti-military" label is likely to be used early and often by Republicans at Kagan's Senate confirmation hearing starting June 28, and the press conference was clearly aimed at pre-empting the argument with evidence of Kagan's support for veterans and for military service as dean.
The accusations against Kagan stem from her statements and actions relating to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military. She called it a "moral injustice of the first order." When the Solomon Amendment -- which threatened to cut off federal funds to universities that barred military recruiters -- was struck down in 2004, she briefly barred access to the military to recruiting office facilities, invoking the university's policy against giving access to employers who discriminate in hiring. But she allowed military recruiters to contact students in other ways, and soon resumed full access.
During today's press conference, Reed said Kagan's actions at Harvard represented a balancing between her "profound respect for the military" and her commitment to equal treatment and anti-discrimination policies. He stressed that even during her enforcement of the anti-discrimination policy, she made sure that military recruiters and students could still meet.
White, a member of the HLS class of 2011, said he was eager to dispel what he called the "untrue and unfair allegation" against Kagan about her stance on the military. Her support for the military, White said, was "evident and unquestionable." White recalled being especially impressed with Kagan when she gave her first speech to his incoming class. She singled out military veterans for recognition, along with other high-achieving members of the class.
In addition, White said Kagan deserved credit for hosting a dinner every year for students who are veterans. It was "a relatively small group ... less than a dozen," White said, but Kagan asked about their experiences in the military and how those experiences related to their views of the law. "It was almost overwhelming," he said.