Kagan's military

In October 2007, a prominent scholar journeyed to West Point to pay lavish tribute to the cadets, saying, "I am in awe of your courage and your dedication, especially in these times of great uncertainty and danger. I know how much my security and freedom and indeed everything else I value depend on all of you."

Sounds like an anti-military crank to us.

The scholar was Elena Kagan, then dean of Harvard Law School, now solicitor general of the United States and nominee for the Supreme Court. With a skimpy record of articles and no judicial opinions to dissect, she presents a small, elusive target for those determined to oppose anyone named to the court by President Barack Obama.

But the opponents have found one possible chink in her armor: the law school's policy toward the U.S. military. In a protest of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring known homosexuals from serving, Harvard declined to provide help to military recruiters through its Office of Career Services.

It is commonly claimed that she barred recruiters out of some animus toward brave defenders of the nation. In fact, the policy was in place before Kagan arrived in Cambridge, and it was not targeted at the military. It excluded all employers that discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. That last category disqualified the military.

But Harvard did not ban such recruiters from campus. In fact, they were always allowed access to students through the Harvard Law School Veterans Association. The gesture served to demonstrate support for gay students without preventing the Pentagon from trying to attract Harvard law graduates.

There was nothing unusual about the policy. In fact, it was the norm among law schools. In championing nondiscrimination, they felt they could not make an exception for the military.

Kagan's approach was hardly intended to penalize or stigmatize anyone associated with the services. On the contrary, as three Iraq war veterans now at Harvard Law wrote in The Washington Times, Kagan "created an environment that is highly supportive of students who have served in the military."

She hosted an annual Veterans Day dinner for student veterans, they say, and each year, in her welcoming address, made a point of noting the number of veterans in the entering class. Then there was her West Point speech, which exhibited a respect for the military bordering on reverence.

Kagan, whose confirmation hearings will start June 28, deserves close scrutiny before she is granted a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court. But if the "anti-military" theme is the worst thing her critics can find, she has nothing to worry about.

Share This Story