The first dump of documents from Elena Kagan’s years in the Clinton Administration came out today, and already her true colors on a host of hot-button political topics are starting to show through. Here’s a survey of what these documents show:
- Guns. There are lots of documents showing Kagan was in the loop and relevant to decisions on policy affecting gun rights. A document she co-authored with Bruce Reed told the president they would be “outlining an aggressive strategy for administration officials and Democratic Members of Congress to press for quick passage of our gun control proposals…” She lauded a “terrific” New York Times article that “perfectly” conveyed their intended message. It described their strategy to push gun control legislation through as quickly as possible in the wake of the Littleton, CO school shootings before the NRA or Republicans could disrupt their momentum.
- Assisted Suicide. Kagan referred to a federal law banning assisted suicide as “a fairly terrible idea.” It is interesting that her notes were in the margin of a memo from Dawn Johnsen, Obama’s former nominee to head OLC who was forced to withdraw as she proved too radical for even Senate Democrats to support.
- Abortion. As previous documents have shown, Kagan recommended Clinton sign a partial-birth abortion ban that included Daschle’s amendment for a health exception, despite the fact that the Clinton DOJ had determined the law was unconstitutional on two different grounds. This is interesting because it shows her moving ahead with an unconstitutional course of conduct for political reasons. She also recommended that Clinton and his HHS rule that the Hyde Amendment cover all Medicare funds, thereby banning Medicare from covering abortion. This position will likely irritate pro-choice groups as it shows she is more pragmatic than principled in this area.
- Welfare Reform. Kagan was thoroughly in the loop on welfare as well, with her comments and stars marking up the major documents involved. It remains to be seen whether Kagan personally was involved with deals with unions, especially as Clinton White House pushed to have labor standards apply to welfare-to-work.
- Cloning. Kagan co-authored a memo with Jack Gibbons urging the President to submit legislation banning repborudctive cloning but permitting the cloning of human tissue, including embryos. This batch of records makes it clear that Kagan was the head of the White House’s working group on cloning issues.
- Climate Change. Kagan co-signed a memo with Bruce Reed and Gene Sperling recommending $400 million for “our broader climate change initiative (including tax incentives), this funding will go to a number of departments in accord with PCAST’s recommendations.” PCAST is the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which recommended funding for more R&D to respond to “global climactic change from society’s greenhouse-gas emissions” including carbon dioxide.
As more and more of the documents are sifted through – and if estimates are right there should be at least 120,000 more pages on the way – look for the nominee Ed Whelan called “the blankest slate” to take on the decidedly clearer tones of a committed liberal. The documents show a politically savvy Kagan, and bring to the fore the question of whether she would be able to set aside her deeply ingrained political instincts to evenhandedly apply the law.