Archive for Saturday, June 19, 2010

In Kagan e-mails, politics trumps policy

June 19, 2010


— As a Clinton White House aide, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan called herself one of the Clinton administration’s biggest fans of a law to protect religious freedom but warned then-Vice President Al Gore against endorsing it for fear of creating “a gay/lesbian firestorm.”

In a 1999 e-mail, Kagan said the White House was meeting with religious and gay groups to try to smooth over their differences on the matter.

“We’ll let you know as soon as it’s safe to go back in the water,” she wrote to Ron Klain, who was Gore’s chief of staff and now holds the same job for Vice President Joe Biden.

The missive — one of tens of thousands of pages of Kagan’s e-mails released Friday — shows how as an aide to President Bill Clinton, Kagan’s job was often to place political considerations ahead of her policy views.

The e-mails also portray Kagan as a driven and highly opinionated person who has a flair for political tactics and little tolerance for high-flying rhetoric.

Shortly after Clinton gave his second inaugural address, Kagan e-mailed her boss, Bruce Reed, the director of the Domestic Policy Council, to say she thought one of the president’s marquee lines quoting the prophet Isaiah was “the most preposterously presumptuous line I have ever seen.”

The line — often referenced in discussions of mending racial discord — is “Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations, and thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.”

Kagan tells Reed in the note that Clinton would deserve it if “the press really came down on him” for delivering it.

The e-mails were part of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library’s final release of documents related to Kagan’s service as a domestic policy aide and White House counsel. The Senate Judiciary Committee requested the documents in preparation for its hearings on Kagan’s nomination, scheduled to begin June 28.

It’s the third week in a row the files were made public on a Friday afternoon — the customary time in official Washington for dribbling out unfavorable information or disclosures one hopes won’t draw too much attention.


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