Washington (CNN) – A top aide to President Obama is pushing back on early Republican criticism of Elena Kagan for her opposition to allowing military recruiters on the Harvard Law School campus because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
While dean of the law school, Kagan tried to block military recruiters from the campus in protest of the Pentagon's policies preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly. Her position on this issue was criticized by the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee soon after Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court.
"I think she made a big mistake," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, told CNN. "Was that disqualifying? I don't know, we'll see. But it's a significant issue."
But Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said that Kagan's actions were motivated by her concerns over discrimination.
Washington (CNN) – Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, said Monday he would vote against Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court, the first Republican to publicly express opposition to President Obama's choice to replace Justice John Paul Stevens.
Inhofe voted against Kagan when her nomination to be solicitor general came before the Senate last year. Despite opposition from Inhofe and some other GOP senators, Kagan was confirmed.
"As with her nomination to serve as Solicitor General, I remain concerned about Elena Kagan's record," Inhofe said in a statement shortly after Obama announced her as his second pick for the high court. "Now as a nominee to the Supreme Court, her lack of judicial experience and her interpretation of the Constitution also play an important role in my decision to once again oppose her nomination. The position for which she has been nominated has lifetime tenure, and it is concerning that the President has placed such trust in a nominee that has not been properly vetted through a judicial career, having worked mostly in academia and never before as a judge."
Echoing what has already become a Republican concern about Kagan, Inhofe also mentioned Kagan's decision, while dean of Harvard Law School, to block military recruiters from the law school's campus in protest of the Pentagon's policies preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly.
The issue is "very important to me," Inhofe said.
Washington (CNN) - Just hours after President Obama named Elena Kagan as his pick to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, his political operation sent an e-mail to 13 million supporters featuring the president urging them to rally support for her nomination.
Obama spoke directly to the camera in a four minute video accompanied by a note that was sent to his Organizing for America e-mail list. Readers were encouraged to click on a link in the e-mail that directed them to a campaign style website promoting Kagan's nomination.
In the video, Obama lauds Kagan as "one of our nation's foremost legal minds," and "an acclaimed legal scholar." He also described Kagan, the current solicitor general, as "superb."
"I hope that the Senate will act in a bipartisan fashion as they did in confirming Elena to be our solicitor general last year," Obama said in the video. "And that they will do so as swiftly as possible so that she can take her seat in time to fully participate in the work of the court this fall."
(CNN) - One of main "deliverables" Afghan President Hamid Karzai is looking for, according to a senior State Department official is a commitment by the United States that it will be engaged with Afghanistan beyond July of next year, the date that President Obama has laid out for U.S. troops to begin to withdraw.
"He wants to know the United States is with Afghanistan beyond the July 2011 date and beyond the core goals," the official said. "To really lock in U.S. national security interests means Afghanistan can't go back. Allowing it to be undone is not in our interests or in the interests of the people of Afghanistan. That is the thing he wants us to explain, that the United States is committed to the long term."The official said the question involves civilian and security assistance after troops withdraw.
"We are seriously looking at the strategic partnership, not just the dynamic of the insurgency but also Afghanistan's future role in the region as a source of stability," the official said.
Washington (CNN) – Republicans wasted little time Monday criticizing President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, for trying to block military recruiters from Harvard Law School in protest of the Pentagon's policies preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly.
At the time, Kagan was the dean of the Harvard Law School.
"I think she made a big mistake," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee will be influential in determining GOP support for Kagan. "Was that disqualifying? I don't know, we'll see. But it's a significant issue."
As the law school dean in 2003, she described the military's policy as "a profound wrong – a moral injustice of the first order."
The Court later ruled unanimously against Kagan's position.
Washington (CNN) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing back against liberal criticism that he trying to slow walk the repeal of the military’s "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Rather, Gates told CNN the change needs to be done in a way that does not disrupt the armed services.
The Defense Department is currently conducting an internal review of the policy, which will eventually lead to allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Late last month, Gates sent a letter to a leading Democrat on Capitol Hill where he urged Congress not to get out in front on the Pentagon on this issue.
"I know there's some that are suspicious out there that this is some kind of effort to slow roll this process," Gates says in an interview set to air Monday on CNN's John King, USA. "But as I said in that testimony, I've led several huge public institutions and I've led change in every one of them and there's a smart way to do change, and there's a stupid way to do change. This one has to be done smart.
"And I think it's only fair as we get ready to make this change that we give our force the opportunity to tell us how they feel about it, for us to find out their concerns, for us to identify the challenges we're going to face if Congress does change the law, and how we will go about doing that, and how we will mitigate negative consequences by what we hear from the force. And so I've said this is not about whether, but about how, and that continues to be our position."
Washington (CNN) - Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania, was forced Monday to defend his vote against Elena Kagan to be the solicitor general, cast last year when he was still a Republican.
President Obama, who is backing Specter over Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic Senate primary, nominated Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.
"I voted against her for Solicitor General because she wouldn't answer basic questions about her standards for handling that job," Specter said in a statement. "It is a distinctly different position than that of a Supreme Court Justice."
Kagan was confirmed by the Senate in March 2009 and Specter abandoned the Republican Party to become a Democrat one month later.
Kagan's nomination adds another twist to this very competitive primary and Specter emphasized that his vote against her to be solicitor doesn't mean he will oppose her nomination to the Court.
(CNN) – One of the Republicans seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination in California is accusing his primary rival of standing with President Obama on the hot button issue of immigration.
California State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner takes a hard line on immigration in a new 30-second television spot, which will air on broadcast and cable in markets throughout the state, according to Poizner's campaign.
"Who has the courage and values to stand up to illegal immigration?" one narrator asks.
"Not liberal Meg Whitman," another narrator answers. "She supports Obama's amnesty plan."
The conversing narrators note that Poizner supports Arizona's controversial new immigration law and that he "opposes amnesty" and "will cut off benefits to illegal's, saving millions."
The immigration plan being pushed by Senate Democrats includes a process to legalize an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the United States. It states that all illegal immigrants living in the United States would be required to "come forward to register, be screened, and, if eligible, complete other requirements to earn legal status, including paying taxes."
Read about the Whitman campaign's response after the jump: