Political Hay

The Socialist Judge: Elena Kagan and the Teachable Moment

Bennett loss signals perils of vote for a pro-socialist Supreme Court nominee.

By 5.12.10

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"In our own times, a coherent socialist movement is nowhere to be found in the United States. Americans are more likely to speak of a golden past than of a golden future, of capitalism's glories than of socialism's greatness."
-- Elena Kagan, Obama nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court

"This is a great opportunity to find out what's in this woman's mind."
-- Rush Limbaugh

The teachable moment on socialism is here.

Courtesy of Barack Obama and Elena Kagan..

The issue -- the issue -- of this confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court Justice should be not Ms. Kagan, but socialism. Socialism, the philosophy she professed such admiration for in her 1981 Princeton thesis titled "To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933."

"The Final Conflict." Think of that.

Why focus on an undergraduate college paper written almost thirty years ago?

Because we are in the middle of a massively controversial presidency led by a man who has exhibited every intention of "transforming" America in the socialist image -- leading the country away from its capitalist heritage. This Supreme Court nomination does not, after all, come in a vacuum. Since taking office, the Obama administration has taken control of everything from car companies to financial institutions to banks to your health care.

And no, the obvious intent of Princeton's Sean Wilentz, her thesis adviser and himself a notable progressive, is not missed. In saying in the New York Times that "to study something is not to endorse it" Wilentz telegraphs that is exactly what Kagan -- and he himself -- thought then and now of socialism. They liked it. They like it still. A lot. It helps to understand when reading this particular bit of fantasy that the American Prospect has described Wilentz as "a distinguished historian active in Democratic politics." His defense of Kagan is the plain attempt to engage in a little storytelling with a considerable partisan design -- to convince the unwary that Kagan is not what her words and actions demonstrate she in fact is.

Around America, whether it is the struggles of California or New York, or abroad in Greece, the chickens of socialism are coming home to roost. And Solicitor General Kagan  -- by all accounts just peachy as a person -- is an on the record believer in the philosophy that is behind all of this.

Socialism.

There is precedent for a fight of this nature.

In 1993, with Democrats in control of the Congress and the media wrapping the new President Clinton in the standard media gauze of affection and let's-all-work-together, something happened. Something important.

While it is not often remembered, before there was a Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol in his inimitable style calmly lit the bonfire that signaled the launch of the historic 1994 election of a GOP Congress. He began by rejecting outright the intention of Congressional Republicans to respond to the introduction of HillaryCare -- the health care debate of the day -- by agreeing to the premise and tinkering and bickering around the edges. Serving as chair of a group called the Project for the Republican Future, Kristol wrote a memo that wound up shaking the political foundations of the day. Kristol's startling recommendation: "kill" the bill. Don't bicker about the details. Don't fiddle at the margins. Just plain kill the bill outright and stand on conservative principles.

The reaction so startled, so clearly drew a bright line between conservatives and liberals, that in fact the decades-long somnolent establishment Republicans woke up. Prodded hourly by the rebellious Newt Gingrich, the case for opposing HillaryCare was made. And as a result the first Republican Congress since 1952 -- 42 years earlier -- was elected in the "Gingrich Revolution."

Now comes President Obama's nomination of his Solicitor General, former Harvard Law School Dean Kagan, as a replacement for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

With the nomination barely 24-hours old, Senate Republicans are already doing their standard head-nodding "we'll have to look at Elena's record" blah-blah-blah. She's nice. She's swell. And, chime in her supporters helpfully, she's a moderate. What a gal.

And in proceeding along those lines, the Senate GOP and the conservative movement are missing entirely what might be called a Kristol-clear opportunity.

The nomination of Elena Kagan is not about that nice Kagan woman. It is about her well and crisply stated views about "socialism's greatness." Views that, based on the actual record of the Obama presidency, this administration shares.

So. Got that? We have a Supreme Court nominee who believes in "socialism's greatness."  

Socialism, then, is a highly relevant -- the highly relevant -- issue of this confirmation of an Obama nominated Supreme Court Justice.

This nomination fight must be about exactly what Ms. Kagan was thinking when she spent a lot of ink writing about "socialism's greatness." And how that thinking will affect her conduct on the bench.

Will she be confirmed? Maybe. Even probably. But her confirmation is quite beside the point. The notion that this President of the United States is a committed socialist is decidedly not beside the point. And as a symbol of the Obama administration Elena Kagan is a gift from the political MasterCard. 

Priceless.

Why?

What needs to be discussed and debated, confirmed or rejected in this Supreme Court nomination is not Elena Kagan -- but socialism itself.  

This hearing and the debate that swirls around it should be one very slow-motion educational moment about every socialist thought, movement and result, from the Haymarket Riot of May 4, 1886 (which gave rise to the socialist and Communist celebration of "May Day"), to the policies of the National Socialist Party (the Nazis) of Germany, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR) and countries such as the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (ruled by the socialist "Korean Worker's Party"). How did major American cities like Los Angeles, Detroit and New Orleans get into such deep trouble that everything from bankruptcy to a hurricane pushes them to the brink? What about socialism can be found in the policies of states like California, New York, and Michigan -- all three which are ravaged by high unemployment and, yes, the looming shadow of bankruptcy?

Witnesses should be called to testify about the socialism Ms. Kagan praised.  What kind of witnesses? Who, exactly?  Why, some of the most prominent socialist advocates on the American scene today.

• Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- the now-retired pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ, in whose pews President Obama sat for 20 years is well on the record in favor of socialism presented as "Black Liberation Theology"

• Bill Ayers -- the famous Weatherman whom Sean Hannity calls "the unrepentant terrorist" describes himself as "a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," as reported by Stanley Kurtz in this article in the Wall Street Journal. Come up to the Hill, Bill. (Can we leave the bombs behind on this round?)  

• Van Jones -- the self-described Communist who served as the Obama administration's "Green Jobs Czar" until his very verbose video history was unearthed by Glenn Beck. Van -- your old colleague needs a little backup here. Come back and chat. We've missed your pearls of wisdom!

• Carol Browner -- the "global warming czar" of the Obama Administration. Ms. Browner, as Sean Hannity has yet again reported, was one of fourteen leaders of an outfit called the "Commission for a Sustainable World Society," an arm of the Socialist International.

So Carol, how about shedding some light on your buds? Come on now, don't be shy.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders -- Mr. Sanders, who votes with the Senate Democrats, is a proud -- and the only open -- socialist member of the United States Senate. Representing Vermont, his fellow Vermont Senator being Senate Judiciary Chairman and Democrat Patrick Leahy. Senator -- you are never shy. Your Vermont friend runs the show -- have him give you some time to educate the rest of us.

• U.S. Representative Maxine Waters -- Ms. Waters has openly pined for the government to take over oil companies. To socialize them. Never a dull discussion to be had with Ms. Waters -- walk on over to the Senate, Congresswoman, and let 'er rip. We're all ears.

• Andy Stern -- the now resigned president of SEIU (the Service Employees International Union) famous for saying in the style of Karl Marx, "Workers of the world unite -- it's not just a slogan anymore.  It's the way we're gonna have to do our work." Come back, Andy. Come back! Open up!

• Ron Bloom -- the Obama "manufacturing czar" and ex-SEIU aide on the record as believing "the free market is nonsense." OK Ron, make your case. Elena agrees -- come defend her.

• Bertha Lewis -- the ACORN CEO who addressed a meeting of the Young Democratic Socialists and said "I'm a socialist." Bertha, Bertha, Bertha.  There will be more cameras here. Front row seat. We want to listen. Come on in!

• Mark Lloyd -- a disciple of Obama hero Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals, Lloyd is a well-professed admirer of Venezuela socialist strongman Hugo Chavez. And an Obama appointee at the Federal Communications Commission. Hey -- things are stirring over at the FCC, Mark. Let's hear how you see the role of socialism on the Court in dealing with communications.

While we're at it, let's throw in a few celebrities. Let's listen to Sean Penn on the subject, he the admirer of Hugo Chavez. Michael Moore loves Fidel Castro's Cuba and professes his hatred of capitalism. Mike, babe, come be a witness for Elena Kagan.

Doubtless there are other potential witnesses who can testify as to just why someone of General Kagan's smarts would so fervently believe in "socialism's greatness." Yes, the White House would surely put up a fierce fight to keep its own appointees from being grilled by Senators -- thus illustrating the point that there is something to hide. They would do everything they possibly could to keep the topic of socialism as far removed from the Senate Judiciary Committee as possible. Which in turn sets up for Team Obama a classic "lose-lose" proposition.  If socialism is so great, and the nominee is on the written record about this, then let's have the discussion. If the Obama White House and its allies refuse to have the discussion -- the question becomes: what's to hide?

But make no mistake. This is not about juicing the TV ratings for a Court confirmation.

If the United States Senate is about to vote for an avowed admirer of socialism for the job of Supreme Court Justice, the obvious question is: how does socialism deal with American concepts of law and the Constitution?  

What about free speech? Already stories are appearing that Kagan "argued to the court in September that Congress has the constitutional right to forbid companies from engaging in political speech such as publishing pamphlets that advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office." Socialism is, of course, famously hostile to corporations and the rights of private individuals, a hostility that comes out in Kagan's animus to free speech by corporations in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This was the case, of course, for which President Obama famously scolded the Supreme Court as it sat before him during his State of the Union address.

Here are a few other issues to be aired in a discussion about a pro-socialist nominee to the Court:

• What about socialism's views of the role of corporations under the Constitution?  Let's discuss.

• What about the limits of government in a socialist state?

• If the Constitution is simply a "living document" as liberals love to insist, not to be read as written, what about the real-life of socialism in practice around the world should be injected into any interpretation of the Constitution? If foreign law is something that should be taken into account by American judges, another liberal favorite, which of the laws of socialist states from North Korea to Communist China to the old Soviet Union should be adapted when making Supreme Court decisions?

• What is the nominee's view of capitalism?

• Should the Court be deciding how much money Americans are entitled to earn?

• Should the government run corporations and banks?

• What is the role of the FCC in regulating the Internet?

Unintentionally, President Obama has handed conservatives a golden opportunity to educate Americans on the hard cold facts of the age-old, always failed socialist agenda -- all neatly presented in the nomination of the very nice Elena Kagan.

A better teachable moment could not be had.

Will Senate Republicans understand the Obama White House gift to their cause? Are there actually members of the Republican Senate Caucus who will vote for a nominee who has so resolutely stated her support of socialism? 

Is that you Lindsay Graham?

Can anyone in the Republican Senate Caucus say these four words?

Former Senator Bob Bennett.

The teachable moment for conservatives and all those tea partiers has arrived. At exactly the right time.

Thank you, Mr. President. Bless you for giving us Elena Kagan. Let the debate begin.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.