The Obama Administration brought together several former Clinton Administration colleagues of Solicitor General and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to share their memories and praise her credentials for the high court.
This morning's White House Press Office conference call included former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, former speechwriters Michael Waldman and Josh Gottheimer, and former domestic policy advisor Neera Tanden. The consensus was that Kagan was "brilliant" and a "consensus builder."
Waldman said that Kagan was "politically savvy and knew how policy worked." One of her skills was to act as a "translator between the highly technical technical language" of "policy wonks and the American people," Waldman said. Waldman and Gottheimer recalled Kagan's help when they wrote Clinton's speeches to the NAACP and on tobacco.
Podesta said that Kagan had no qualms asserting herself. "She had the personality to be up in my face, [Former Treasury Secretary] Larry Summers' face or Bill Clinton's face and tell us we were wrong."
From 1995 to 1999, Kagan served as President Clinton's Associate White House Counsel, focusing on the constitutionality of legislation. Podesta was directly asked by New Yorker/CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Kagan's views on Roe v. Wade and affirmative action. Podesta declined and said the nominee would answer those questions during her confirmation hearings.
Also: The last question was from Keen News Service's Lisa Keen, who asked if Kagan had expressed reservations on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. After several seconds of silence, Podesta said he wasn't sure, but those memos were held by the Clinton Foundation, which is preparing to release documents. The call ended after this.
As expected on these types of calls, there were no negative comments. The silence over the DOMA question was worth noting. Not sure if they didn't anticipate the question or didn't know the answer.
In related news: Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (VT) and ranking member Jeff Sessions (AL) requested the release of some "160,000 pages of files related to Kagan's work" during that time. The White House has also requested them.
Confirmation hearings will begin June 28.