On NBC, Vieira Sputters at Laura Ingraham's Charge That Kagan Was 'Anti-Military'

NBC's Today offered a conservative counterpoint on the Elena Kagan nomination on Wednesday: conservative radio talker and author Laura Ingraham. Co-host Meredith Vieira suggested Republicans were hypocrites to suggest Kagan was inexperienced.

The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, has said that her lack of experience to him is troubling. Yet when Harriet Miers was put up for consideration by President Bush five years ago he had no problem with the fact she had never served as a judge. So are Republicans not satisfied with these nominees, their lack of judicial experience only when they're not a Republican nominee? [audio available here]

Vieira seemed to be borrowing from the New York Daily News, which tracked down a Sessions statement on Miers from 2005 (but was given no credit by NBC). Vieira didn't seem to consider that the Miers nomination went belly-up, so if Kagan was as qualified as Miers, then perhaps she shouldn't make it to the high court, either. Ingraham answered that Kagan is out of the mainstream:

INGRAHAM: Well I, first of all, I vehemently opposed Harriet Miers for a whole host of reasons. The main thing here is, Barack Obama said he wanted to pick someone who would reflect the values of ordinary Americans. Now all the people watching the Today show across this country, the academic elite, the left wing elite at Harvard University, at Princeton University, they do believe it's okay to kick military recruiters off the Harvard or Princeton campus if, if that was the set of facts. That, that is the mainstream for them but that's not the mainstream for the way most of us value our military, believe in our military and think that they should have access to recruiting students at a place like Harvard, that could serve the country proudly and have served the country proudly over the years. That's not the mainstream and that's not America.

Vieira responded in disbelief that Kagan could be classified as "anti-military," and start dragging out the technicalities, that the military wasn't "kicked off campus," just banned from the career office:

VIEIRA: But, Laura in fairness to Kagan, she didn't kick them off the campus.

INGRAHAM: Oh, come on.

VIEIRA: She barred them from using the career office for recruiting.

INGRAHAM: Okay, Meredith, remember separate but equal? That was reviled when people were trying to use the separate but equal to say, "Oh as long as black kids are they're, they're taught in a school that, you know, has, is kind of equal to the white kids." That doesn't apply. The military should get preeminent, I think, position at a place like Harvard or any institution.

VIEIRA: Do you believe that she's anti-military Laura? Do you believe she's-

INGRAHAM: I'm sorry?

VIEIRA: Do you believe she's anti-military?

INGRAHAM: I believe that she is of a mindset where individuals believe that it's absolutely okay to diss military recruiters coming on campus. The last time I checked, our military defended the rights of left wing, loopy, [or] conservative, scholars, any one on these campuses to say what ever they want. And to say that somehow they have to be in this other office and they have to play by these other set of rules, when they recruit.

That's just insulting and I think the more people think of that incident, I think the more questions are gonna be raised by, you know, by people that just say, "Look, how is she going to judge on the Court?" If you believe that the Court should be an engine of social, transformational, and radical change, then Elena Kagan is the justice for you.

On her radio show later on Wednesday morning, Ingraham revised and extended her remarks. She suggested she could have made her separate-but-equal point another way. If Harvard Law School had decided to deny the NAACP an official space to recruit at their school, would it be criticized as anti-black? If so, how is it not anti-military to ban the military recruiters?

Now back to where we left off on the Today interview, where it gets a little weird. The Jeff Sessions complaint about Kagan - her very thin record of opinions and writings - then is employed against Ingraham and the Republicans by Vieira:

VIEIRA: You brought up one criticism that you have of her and that raises a problem for the Republicans. She does not have a long history of court opinions or legal briefs. As Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein put it, "There isn't a lot out there to shoot at." Isn't that the biggest problem that Republicans have in dealing with her?

INGRAHAM: No I disagree. I think that just because she doesn't have a long paper trail doesn't mean that we don't know who Elena Kagan is. I mean I'm sure she's very affable, she's kind of fun, she's, you know, all those things. Put that aside. Doesn't matter. But we do know-

VIEIRA: She's also very smart, highly educated, considered to be a consensus builder.

INGRAHAM: There are a lot of people who are highly educated who shouldn't be on the Supreme Court. I can name about 15 sitting right on this seat. But look the main thing that we know is that she was picked by Barack Obama to be solicitor general. She'd never argued a case before an appellate court. Suddenly she's solicitor general of the United States and she's dean of Harvard Law School. You don't get picked for those things unless people know that you are going to be consistently liberal on major social issues. And that's just the case.

Ingraham heard that from former reporter Stuart Taylor on her radio show on Tuesday: he said that if Kagan had failed to ban the military from official buildings over the gay agenda, then she wouldn't have lasted long at Harvard. So then why is Harvard seen as the gold standard of higher education, instead of as a leftist preserve of political correctness? If Harvard won't show respect for the military, why should the country show any respect for Harvard?

-Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.