(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan told US senators of the significance of the State of Israel to her during her confirmation testimony Tuesday.
“I don’t think it’s a secret I am Jewish. The State of Israel has meant a lot to me and my family,” she said.
Her comments came in response to criticism of her praise of former Israeli Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, whom Republicans have criticized as overly activist. Kagan’s admiration for Barak, her critics say, raises doubts about how strictly she would interpret the US Constitution if confirmed.
“I admire justice Barak for what he’s done for the State of Israel and ensuring an independent judiciary,” she said.
“He was central in creating an independent judiciary for Israel and in ensuring that Israel – a young nation, a nation threatened from its very beginning in existential ways and a nation without a written constitution – he was central in ensuring that Israel, with all those kinds of liabilities, would become a very strong rule of law nation,” she continued.
But she stressed that she would not look to his judicial method as a model, saying her admiration didn’t stem from his judicial philosophy or specific decisions.
Kagan called Barak “my judicial hero” and said he was the judge “in my
lifetime whom I think best represents and has best advanced the values
of democracy and human rights, of the rule of law and of justice,” when
introducing him before an awards ceremony in 2006. The comments, which
she delivered while dean of Harvard Law School, have been widely cited
at the hearings, which began Monday, by Republicans.
At another point, she noted, “I gave introductions to many, many
people. If any of you came to Harvard Law School, I would have given
you a great introduction too.”
When Kagan was asked where she was on Christmas, the day of the aborted
airline bomb attempt over Detroit, she replied to an outburst of
laughter: “Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”
Referring to a different quip of Kagan’s that elicited laughter
Tuesday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) told her, “You have shown
a really admirable sense of humor, and I think that’s really important.”