McCain's Cellmate: Kagan 'Pandering' to Military During Hearings

Orson Swindle, Vietnam POW and Sen. John McCain’s cellmate in Hanoi, watches the Kagan confirmation hearings from a skybox in Hart Senate Building

Sen. John McCain’s cellmate in Hanoi, Retired Marine Lt. Col. Orson Swindle, was not impressed with Elena Kagan’s testimony Tuesday regarding the military and Harvard Law School denying it access to its recruitment office.

In fact, he called her statements “squirreling around” and “pandering.”

Kagan, in the second day of her confirmation hearings to be the Supreme Court justice, talked about her respect for the military service of her students while Dean of Harvard and how she was “so honored” to be invited to West Point to speak on constitutional law, something she did in 2007.

“It was the really the greatest honor I think I’ve ever gotten, to be asked to be that person,” Kagan said.  “I love that institution – the faculty and the students there.”

Swindle, who was present for some of Tuesday’s hearing, told HUMAN EVENTS that Kagan’s statements reminded him of then Sen. Hillary Clinton’s comment to Gen. David Petraeus during a 2007 Senate hearing when she told him it would require a willing suspension of disbelief to trust what he was saying.

“That’s exactly the way I heard her,” Swindle said of Kagan’s comments.  “To think that she has any other feelings than that [lack of respect for the military], based on all the things she has done in her life, would require you to just willing suspension of disbelief.”

Republicans have criticized Kagan for denying the military access to Harvard law school’s recruitment office because the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy – established by Congressional law — contradicts the school’s anti-discrimination policy.

Swindle said Kagan tried to circumvent every aspect of how she’s defied the Solomon law, which states that federal funds can be withheld from a school if the military isn’t allowed to recruit on campus. When the Third Circuit declared the Solomon amendment unconstitutional, Kagan, as Dean of Harvard Law, adopted the ruling for the school even though it wasn’t in the Third Circuit and the court itself said the ruling couldn’t be implemented till the Supreme Court reviewed it.

Kagan said she thought it appropriate at that point to go back to the school’s longstanding policy of allowing the military access through student groups rather than the recruitment office.  She said they were never out of compliance with the law – since the issue was one of funding – and that they changed their policy when approached by the Department of Defense.

Sen. Jeff Sessons later called Kagan’s testimony about what happened at Harvard regarding military recruiting as “disconnected from the reality of it.”

And Swindle called Kagan’s testimony similar to those made by politicians during Vietnam: that they supported the troops but not the war.

“That shows an incredible — in my personal opinion — an incredible disregard and lack of knowledge of what the military is,” Swindle said. “We heard it over and over and over again in Vietnam. She’s saying the same thing here.”

Swindle said he believes in general many in the Obama administration are trying to undermine how U.S. institutions function because the administration wants to exercise control, and he said interrupting the military culture through an issue like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would be the “plum of all plums.”