The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - NATION WATCH - By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS

As sen­a­tors ply her with hard­balls and soft­balls, mil­i­tary is­sue flares up.

WSupreme Court nom­i­nee Elena Ka­gan ma­neu­vered care­fully through tough ques­tion­ing on mil­i­tary re­cruit­ment at Har­vard Law School, gun own­ers’ rights and free speech Tues­day, giv­ing lit­tle ground to crit­ics and draw­ing strong praise from Se­nate Democrats.

In a long day of ques­tion­ing at a hear­ing that stretched into the evening, Ka­gan was pressed by Sen. Jeff Ses­sions of Alabama, the top Repub­li­can on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, for her de­ci­sion as dean of Har­vard Law to bar re­cruiters from the school’s ca­reer ser­vices of­fice over the Pen­tagon’s pol­icy against openly gay sol­diers.

Ses­sions said he emerged from a heated back-and-forth with Ka­gan on the is­sue more “trou­bled” about her nom­i­na­tion than be­fore.

Still, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­nee ap­peared in good shape to win Se­nate ap­proval — bar­ring a ma­jor gaffe — in time to take her seat be­fore the court opens a new term in Oc­to­ber. If con­firmed, Ka­gan, 50, would suc­ceed re­tir­ing Jus­tice John Paul Stevens.

Un­der ques­tion­ing by Ses­sions, Ka­gan said she was try­ing to bal­ance Har­vard’s nondis­crim­i­na­tion pol­icy, which she be­lieved “don’t ask, don’t tell” vi­o­lated, with a fed­eral law that re­quired schools to give mil­i­tary re­cruiters equal ac­cess as a con­di­tion of el­i­gi­bil­ity for fed­eral funds. She said she wel­comed the mil­i­tary, and be­lieved her pol­icy of re­quir­ing re­cruiters to work through a stu­dent vet­er­ans group — first set by a pre­de­ces­sor — was a valid com­pro­mise.

Ses­sions called her ver­sion of events “dis­con­nected from re­al­ity” and ac­cused Ka­gan of de­fy­ing fed­eral law be­cause of her strong op­po­si­tion to the mil­i­tary’s treat­ment of ho­mo­sex­u­als.

At least one Repub­li­can ap­peared to have a higher opin­ion of Ka­gan.

“Your stock re­ally went up with me,” Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina told Ka­gan af­ter she praised Miguel Es- With fam­ily mem­bers and friends be­hind her, Supreme Court nom­i­nee Elena Ka­gan fielded ques­tions from the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Tues­day. trada, one of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s failed ju­di­cial nom­i­nees.

Democrats were al­ready in her corner. Said Sen. Shel­don White­house of Rhode Is­land: “I think that Elena Ka­gan has been thor­ough and sub­stan­tive in her an­swers.” He said she was “off to a great start.”

The com­mit­tee called Ka­gan back to­day for a sec­ond and likely fi­nal day of ques­tion­ing.

Ka­gan spoke fa­vor­ably of tele­vis­ing Supreme Court pro­ceed­ings. “It would be a great thing for the court, and it would be a great thing for the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” she said.

But the for­mer law school dean, who once wrote a strongly worded ar­ti­cle de­nounc­ing Supreme Court nom­i­nees for dodg­ing ques­tions at con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, her­self re­fused re­peat­edly to be pinned down on spe­cific le­gal is­sues, her po­lit­i­cal views or even the pas­sions that an­i­mate her to seek a place on the court.

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