NRO, Fox Nation distort Daily Princetonian article to suggest Kagan supports socialism


National Review Online and the Fox Nation distorted a Daily Princetonian article in order to suggest Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's senior thesis shows that she supports socialism. Both NRO and the Fox Nation excerpted from the article but edited out statements from Kagan's thesis adviser disputing those claims.

Daily Princetonian article on Kagan thesis knocks down claim that she supports socialism

Daily Princetonian quoted Kagan's thesis adviser as saying Kagan "is about the furthest thing from a socialist. Period." The Daily Princetonian reported in a May 3 article that "Kagan spent her senior year conducting research for her thesis on the history of the socialist movement" and that it was "criticized by her opponents for revealing sympathies with the Socialist Party." It quoted her thesis adviser, Princeton history professor Sean Wilentz, "defend[ing] Kagan against her critics, noting that she was adept at removing her personal beliefs from her academic research on labor and radical history." From the article:

But Wilentz defended Kagan against her critics, noting that she was adept at removing her personal beliefs from her academic research on labor and radical history. "Sympathy for the movement of people who were trying to better their lives isn't something to look down on," he explained. "Studying something doesn't necessarily mean that you endorse it. It means you're into it. That's what historians do."

Kagan said in her thesis acknowledgements [sic] that her brother's "involvement in radical causes led me to explore the history of American radicalism in the hope of clarifying my own political ideas."

Yet even if a deeper understanding of the Socialist movement helped Kagan understand her own beliefs, she did not follow her brother's path.

"Elena Kagan is about the furthest thing from a socialist. Period. And always had been. Period," Wilentz explained.

Kagan's thesis simply explored historical questions about socialism. As Media Matters for America has noted, Kagan did not express personal support for socialism or radicalism in her thesis. Rather, she explored the historical question of why socialism did not become a major political movement in the United States as it had elsewhere in the world. In addition to Wilentz saying that Kagan has never been a socialist, one of her college peers described her views in college as "well within the mainstream of the ... sort of liberal, democratic, progressive tradition." Despite the fact that Kagan's thesis is publicly available, Republicans did not raise the issue during her confirmation as solicitor general, suggesting that none of them believed that she was actually a socialist.

NRO, Fox Nation edit out Wilentz's comments to suggest Kagan supports socialism

NRO's Whelan excerpted article's description of thesis to claim Kagan was "well on the Left." On May 3, NRO blogger Ed Whelan cited parts of the The Daily Princetonian article on Kagan's thesis to suggest Kagan is "well on the Left." From the post:

In short, except in those areas (presidential powers and national security) where she has expressed more moderate views, there is zero reason to expect that she'd be anything other than the doctrinaire liberal that she has vocally been on gay-rights issues.

For folks looking for yet more evidence, today's Daily Princetonian carries an article on Kagan as a Princeton undergrad. Kagan was editorial chairman of the paper for two years, and the student colleague who appointed her describes her politics as having been "progressive and thoughtful but well within the mainstream of the ... sort of liberal, democratic, progressive tradition." (Ah, yes, the mainstream of the left stream.) Here's an excerpt about Kagan's senior thesis on the history of the socialist movement in New York City:

"Americans are more likely to speak of a golden past than of a golden future, of capitalism's glories than of socialism's greatness," she wrote in her thesis. "Conformity overrides dissent; the desire to conserve has overwhelmed the urge to alter. Such a state of affairs cries out for explanation."

She called the story of the socialist movement's demise "a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism's decline, still wish to change America ... In unity lies their only hope."

I think that it's fair to say that anyone who found it puzzling -- as "cr[ying] out for explanation" -- why Americans "are more likely to speak of ... capitalism's glories than of socialism's greatness" and who saw the demise of the American socialist movement as "sad" was well on the Left. (To be clear: I am certainly not contending that Kagan's views might not have changed over the years; I am merely pointing out the utter dearth of evidence that Kagan might secretly harbor conservative views.)

NRO's Foster says Kagan thesis "raised eyebrows" and also deceptively edits Daily Princetonian article. In a May 10 post titled, "Young Kagan's Thesis on Socialism," NRO blogger Daniel Foster wrote: "The Daily Princetonian has an illuminating article on the young Elena Kagan, Class of '81. Under the tutelage of Sean Wilentz -- lefty historian, friend of the Clintons, and notorious Bush-basher -- Kagan wrote a thesis called 'To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933,' which first raised eyebrows when Kagan was being considered for [Justice David] Souter's seat last year." Foster excerpted the same two paragraphs from The Daily Princetonian that Whelan had highlighted.

Fox Nation edits Daily Princetonian article to suggest Kagan supports socialism.
The Fox Nation purported to provide an excerpt of The Daily Princetonian article showing Kagan's thesis topic, but it edited out several paragraphs -- including those containing Wilentz's comments -- without indicating it had done so. It linked to its version of the excerpt under the headline, "Kagan Booted Recruiters, Linked GOP Terror Proposal to 'Dictatorships,' Wrote Thesis on Socialism." From the Fox Nation:


We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.