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Witness Slams Senators as "Opportunistic"

You can tell the Senators don't think the witness testimony adds much to Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings, since half of them haven't even bothered to show up this afternoon. Fortunately, they can READ the most unvarnished and blunt statement of these hearings.

Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith, who just testified forcefully for Kagan, pulled no punches. He basically said the senators on the Judiciary Committee are a bunch of opportunistic hypocrites who have abrogated their duty and damaged the judiciary.

Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration, has spoken his mind before. Remember, he's the one who revoked some of the legal memos written by John Yoo that had authorized various measures in the war on terror, like harsh interrogation techniques.

And in his written testimony, Goldsmith let the Senate Judiciary Committee have it.

The President gets to choose Supreme Court nominees, Goldsmith said, and the Senate shouldn't reject anyone who clearly is qualified for the job. But the problem, he said, is that senators embrace that standard only when it suits them.

Democrats are arguing now that President Obama should get deference, Goldsmith said, but they argued the opposite when President Bush nominated John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. And Republicans were arguing for deference then, Goldsmith said, but they aren't now--with a Democrat in the White House.

"The Democrats are right now and the Republicans were right then," said Goldsmith, who was the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration.

"But the opportunistic embrace of the principle, and the often-extremely-uncharitable characterization of the records of nominees of presidents of the opposite party, can only mean that neither side really believes in it," said Goldsmith.

He concluded: "Such opportunism under the guise of principle is, with respect, worse than just regrettable; it damages the very judicial system the Committee is charged with nurturing and overseeing. "

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.