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Kagan videos show nominee praising Obama

By Jim Acosta and Bonney Kapp, CNN
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Kagan candid as Harvard dean
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Solicitor General Elena Kagan lets down guard in videos
  • Videos of Supreme Court nominee posted on Senate Judiciary Committee's website
  • Videos show Kagan's humor as well as nominee's serious side

Watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings live on CNN TV, CNN.com and on the CNN app for the iPhone.

Washington (CNN) -- Solicitor General Elena Kagan, President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court, has gone out of her way to avoid controversy during her legal career, but she can be seen and heard letting down her guard at times in videos posted on the Senate Judiciary Committee's website.

Kagan's appearances at seminars, graduations and alumni dinners were recorded on video by the Harvard Law School, where she was dean.

Highlights from the Kagan hearings

At a 2005 Harvard alumni awards dinner for Obama, then a U.S. senator, Kagan gushes over the man who would become president as "her hero." Recalling how she witnessed his speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Kagan says, "He said a few words and the place was mesmerized. You could have heard a pin drop and that's all in part because of these rock star qualities. The eloquence, the magnetism, the great looks, the brilliance."

At the law school in 2005, Kagan led a panel discussion in which former Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers was criticized as a "stealth candidate." "Here's the first thing. How do you pronounce her name?" Kagan asked to cackles in the audience.

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Miers, whom President Bush selected for the high court, withdrew her nomination following complaints she lacked legal heft.

"Honestly, the Republicans have a little bit of reason, you know, to, you know, want to know better who this person is too," Kagan added.

Kagan shows funny side

Kagan, who is known among friends for having a wicked sense of humor, is seen on another video taking some digs at an event honoring Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. She jokingly said Scalia's Harvard law degree was, in her view, the best thing about him.

The dean was injecting some humor into a 2008 panel discussion that featured CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. "Of course Jeff's greatest claim to fame is that he is my classmate, the HLS class of '86. He's my section mate, my study group mate, all right? Jeffrey taught me everything I know about law!" Kagan joked to the audience.

But her comments can also be serious. At a 2007 graduation ceremony for Harvard Law School graduates, she sharply criticized key members of the Bush White House over the administration's secret wiretapping program. Signaling out former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and ex-chief of staff Andy Card by name, Kagan blasted the program to secretly eavesdrop on phone conversations involving terror suspects.

"This is a story, to put it bluntly, of some lawyers who failed to respect the rule of law and of others ... who stood up for and vindicated it," Kagan said, praising former Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith who opposed portions of the wiretapping program.