That's the second time Kagan has made the statement during her testimony — once during Sen. Charles Grassley's (R-IA) line of questioning, and again during Sen. Amy Klobuchar's (D-Minn.) line of questioning. Her 1983 thesis made two important points: first, it bemoaned the decline of socialism in America, and second, it talked about how much she valued judicial activism.
Grassley and Klobuchar referenced the second point in Kagan's thesis when pursuing their lines of questioning. Here was Kagan's response to Klobuchar this morning: "Lets just throw that piece of work in the trash, why don't we?" she said. "That's before I went to law school, and didn't understand much about the way judges should work."
I can accept that. People say things they regret. They can make rash statements in their younger years that don't reflect their opinion after they've gained knowledge and experience. Just as importantly, even if they still secretly believe in their original nutty statements, it's important for them to publicly renounce them. That way they'll at least feel like they've made some kind of commitment towards normalcy.
The question is whether Kagan was talking about the part of her thesis that referred to judicial activism or the part that reference her socialist beliefs when she was asking that those ideas be thrown in the trash.
Kagan could have been referencing both points in her responses, though it appears that she was only repudiating the judicial activism bit. That's the most important part for a potential Supreme Court nominee to repudiate, but it still leaves some questions about how much she still believes in socialism in America. It's a point that I hope Republican Senators pursue when they grill her later in the day.
It's better to have a socialist on the bench who has publicly renounced her beliefs rather than one who hasn't publicly renounced them. She'll still be a socialist either way, but if she's at least has to pretend she isn't, it may have a moderating effect on her judicial temperaments.