It goes without saying that the Republican National Committee would like
to disrupt President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan
to the Supreme
Court. But RNC chair Michael Steele has taken an unusual approach that
is drawing fire from all sides. Here's what he said, how it backfired,
how the RNC responded, and why it's all blowing up in their faces.
Memo That Started It All NBC News' Ali Weinberg sums up Michael
Steele's "memo from the RNC alleging that Solicitor General Elena
Kagan's use of a particular quote from Justice Thurgood Marshall, for
whom she clerked, demonstrates her disdain for the constitution. In an
article published shortly after Marshall's death, Kagan quoted from a
1987 speech in which he said the Constitution as originally conceived
and drafted, essentially condoning slavery, was 'defective,' and that
the Supreme Court's mission was 'to show a special solicitude for the
despised and the disadvantaged.' The RNC's memo includes a headline
reading 'Does Kagan still view Constitution 'As Originally Drafted And
Conceived’ As ‘Defective’?'"
- RNC Plays Damage Control Trying to
salvage a usable attack from the fiasco, Doug Heye of the RNC refocuses. "Yet
while Marshall pointed to constitutional amendments as redressing the
wrongs of slavery, Kagan moves beyond that. ... In the same law review
article, Kagan endorses the view that the Court’s primary role is to 'show special solicitude' for people a judge has empathy for. ... her
view of the Court’s primary mission is at odds with the majority of
- The Half-Baked 'Strategy' New York magazine's Dan Amira explains, "What this
was obviously an attempt to do: Stir up some kind of controversy with
an out-of-context soundbite which, if somebody heard it in passing on
Fox News while clipping their toenails, might portray Kagan as
insufficiently patriotic, or something."
- Shows Kagan Will
Glide to Nomination The Washington Post's Greg Sargent sighs, "The
decision to make this their opening shot suggests that the remaining
arrows in the quiver may be pretty dull indeed."
- 'Try Thinking
Before You Speak' National Review's Abigail Thernstrom chides,
"Mr. Steele (and RNC staff), just as a little experiment, you might try
thinking before you speak." She asks, "But of course the answer should
be, yes. Might the Three-Fifths Clause have been a wee bit of a defect?"
- Steele Might as Well Join KKK? The Washington Post's Colbert King fumes, "What part
of [Thurgood's] statement does Michael Steele reject? And if he is,
indeed, a self-demeaning fool who believes that the originally drafted
Constitution was not defective, why doesn't he seek membership in the Ku
- Media Coup For Democrats Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence writes, "The
Democratic National Committee had an embarrassment of riches to shower
on its mailing list, between the many experts and analysts praising
Kagan and at least 11 media outlets criticizing the RNC for putting
Marshall -- and slavery -- in play."
- ...Who Launched
Counter-Offensive Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports, "By
afternoon, the main topic of conversation for the DNC was not Kagan
herself, but the Republican National Committee's [attack] ... Democrats
let every reporter on their lists know that an array of publications,
including the conservative National Review, found the RNC's attack
bizarre and tough to justify."
- Playing the Race Card?
Liberal blogger John Aravosis balks, "Is it
racism or rank stupidity that motivates Republicans nowadays? ... That's
really their argument, defending three-fifths a man and slavery? I get
the desire to win over the Beauregard Sessions vote, but seriously,
they're going to build a national majority on racism?"
Be Anything New Daily Kos' Joan McCarter says this
"certainly wouldn't be a new tactic from Republicans. Don't forget Ronald
Reagan's first speech after the 1980 GOP convention was on the topic
of states rights, and was delivered in Philadelphia, Mississippi,
where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. The GOP hasn't
changed an iota in the intervening thirty years, except perhaps they're
even less subtle in their racism in 2010."
- ...And Another Interpretation Wonkette's Ken Layne offers his own acerbic summary of what happened. "The
Republican National Committee’s official Jar Jar Binks, non-stop comic
sensation and actual black person Michael Steele, attacked this radical
stance because come on, everybody knows the *real* Constitution didn’t
let blacks vote for a reason: Black people are supposed to be
slaves, and they count as 3/5ths of a human strictly for the purposes of
allocating congressional districts. But now the RNC has 'clarified' its
position on slavery."
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