WHAT DID THURGOOD MARSHALL EVER DO TO THE GOP?…. In early May, soon after President Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, we learned that Kagan had clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall, whom she considers a personal hero. Inexplicably, the Republican National Committee considers this an area ripe for attack.
In particular, Marshall had characterized the Constitution as having been “defective” as it related to issues like slavery. Republicans hoped to use this to attack Kagan, and the RNC’s Michael Steele demanded to know whether Kagan’s reverence for Marshall included “support for statements suggesting that the Constitution ‘as originally drafted and conceived,’ was ‘defective.’”
When it appeared the RNC’s line was indirectly pro-slavery, the party quickly dropped the criticism. But for some reason, Republicans haven’t given up on their Marshall-bashing.
As confirmation hearings opened Monday afternoon, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee took the unusual approach of attacking Kagan because she admired the late justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked more than two decades ago.
“Justice Marshall’s judicial philosophy,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, “is not what I would consider to be mainstream.” Kyl — the lone member of the panel in shirtsleeves for the big event — was ready for a scrap. Marshall “might be the epitome of a results-oriented judge,” he said.
It was, to say the least, a curious strategy to go after Marshall, the iconic civil rights lawyer who successfully argued Brown vs. Board of Education. Did Republicans think it would help their cause to criticize the first African American on the Supreme Court, a revered figure who has been celebrated with an airport, a postage stamp and a Broadway show? The guy is a saint — literally. Marshall this spring was added to the Episcopal Church’s list of “Holy Women and Holy Men,” which the Episcopal Diocese of New York says “is akin to being granted sainthood.”
With Kagan’s confirmation hearings expected to last most of the week, Republicans may still have time to make cases against Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Gandhi.
I often find Republican ideology to be rather twisted, but it simply never occurred to me that GOP senators would spend the first day of the confirmation hearings condemning one of the most venerated Supreme Court justices in American history.
But condemn they did. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) declared Marshall “a judicial activist.” So did Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Marshall’s approach to the law “does not comport with the proper role of a judge or judicial method.”
Better yet, this was a coordinated attack — Republican aides circulated materials to reporters during the hearing detailing all of the things the GOP doesn’t like about Thurgood Marshall.
Christina Bellantoni put together an interesting count — while President Obama’s name came up 14 times yesterday, Thurgood Marshall’s name came up 35 times.
It’s quite a strategy Republicans have put together here, isn’t it? Unable to come up with a coherent line of attack to undermine this nominee, the GOP has decided to turn its guns on an iconic civil rights attorney and one of the more celebrated American heroes of the 20th century.
And the Republican Party’s outreach to minority communities suffers yet another setback.