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May 10, 2010

Steele Attacks Kagan Over Thurgood Marshall Comment


Republican National Chairman Michael Steele is calling Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to account for her comments in support of Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice on the nation's highest court.

Steele's statement is attracting plenty of attention from liberal bloggers, who never miss a chance to whack the Republican Party's first black chairman.

But a prominent Republican blogger, conservative scholar Abigail Thernstrom, is critical, too, advising Steele and the RNC staff to "try thinking before you speak." Steele's words are also provoking private concern from Republican strategists, who question the wisdom of attacking Kagan for words she wrote praising Marshall after his death in 1993.

Steele's statement, issued minutes after Obama announced his intention to nominate Kagan, said that Senate Republicans need to would raise "serious and tough questions" about her legal philosophy. Included in that, Steele said, is "her support for statements suggesting that the Constitution 'as originally drafted and conceived, was "defective."'"

Kagan, a Supreme Court law clerk for Marshall, was extremely familiar with the Baltimore-born jurist's views on the Constitution, which he regarded as a "living document." His liberalism clashed with the ideology of conservative "originalists," such as Justice Antonin Scalia, who say that in rendering decisions on the law of the land they consider the Constitution's meaning and language at the time it was written.

Marshall, addressing the issue at length in a 1987 speech commemorating the bicentennial of the Constitution, used the word "defective" to refer to the government devised by America's 18th century founders. In particular, Marshall discussed the Constitution's deliberate omission of equal rights for women and black slaves. That is the sentiment Steele singled out for criticism in his statement about Kagan.

Here's the portion of what Marshall had to say about defects of the U.S. government at its founding (a link to his entire remarks can be found on Page 2 of this posting):

"I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever "fixed" at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite "The Constitution," they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago."

RNC Communications Director Doug Heye takes issue with the headline on this post. He says it's inaccurate to say that Steele was attacking Kagan.

Heye's response is on the next page, below Steele's complete statement, which was included in the original post.

A copy of Marshall's speech can be found here.

Steele's complete statement:

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele released the following statement today:

“Over the past year, the American people have been witness to President Obama’s massive expansion of the federal government into our daily lives. To assure the American people, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, will need to demonstrate that she is committed to upholding the vision of our Founding Fathers, who wrote a Constitution meant to limit the power of government, not expand it. The President has stated repeatedly that he wants a justice who will understand the effects of decisions on the lives of everyday Americans. But what Americans want is a justice who will stay true to the Constitution and defend the rights of all Americans, adhering to the rule of law instead of legislating from the bench. Given Kagan’s opposition to allowing military recruiters access to her law school’s campus, her endorsement of the liberal agenda and her support for statements suggesting that the Constitution “as originally drafted and conceived, was ‘defective,’” you can expect Senate Republicans to respectfully raise serious and tough questions to ensure the American people can thoroughly and thoughtfully examine Kagan’s qualifications and legal philosophy before she is confirmed to a lifetime appointment.” (Source: Republican National Committee)

Statement by Doug Heye:

"At no point does Steele attack Kagan, as your headline states.

Also, you write "Steele said Republicans need to raise 'serious and tough questions'..." In fact, the statement did not say Republicans need to anything. It said, "you can expect Republicans to raise serious and tough questions."

This isn't a question of something being taken out of context as it is being put in a different, and mistaken, context."

Heye is right that Steele didn't say that Republican senators need to ask tough questions. Steele said that Kagan needs to demonstrate her commitment to upholding the vision of the Founding Fathers, and that Republican senators can be expected to raise serious and tough questions about her judicial philosophy.

As to his larger point, you can decide whether Steele's decision to draw attention to Thurgood Marshall's comment about defects in the original Constitution was an attack on Kagan.

Posted by Paul West at 6:30 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Michael Steele


I was imprisoned by USDOJ for 5 months without a criminal charge, an arraignment, a bail hearing etc. I don't have a criminal record at all. I sued USDOJ and their counsel David Rybicki claimed that it is USODJ official policy to imprison people like me without a criminal charge and in D.C. federal Judge Bates ruled that there are non criminal authorized law enforcement functions for which USDOJ can imprison citizens without a charge or a trial. I like Kagan because she wrote to the Supreme Court "“Absent a specific statutory provision authorizing or precluding judicial review, a contention that the Attorney General was maintaining or disseminating criminal records in violation of law would be cognizable under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq. (APA), in a suit brought by a person aggrieved by the alleged violation.”

The Republicans have relegated themselves to a complaint department in some large store outlet. They have no policy, no goals (other than "No") and seem to be almost irelevant except in the states of Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Once again, Chairman Steele reveals his complete and utter ignorance. I find it even more odd/sad that the first Black Chairman of the RNC would so blatantly attack the first Black Justice of the Supreme Court in a misguided attempt to ridicule Ms. Kagan.

Steele was an ineffective Lt. Gov. in Maryland (he was simply Black window dressing for a Rep. Gov.) and he is even less effective, albeit disastrous as Chair of the RNC.

Go Mikey, Go! Every time you speak, Dems win a few more votes!

This seems like a pretty simple statement: Kagan says Marshall believes the Constitution should protect the individual rights of those who have been abandoned by all other organs of government. Thurgood Marshall

Woodie, why do you find it odd/sad that Steele would disapgree with Justice Marshall? What, do think all Black folk are supposed to think alike?

I honestly believe that if Jesus Christ's name were put up by Obama as a Supreme Court candidate, the Republicans would find fault saying his hair and shoes are not appropriate for the bench and he tries too hard to befriend strangers and people who disagree with him. Thanks you Republicans, the next thing you know you will be supporting big oil, tobacco and Palin.

Baysox39 has got to be kidding. The Democrats hold a super majority in both houses. The GOP is saying "NO" to the Democrat agenda which has headed so far to the left, no right-mind GOP would have any reason to be a "YES" lacky.

If George Bush was back in office with a GOP super majority in both houses, and wanted to invade Canada for all their oil fields, would you want the Democrats to vote: "YES" or be the party of "No"?

Use your brain Baysox39, the GOP fundamentally disagrees with the direction the Democrats are taking the country - and you want them to vote "Yes" just so they can all get along?

Think my friend. Think. And by the way, Independents are also on board with the "NO" votes to the direction the Dems are taking this country.

One more note: Check the polls all over the country, it's not just Mississippi and Alabama who see it that way: Check out Virginia, Massachusettes, Utah, Nevada, Florida, and so on and so on.

allanbstark makes mention of Jesus. Interesting. I am a Christain and I remember one specific aspect of Jesus' teachings:

He certainly was kind to strangers and helped the poor and strongly recommended charity. But here's the important part this poster may have forgotten:

Jesus believed ultimately in "free will" and that man was given that incredible gift by God. That's where Democrats (especially the far left progressives) are wrong when they invoke Jesus to explain their ideals. Progressives, through government, FORCE others to be more "charitable" (ie taxing everything that moves), they FORCE others to be nicer (in whatever way they think is the right way to be nice) through their social justice laws.

Yes, what conservatives and libertarians dispise about the progressive method, is the FORCED way in which they tell us to live our lives and the way that they strip free will, God's greatest gift to us, from us all.

Next time you decide to invoke Jesus mr. allan b stark, make sure you first think about those "enlightened" progressives and their big government stripping away our free will - never to be returned.

Well, the Constitution was "defective" enough that 10 amendments - the Bill of Rights - were added to it within a few years of its implementation. Granted, the Constitution allowed for the process that created these amendments, but nonetheless it points out that the Constitution as originally written was hardly "perfect".

The author of this article should go back to journalism school. The accounts of this article are grossly inaccurate.

Once again, Chairman Steele reveals his complete and utter ignorance. I find it even more odd/sad that the first Black Chairman of the RNC would so blatantly attack the first Black Justice of the Supreme Court in a misguided attempt to ridicule Ms. Kagan.

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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