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Tilting at Windmills

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June 29, 2010

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.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Comments

Attack your enemy's strengths. Watch it work, again.

Posted by: N.Wells on June 29, 2010 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

They just don't give a damn who they offend. Gays, Hispanics, African-Americans, the poor, women - they can all go shove it. White rich men are all they need to win in November.

Posted by: Alli on June 29, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

You can only conclude that Beauregard and the rest are mental defectives. The thought of these people gaining control of our government again is truly frightening whatever your politics.

Posted by: bob h on June 29, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

What did Thurgood Marshall ever do to the GOP? He didn't endorse Sarah Palin.

Posted by: pheski on June 29, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Are you startled by the direction that the party which has chosen the mystery between love of power and the manifestation of self destructive and contradictory behaviors over the other choices healthy men and women make every day ?
I doubt it .
These are the same hero's of the past whose reckless disregard for the nations safety is testament to their repeated purity . The wars they are willing to fight to keep their temple of power clean may scatter and kill off the population and have the temples burned , but they bravely sacrificed nation after nation , just because .
It almost sounds like someone questions whether or not the barbarians burning the temple is better than yielding power to those who would impugn complete and total purity , I mean power .
The answer is yes it is better that those who strive to forget the consequences of their drive for pure and absolute control , as long as they get what they want . If they don't well it is plain to see they don't want anyone to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune without their boot on the neck of the prostrate .

Posted by: FRP on June 29, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

In answer to your question: He was born black, did show due deference to whites and forced himself into the exclusive lily white club that was the Supreme Court. Really, you have to ask?

Posted by: martin on June 29, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP sold out to the racists decades ago. Thurgood Marshall, more than any other American, was responsible for leading the destruction of Jim Crow. Of course they hate him. I don't really care whether these GOP senators are all racist or not, they have made it clear that they will enable racism at every turn. They are supporters of evil.

Posted by: freelunch on June 29, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

They are objectively pro-slavery.

Posted by: Mike on June 29, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

"And the Republican Party's outreach to minority communities suffers yet another setback."

In other news, unicorns now endangered.

Posted by: beejeez on June 29, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

So, I read that Marshall argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court and won 29. Isn't that record quantifiable evidence of mainstream thinking? What am I missing?

Posted by: David on June 29, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

WHAT DID THURGOOD MARSHALL EVER DO TO THE GOP?

He stymied their plans to reinstitute slavery. But don't worry, the GOP are well on their way to creating a new form of corporate slavery in this country, ala indentured servitude for life.

Posted by: josef on June 29, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Has there ever been a more nauseating tool than Michael Steele, who if photos are correct appears to be a black man, defending the original intent of the Constitution to keep black people in their place as less than whole humans? Is Michael Steele saying he opposes the Civil Rights Act, Brown versus Board of Education, apparently so.

By the way. MSNSC reported last night that Republicans have scratched an appearance by Gen. Boykin (I think that's his name) who was forced out of the Army after declaring, while on active duty, that we are a Christian nation and his god was stronger than the enemies god who he stated was an idol. Even Bush had to distance himself from that general. He was scheduled as a witness in opposition to Kagen obviously. That's a rare good decision on their part, don't expect many more.

Posted by: Kathryn on June 29, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

What N.Wells said.

Nothing else you can say is anything but wasted analysis, like arguing what the tide is thinking by coming in, yet again. The problem is, Dems keep expecting something different, and the tide keeps coming in.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Posted by: eadie on June 29, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

If Kagan was a woman of great character and strength, she would come out swinging against all these liliputians of the GOP, telling them that whether they confirm her or not, she will not stand the smearing of the name of a great american.

she may doom her nomination by taking this stance, but she will do herself and the american public a lot of good by doing so.

Posted by: gregor on June 29, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

American should get down on its arthritic knees and kiss Thurgood Marshall's, Martin Luther King's, and Barack Obama's triumphant as*e*s.

These three gentleman, and many others chose peaceful change and the rule of law to move this country away from its original sin.

It could have been different. The early Malcolm X and others could have moved America with different methods -- violence.

It's clear to me now that motherf*cking coc*sucking, anti-American scum like Kyl and the rest of the racist goat-f*ckers in the confederate terrorist organization and enemy of this country - the so-called Republican Party -- should have been dragged from their homes and hacked to death with machetes.

Lincoln didn't go far enough either.

Did you hear Kyl's (what an arrogant dumsh*t) words about Kagan coming from places isolated from the normal American mainstream -- like the upper Westside, Harvard, etc, ya know, the old codeword "elite".

An anti-Semite too.

Mr. Steele is a lucky man. He grew up in America where he could be judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin -- to be judged on his individual merits.

He chose to be an as*hole. He gets full credit for the choice.


Posted by: John Thullen on June 29, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, the Republicans are probably counting on the fact that most Americans are too young, too dumb, and too sheeplike to know who Marshall was, and the constant repetition of these lies and talking points will rewrite history to turn his reputation into something other than what it is.

Just as they've assassinated the characters of so many others for the sake of their politics, the Republicans aren't afraid to go after a dead guy who's receding in most peoples' memories.

Posted by: g on June 29, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Even Mourning Joe said this morning "Are they nuts?"
"They might as well attack Martin Luther King Jr while they're at it"
Driving off the crazy cliff with GOBP.

Posted by: john R on June 29, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

I think their strategy is that considering Kagan's close ties to Marshall they hope to piss her off during the hearings. Then they can try and nail her for being an emotional woman, which is the same thing they tried to do to Sotomayor. I don't think it'll work but I'm sure they think it's work a try.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on June 29, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

The GOBP, the finest patriots America can muster! That should be the only thing you need to know about these great untied states..

Really, these guys are sickening. And the rest have no sense of dignity. None.

Posted by: Troll-Oped on June 29, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

"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.'"

Well, DUH. What were all those AMENDMENTS about?

-even "so-called" God thought that Adam needed improvement; hence Eve. . .

Posted by: DAY on June 29, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

The thing most curious about modern Republicans is their inability to count. They have systematically pissed off every significant minority group in the country except the Koreans and the jews (although they are working hard to alienate jews.) It won't be long before whites are just another minority group. As it is the Republicans have to win just about every white to have a chance of winning. That is hard because they are for square against women's issues, so they have pissed off a lot of white women.Don't they realize that a combination of rich elites and poor senior citizen rednecks is a long term losing proposition? What is it about the Republicans? Why can't they count?

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 29, 2010 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

How in particular does Sen. Sessions, a man who once had his nomination to the Court of Appeals rejected by the Senate on the grounds of open racism, dare criticize marshall?

Posted by: rea on June 29, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Attack your enemy's strengths. Watch it work, again.

Uh, yeah. Because it worked GREAT the last time Obama nominated someone for the Supreme Court. Oh, wait. No it didn't. The Wise Latina sailed through and is now on the Supreme Court.

Seriously, how is it possible that you people read politics so much, yet continue to forget all the times we win? Republicans would actually be better off saving their attacks for when they've got something worthwhile to say. But instead, they keep shooting themselves in the foot by grabbing any stupid attack that pops into their heads.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on June 29, 2010 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

How in particular does Sen. Sessions, a man who once had his nomination to the Court of Appeals rejected by the Senate on the grounds of open racism, dare criticize marshall?

If you're a repubublican, your past has no bearing on the present, as you have repented. He also has a few black friends now, whom he even allows to use his bathroom.

Posted by: flyonthewall on June 29, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

What I don't understand is why. Kagan will sail through the confirmation, yet the right is bound and determined to make it known that they don't like black trailblazers.

Are they trying to bait her, to get her angry so she makes some crazy rant defending Marshall, defending herself ? Hardly a good strategy.

Their strategy just isn't making sense. Good for us, first Sotomayor and Hispanics, now Kagan and blacks, and she is white. Seriously WTF ?

Posted by: ScottW714 on June 29, 2010 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

But instead, they keep shooting themselves in the foot by grabbing any stupid attack that pops into their heads.

And yet, they have crippled the popular agenda of a popular president, still have a chance of taking control of the house next year, and are obviously planning on continuing this bizarre practice of attacking, attacking, attacking everything their opponents do for the foreseeable future.

The key to their success continues to be their social control of the Beltway and their dominance of the national media. If the networks and major newspapers actually held politicians to traditional standards of public honesty, manners, and respect for the same in others, the Republicans would not be able to get away with it.

The barrage of verbal abuse, phoney posturing, and snarling temper tantrums that make up Republican political discourse would put a marriage into divorce court and put a kid into a corner for time outs day after day. You would not tolerate it for a minute at a business meeting, a court hearing, or a planning session.

The Democrats may have triumphed two election cycles in a row, but they do not run Washington, they only run the government. It is still Ronald Reagan's town, his obnoxious heirs set the standard for behavior, and the Beltway media are their enablers.

Posted by: Midland on June 29, 2010 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Are they trying to bait her, to get her angry so she makes some crazy rant defending Marshall, defending herself ? Hardly a good strategy.

I honestly don't understand why anyone thinks Republicans HAVE a strategy. They don't. They're morons who say the first stupid thing that pops into their heads, and lack the awareness to stop themselves when the next thing that pops in there completely contradicts what they just said.

There IS no Republican strategy, beyond knee-jerk opposition to everything we do. Twice in a row now, Obama picked a SCOTUS nominee that he knew couldn't be stopped, and which Republican politicians KNOW can't be stopped. Yet, they're committed to stopping them, and because they can't think of any good way to stop her, they go with the bad ways.

And in that, they're completely falling into a trap that Obama wasn't trying to trap them in. He wasn't wanting them to oppose his nominees, which is why he picked non-controversial ones. But the boneheads have to try anyway, and by doing so, they only show how impotent and extreme they are.

Over and over, the Republicans' only hope is that nobody is paying attention to what they're saying. It's not about winning; but avoiding losing, due to their own incompetence. That's not a atrategy. They'd be better off just staying home every day and saying nothing.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on June 29, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

And yet, they have crippled the popular agenda of a popular president,

But that's simply not true. Clinton's agenda was crippled. But Obama has passed more of the liberal agenda in his short time in office than Clinton did in eight years.

Republicans have been able to slow down and water down Obama's agenda, but it's hardly crippled. In ten years time, we'll have completely forgotten how tough all these victories were and see this period as a huge victory for liberal policies. The Republicans' best efforts won't even be remembered as a speedbump.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on June 29, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

So does this mean that they've given up on their claim that they're the true heirs to the civil rights movement? You know, because they've memorized one phrase from "I Have a Dream"?

Posted by: Shawn on June 29, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

The present day Republican party has its roots, all of the surviving ones, deep in the Dixiecrats. To them anyone who advances the case of civil rights, equality of ethnic groups, etc. is by definition unAmerican. That is the reason that Kyl from Arizona, where it took forever and a lot of economic pressure to ratify MLK's birthday as a holiday, is so bent out of shape by Thurgood Marshall. In order to understand their behavior, you need to know their background.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on June 29, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

What does this oppo research consist of?

The articles on this mention the GOP attacks on Marshall as an "activist" judge, but what is the proof?

Beyond the absurdity of attacking Marshall, ARE THE ATTACKS NOT BASED IN REALITY? I don't like how this question is left empty, how the GOP can just smear liberal judges as "activist" without anyone questioning the absurdity of that line of attack

Posted by: Slim Tyranny on June 29, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Doctor Biobrain: Uh, yeah. Because it worked GREAT the last time Obama nominated someone for the Supreme Court. Oh, wait. No it didn't. The Wise Latina sailed through and is now on the Supreme Court.

You're right, but I didn't mean it that way. I expect that Kagan will end up confirmed. What I was thinking (but didn't say properly) was watch how it works on Marshall's legacy: by raising a fuss about Marshall they will tear him down from being a legitimate hero to being someone we have to apologize for and whom we will only mention with qualifications. See if Kagan defends Marshall, or waffles about his record. The Rove plan of attacking strengths has been really difficult to deal with: how Rove managed the military credibility of Bush versus Kerry was as amazing as it was vile.

Posted by: N.Wells on June 29, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

It appears they've decided to ditch dog whistles in favor of standard audible whistles.

And to JohnR @9:30, MLK is clearly on deck for attack from the Glenn Beck brownshirts.

Posted by: short fuse on June 29, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Steele wishes he was three-fifths of a man.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on June 29, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

But for some reason, Republicans haven't given up on their Marshall-bashing. -- Steve Benen

"Some reason"? Marshall was black and the President is black. Marshall looked like a Jew and Kagan *is* a Jew. That's four -- count them: one, two, three, four -- perfectly good reasons to dump on Marshall -- and Obama and Kagan -- all at the same time. 3 birds with one stone.

Just yesterday, there was an op-ed in NYT, bravely swallowing tears about the new composition of the SCOTUS. Along the lines of "nobody's counting, but... 6 Catholics and 3 Jews? Where are the fundie Protestants???"

Posted by: exlibra on June 29, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

"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.""

The Dems should ask the Rs if they agree or disagree with this. Put them on the spot not just with Episcopalians, but other mainstream denominations that think similarly about social justice.

Posted by: Hannah on June 29, 2010 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

(Let the sarcasm begin:)

In a nutshell, Marshall committed the worst of offenses against the modern GOP...first by being unapologetically non-Caucasian, rubbing his non-whiteness if everyone's face as if he imagined it was something he shouldn't be ashamed of...

...then he followed up by pushing his radical agenda and 'out-of-touch with mainstream' liberal views onto the rest of us. Deliberate brazen insults to logic like "Non-whites and Women are equal humans under the law." and "The rights of individuals should be protected against infringement upon them by the state."

That kind of hateful anti-American rhetoric clearly flies in the face of all that is good and decent. Every good GOP member sleeps a little better knowing that the nightmarish Marshall era has passed...and preventing anyone who may have absorbed that evil, traitorous dogma from joining the highest court in the land is critically important.

(That said...I don't really think Kagan is worthy of the slot. Anyone who had NO questions about Don Siegelman's fraudulent, politically motivated arrest and jailing isn't trustworthy enough for the court. We need champions...not milquetoasts who are comfortable with the status quo.)

Posted by: VoxMagi on June 29, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

coming at this from a different angle, if it hadn't been for justice marshall, the gop wouldn't control the south...and a racist like sessions would be just another racist without a job...instead he's the racist republican face of the judicial committee

Posted by: dj spellchecka on June 29, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

short fuse: It appears they've decided to ditch dog whistles in favor of standard audible whistles.

short fuse has it exactly right. The reactionary wingnuts are going all in: they are on an Orwellian march to overturn every assumption about civil rights and tolerance and progress and the common good. And they've decided to throw off the white sheets and go after the big prize right out in the open, the idea that it's not acceptable to be racist, and further, that it not OK to enshrine racism in our civic institutions.

Thurgood Marshall was a great man and a great American, and sadly he was replaced by character-challenged Clarence Thomas. In a similar fashion, goofball Michael Steele was supposed to be the GOP's answer to Barack Obama. This trend is like Sauron creating orcs to be his own version of elves: the imitation is nothing but a twisted failure.

Posted by: trex on June 29, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Thurgood Marshall proved once and for all that a white skin doesn't automatically make you a superior being - and that a black skin doesn't automatically make you inferior. That was his "sin" against the GOP, and they'll never forgive him for it. Because, frankly, the white skin is all they've got.

Posted by: oudiva on June 29, 2010 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, the Republikkkans aren't ALL anti-black; Clarence Thomas(Marshall's successor) attended two of Rush Limbaugh's wedding ceremonies!

I think I'll go barf now.

Emily

http://emilyscoffeespot.blogspot.com

Posted by: Emily on June 29, 2010 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

this article is utterly lacking in critical thinking.

most of the assertions made are reaching, stretching, projecting and insinuating in ways that reveal much more about the author's own left wing prejudices than the gop.

there is too much here to refute, so i'll limit myself one point.

just because thurgood marshall is a venerated public figure does not mean he was infallible.
(and certainly was not a "saint". that is totally ridiculous. i mean really, pull yourself together.)

in particular, whether kagan ascribes to his view that the constitution is "flawed" is a reasonable area in which to question a supreme court nominee to understand if/why/how she believes that.

Posted by: will_in_sf on June 29, 2010 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Isnt this piece a little light on the facts? I mean, quoting Dana Milbank to make a point about the GOP?

The fact is that there is an inherent disagreement over judicial philosophy between the two parties. Marshall was not an originalist. End of story.

Shame on all of you who cry racism. Pretty weak.

Posted by: RationalThinker on June 29, 2010 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Ronnie Raygun can't hold a candle to Thurgood Marshall. It's the difference between a toy soldier (Reagan) and Rambo (Marshall).
Constitution ain't flawed? Opinion of a white male whose rights were totally recognized in it. NOT the opinion of slaves and women who were denigrated or ignored.
Wake up, buddy! Time to share "your" world with the rest of us. We are never turning back!

Posted by: BarbieL on June 29, 2010 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think this story misses the point. Marshall was an ACTIVIST judge, and was appointed to the SCt precisely because of his great work as a private attorney. Everybody knows he was an activist judge, regardless of whether you support the policies he was pressing forth (generally, I do).

The GOP is not so much criticizing the positions he took, but the fact that he was an ACTIVIST, both before and after his appointment. Even now, people are seeing Roberts as an ACTIVIST conservative chief justice (see recent NYT about Robert's court).

Ironically, Kagan is the opposite of Marshall. She is moderate, incrementalist. By all appearances, her pre-appointment career has been the opposite of Marshall's - she has been completely conservative (in career choices and actions - except for the whole military thing) and careful. Marshall was an activist at heart and pushed the enveloper of jurisprudence.

Posted by: harrassee on June 29, 2010 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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