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Slammed over Kagan attack, RNC responds

It's not every day that a party committee responds to blog-driven criticism of a news release, but that's what the Republican National Committee has done after a day of taking lumps from Ben Smith, Greg Sargent, Adam Serwer and others who thought the RNC's criticism of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan accidentally proffered an argument against civil rights laws.

This morning, a statement from RNC Chairman Michael Steele made reference to a 1993 essay in which Kagan wrote that the Constitution "as originally drafted and conceived" was "defective." Bloggers pointed out that the reference was to a speech from Justice Thurgood Marshall, referring largely to what everyone agrees were intolerable limits on the rights of women and non-whites in the original Constitution. RNC spokesman Doug Heye hits back:

[W]hile Marshall pointed to constitutional amendments as redressing the wrongs of slavery, Kagan moves beyond that, contending that, “The credit, in other words, belongs to people like Justice Marshall. As the many thousands who waited on the Supreme Court steps well knew, our modern Constitution is his.”

As much as Liberals want to make the concern Chairman Steele raised about Marshall and slavery, it isn’t (and if it was, I’d note the Chairman admires Justice Marshall breaking barriers both as a lawyer and a justice, and helped rename BWI airport after him). It’s about how Elena Kagan, who is being nominated for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, views the role of the courts in our society.

I was one of the people asking Heye to clear this up, and I also asked Michael Zak, the amateur historian who wrote the RNC's "Heroes" Web site -- heavy on the achievements of black Republicans -- what was going on.

"The supposed defects that Thurgood Marshall decried were resolved by the Republican Party," said Zak, "which wrote the 13th Amendment, the 14th Amendment, the 15th Amendment, the 19th Amendment -- and also supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act much more than did the Democrats. The nation deserves a Supreme Court nominee who reveres the Constitution. As chairman of a political party founded to oppose the Democrats' pro-slavery, anti-freedom agenda, Michael Steele understands how dangerous it is for judges to think they know better than the Founding Fathers."

By David Weigel  |  May 10, 2010; 3:58 PM ET
Categories:  RNC  
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