The GOP hits Elena Kagan for admiring Thurgood Marshall and hailing from "Manhattan's Upper West Side"
I’m not entirely sold on Solicitor General Elena Kagan as our newest Supreme Court Justice. Ironically, one of my reservations has to do with her approach to leveling racial discrimination – specifically her reported role in scuttling a Clinton administration plan to do away with sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine (which has meant heavier punishment for African Americans than whites for dealing or using the same drug.)
That said, Republicans on the Senate Judicial Committee are trying to make the case she’s outside the mainstream of American jurisprudence, by attacking her clerking for (and admiring) legal giant Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, while singling her out as a denizen of “Manhattan’s Upper West Side” – you know, the neighborhood known for Zabar’s and bagels and, well, Jews.
Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama, who wasn’t crazy about Sonia Sotomayor, you’ll recall, denounced Kagan having “associated herself with well-known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the meaning of our constitution and have the result of advancing that judge’s preferred social policies,” and he cited Marshall, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund leader who argued Brown vs. Board of Education. According to Talking Points Memo, Republicans mentioned Marshall an astonishing 35 times in the hearing (compared with 14 mentions of President Obama) with his son, Thurgood Marshall Jr., sitting in the audience.
“Not only is Ms. Kagan’s background unusual for a Supreme Court nominee, it is not clear how it demonstrates that she has, in the President’s words, ‘a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people.’ One recent article noted that ‘[Ms.] Kagan’s experience draws from a world whose signposts are distant from most Americans: Manhattan’s upper West side, Princeton University, Harvard Law School and the upper reaches of the Democratic legal establishment.’”
Unfortunately, it was Politico’s otherwise smart New Yorker Ben Smith who supplied Kyl with that silly soundbite. But Fox News’s awesome duo of Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier foreshadowed the GOP’s strategy early Monday morning. Here’s how Kelly said she knew Kagan was a liberal:
“Living in New York City, I can speak to this. She grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan. We walked around the upper west side of Manhattan not too long ago. And I asked my husband aloud, ‘Do you think it’s true what they say, that this is… the liberal center of New York City, of one of the most liberal cities, this is the center of it. And at that moment… a woman walked by us with a tee shirt that read, ‘Kill Cheney First.’ So, yes. So I’m gonna say, ‘Yes.’ It is a liberal area and it is the area from which Elena Kagan hails.”
Baier concurred: “So there you have it.”
So there you have it. Unable to find any personal statements by Kagan they can use to prove she’s beyond the pale, so to speak – no “wise Latina” moments on her transcripts – they deride her for coming from the Upper West Side, and admiring one of the heroes of American justice, who happens to be black.
Stay tuned for more not-so-coded bigotry from the GOP.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." More Joan Walsh.
More Related Stories
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
Elena Kagan is the 45th Solicitor General of the United States, confirmed in March 2009. Prior to her confirmation, she was the 11th Dean of Harvard Law School. Among her previous positions is a stint at the White House, from 1995-99, where she served as a counselor.
Kagan received her
bachelor's degree, summa cum laude, from Princeton in 1981. She attended Worcester College, Oxford, and then Harvard Law School, where she was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review, and graduated magna cum laude in 1986.