RNC Desperately Tries to Walk Back Their Thurgood Marshall Attack

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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

We're going to sum this up very simply, because it's not complicated.

Here's what RNC chairman Michael Steele said in a statement earlier today: "Given [Elena] Kagan’s ... 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 ... " and so on.

What he was referring to: Thurgood Marshall, the first black African-American Supreme Court justice, gave a speech in 1987 about why he didn't revere a document that enshrined slavery in America. The government the Founders created "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." None of this is untrue. Kagan quoted from the speech in a 1993 law-review article she wrote as a tribute to Marshall, for whom she served as a clerk.

What this was obviously an attempt to do: Stir up some kind of controversy with an out-of-context soundbite which, if somebody heard it in passing on Fox News while clipping their toenails, might portray Kagan as insufficiently patriotic, or something.

How well this strategy has worked out so far: Poorly enough that the RNC is now backtracking desperately.

How the RNC is trying to cover its ass: Spokesman Doug Heye claims on the RNC's blog that "the point Chairman Steele raised" is whether Kagan "believes in a ‘modern Constitution’ shaped by activist judges pursuing personal political agendas or whether she believes in basing judicial decisions based on the Constitution and the rule of law."

Is that really the point Michael Steele raised? No. See wording of Michael Steele's statement.