June 7, 2010

Bob Schieffer asks their Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford about the "recently released" documents from Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's time as a clerk for Judge Thurgood Marshall and Crawford says the memos show Kagan to be much more liberal than the White House is portraying her to be and she slams the White House for acting like there's something wrong with that.

While I agree with her that I don't like the White House pretending that there is anything wrong with being a liberal either, as Media Matters noted after Crawford's appearance on the CBS Evening News, her assumptions about what we can take from her time as Marshall's clerk may not be as cut and dry as she's making them out to be, and those records were not "recently released".

CBS makes a mess of Kagan's record as Thurgood Marshall clerk:

On the CBS Evening News, Jan Crawford distorted memos Elena Kagan wrote as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, falsely painting Kagan as outside the mainstream. [...]

Crawford claimed memos Kagan wrote as a Marshall clerk were "buried," "recently disclosed." During her CBS Evening News report, Crawford said: "[D]ocuments buried in Thurgood Marshall's papers in the Library of Congress show that as a young lawyer, Kagan stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left, including on the most controversial issues Supreme Court nominees ever confront." Crawford later described one memo as "recently disclosed" and said "these documents will be much harder for her to explain away than other less controversial papers unearthed before her confirmation hearings for solicitor general."

In fact, Kagan's memos have long been publicly available at the Library of Congress, and she was asked about them during her SG hearing. The memos Kagan wrote as a Marshall clerk have long been available to the general public at the Library of Congress. The library acquired the Thurgood Marshall papers as a gift from Marshall in 1991. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (then a Republican) asked Kagan about the memos during her solicitor general confirmation hearing in 2009, notably describing "a whole series of memos which you [Kagan] sent to Justice Marshall." In his written questions, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) also asked Kagan about a memo she wrote as a Marshall clerk.

Lots more there and it would be nice if Kagan does turn out to be as liberal as Crawford is making her out to be here because as she said, there's not anything wrong with that. After reading the Media Matters report on Crawford's reporting from the other night though, I take her criticisms with a grain of salt.

UPDATE: Media Matters followed up on Crawford's reporting on Schieffer's show.

CBS reporter "baffled" as to why inaccurate Kagan report would upset White House.

Transcript via CBS below the fold.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And, Jan, you-- you unearthed some documents this week that certainly gave the White House something else to think about because while she’s imminently qualified and nobody questions that, there’s no question that one reason Elena Kagan was nominated as their nominee to the Supreme Court was because if there’s anything the President doesn’t need right now, it’s-- it’s-- it's a fight, a knock-down drag out over that. And now-- so they thought shewould be easily confirmed I think. But you under-- you unearthed these documents that show that maybe she is not exactly how the White House had pictured her that, in fact, she might be a lot more liberal than-- than people realized.

JAN CRAWFORD: Right and these documents have her squarely within mainstream liberal thought. She’s worried about the conservative Supreme Court undoing rulings that would give a woman a right to an abortion. She’s worried about gun rights saying she’s not sympathetic to an individual’s right to own a handgun. She’s concerned about some con-- conservative rulings scaling back rights of criminals. That’s basic mainstream liberal thought. But the White House’s reaction to these-- to these revelations I think has been astonishing. And, it goes I think to-- to kind of the week that they’ve had. Their reaction has been to push back so strongly on allegations, as they would put it, that she’s a liberal. Like there’s something wrong with that, like it’s a smear to say their nominee is a liberal.

And I think that suggests one of two things. Number one, they’re either so weakened right now politically, the President’s numbers are in the tank, that they just do not want to fight. So, they’re trying to portray her as something other than what she is. Or number two, they think Americans don’t want a liberal justice and maybe are more sympathetic to conservative outlook on the law.

Regardless, I mean whatever one it is, and there’s one of the two, they’re doing Elena Kagan an enormous disservice. And it’s also insulting to Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, who’ve written eloquently and passionately about why a liberal interpretation of the constitution is the right way to go. It is a dangerous game this White House is playing. They’re putting enormous pressure on Elena Kagan who as you said is qualified. She’s an intel-- intellectual superstar. They’re putting pressure on her to portray herself in these hearings as something other than what she is. They’re thinking short-term politically and not long-term for the court and the law and liberal judicial philosophy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We-- we should point out that these memos that you unearthed are memos that she wrote when a young clerk for Thurgood Marshall, who, of course was a liberal lion. And-- and all of this is now-- now coming out. Now, during her confirmation for solicitor general, she talked about her views in those days as saying, "look, I-- I was a pipsqueak."


BOB SCHIEFFER: "I was just a kid basically and I was working for this-- for this, you know, liberal icon." I suppose that is the defense that the White House is going to take. But this is-- at the least, is going to give Republicans something to-- to ask a lot of questions about.

JAN CRAWFORD: Oh, absolutely. I mean, these hearings have now gotten much more interesting than a lot of people thought they were going to be going into the summer when it was going to-- going to be a yawn. Republicans have a lot-- she’s taken on every social issue in these documents. And, there’s more to come. We’re going to get another hundred thousand or so documents from the Clinton Library when she worked there as a-- a young lawyer. But the suggestion that somehow a smear to call her a liberal is just baffling to me.

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