During confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, it almost seemed as if the late and legendary Justice Thurgood Marshall was the one being vetted--rather than Kagan, who once clerked for him. Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee have tried to turn the civil rights icon into ammo for their assault on Kagan, attacking Marshall as a "judicial activist" and suggesting that the same could be expected of Kagan. This wasn't a surprise. Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, kick-started this bash-Marshall campaign last month by pouncing on Kagan for praising a 1987 Marshall speech in which the ex-justice said the Constitution, "as originally drafted and conceived," was "defective." Marshall had been referring to the Constitution's definition of slaves as three-fifths of "free persons." But Steele's oppo gang at the RNC seized on this and zapped out a memo hammering Kagan: "Does Kagan Still View Constitution 'As Originally Drafted And Conceived' As 'Defective'?"
Choosing to go after the country's first black Supreme Court justice is an iffy strategy for the GOPers. But it's an especially strange line of attack for Steele--formerly Maryland's first black lieutenant governor--who used to laud Marshall as a hero.