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CBS Reporter: Thin-Skinned White House Won't Tolerate Reports Elena Kagan Is Liberal

On Sunday's Face the Nation, CBS legal correspondent Jan Crawford revealed how the Obama White House is "strongly" pushing back against her unsurprising report last week that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan "stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left" when she clerked for liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall. Crawford says the White House reaction to her report "has been astonishing....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."

To Crawford, Team Obama's strategy reeks of phoniness: "They're putting enormous pressure on Elena Kagan who, as you said, is qualified. She's an 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."

Last week, MRC's Brad Wilmouth detailed Crawford's June 3 CBS Evening News report on the documents from Kagan's Supreme Court clerkship in the late 1980s: "Documents 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 issue Supreme Court nominees ever confront: abortion."

It's hardly surprising that President Obama would choose a liberal to replace Justice John Paul Stevens. But it's bizarre that the White House would strenuously object when a correspondent for CBS News - not exactly the epicenter of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy - would say as much, citing Kagan's own words as evidence. Crawford told Schieffer she, too, was baffled by the White House response: "The suggestion that it's somehow a smear to call her a liberal is just baffling to me."

Here's the relevant exchange as it took place on the June 6 edition of Face the Nation:

HOST BOB SCHIEFFER: Jan, you unearthed some documents this week that certainly gave the White House something else to think about because - while she's eminently 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 a fight, a knock-down drag out over that. And now - so they thought she would be easily confirmed, I think. But 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 people realized.

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 conservative rulings scaling back rights of criminals. That's basic mainstream liberal thought. But the White House's reaction to this, to these revelations, I think, has been astonishing. And, it goes I think 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 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.

SCHIEFFER: We should point out that these memos that you unearthed are memos that she wrote when she was a young clerk for Thurgood Marshall, who, of course was a liberal lion. And all of this is now coming out. Now, during her confirmation for Solicitor General, she talked about her views in those days as saying, "Look, I was a pipsqueak. I was just a kid, basically, and I was working 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 ask a lot of questions about.

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 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 young lawyer. But the suggestion that it's somehow a smear to call her a liberal is just baffling to me.

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.