MSNBC Plays Up Talking Point That Kagan May Not Be 'Liberal Enough'

Twice in the span of ten minutes, MSNBC on Tuesday ran segments touting left-wing complaints that Elena Kagan may not be "liberal enough." News Live host Peter Alexander seriously speculated of the Supreme Court pick: "...But who is really most frustrated with the pick? It seems as many liberal groups are upset by this as are conservatives."

Later in the 10am hour, Alexander worried, "And also right now on the left, she may not be liberal enough. That's the complaint there. Some progressives say she's too much of a blank slate to know how she stands on any issue." He also uncritically listed the issues Kagan is supposedly conservative on, including "supporting banning late term abortions."

Alexander quickly moved on, but the issue is more complicated. In 1997, as a White House advisor to Bill Clinton, Kagan did encourage the President to support a ban on partial birth abortion. The AP explained:

The abortion proposal was a compromise by Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Clinton supported it, but the proposal failed and Clinton vetoed a stricter Republican ban.

In a May 13, 1997, memo from the White House domestic policy office, Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, told Clinton that abortion rights groups opposed Daschle's compromise. But they urged the president to support it, saying he otherwise risked seeing a Republican-led Congress override his veto on the stricter bill. [Emphasis added]

Now, MSNBC cited this AP article in a graphic for the segment. But, Alexander never explained the context. He just blithely implied that Kagan somehow opposes late term abortion, thus creating a false balance of outrage.

Guest Jamie Floyd, a former adviser to Clinton appeared in the second News Live segment. Continuing the talking point that both sides are unhappy, she marveled, "Here is the bottom line, if you're being attacked from the left and the right, it's all good for the Obama administration."

Appearing ten minutes earlier, reporter Luke Russert repeated, "Folks I've spoken to close to the White House have said [liberal and conservative outrage is] what they are trying to go for, someone middle of the road and could be a consensus bridge builder."

He also proclaimed the nominee is someone "that is not going to be put into this box of being an extreme leftist liberal that's going to have a tough time going through a fight."

However, Russert was more balanced than some of his MSNBC colleagues. Covering the Republican perspective, he suggested, "Republicans are now going to try to paint her to be an out of touch, east coast, leftist liberal...And they're going to try and paint her as somebody in academia, who spent entire life in the bubble of Harvard Square and Princeton."

A transcript of the first News Live segment, which aired at 10:10am EDT on May 11, follows;

PETER ALEXANDER: And joining me now from Washington D.C., Luke Russert with today's Hill Say. And, Luke, I guess the question, not just how difficult will this confirmation battle be, but who is really most frustrated with the pick? It seems as many liberal groups are upset by this as are conservatives.

LUKE RUSSERT: That's interesting you mention this. Because both the right and left are not 100 percent completely satisfied with this pick. Folks I've spoken to close to the White House have said that's what they are trying to go for, someone middle of the road and could be a consensus bridge builder. Expect to hear that about Elena Kagan in the next few weeks coming from the White House, pragmatic, bridge builder, someone that can bridge the ideological divide, which so pains Washington. Republicans are now going to try to paint her to be an out of touch, east coast, leftist liberal. They said she grew up in New York, which is pretty much the death knell if you weren't to be in public office to Republicans. And they're going to try and paint her as somebody in academia, who spent entire life in the bubble of Harvard Square and Princeton. And is not having real world experience, no judicial experience and only two years in private practice. Someone not qualified to be on the Supreme Court because her record is so thin. Democrats on the other hand are going to say, "Look, she's shown she was willing to compromise with people." At her time in Harvard she made an effort to bring in conservative faculty. On top of that, she's somebody that is not going to be put into this box of being an extreme leftist liberal that's going to have a tough time going through a fight. Remember, when she was nominated for solicitor general, seven GOP members voted for her. Those senators reserved the right to say that was for solicitor general position. That's not a lifetime appointment, like the Supreme Court. That being said, folks I've spoken to on both sides expect her to be confirmed and expect this process to be decently smooth. Perhaps a little bit more contentious than Sotomayor simply because of the thin record that Kagan has. But, at the end of the day, she should be the fourth Supreme Court justice in the history of the United States.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org