Chris Matthews: Sen. Sessions Is the Voice of the Confederacy; GOP Wants to Make Kagan Into a 'Voodoo Doll'

June 29th, 2010 5:59 PM
Chris Matthews keeps painting the Elena Kagan confirmation hearing as a "culture war" between the Obama nominee and the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Newsbusters reported yesterday, Chris Matthews seemed to spin Monday's standoff between Sessions and Kagan as a battle between the senator's rural, unsophisticated Alabama roots and Kagan's Northeastern liberal academic background.

Well, Matthews showed up in even finer form today. Describing Kagan as a liberal Obama prototype from the "high academia" of the Ivy League, Matthews proceeded to frame her opponent, Sen. Jeff Sessions, as the voice of the Confederacy.

Remarking that the hearing has become like a "red state-blue state" battle, Matthews claimed that "listening to Jeff Sessions is to listen to the, really, the Confederacy; to listen to, really the conservative view of the Deep South."

Matthews also oddly added that Republicans want to make Kagan into a "voodoo doll" (repeating himself from the night before), an image associated more readily with New Orleans, Louisiana, than Sessions' boyhood town of Hybart, Alabama.

Matthews pushed his "culture war" theory on the 11 a.m. hour of MSNBC live news coverage. "Here we have a woman who has been very careful to guard against the charge of partisanship," he said referring to Kagan, "obviously under strong assault in that regard from the red state senators like Jeff Sessions who would love to have a culture fight right here on television, right?

As in, Sessions and his Republican cohorts would rather have a spat with Kagan because of a culture rift, than because she is a Supreme Court nominee.

Matthews and his guest, liberal Democrat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), also expounded upon the conservative takeover of the Supreme Court. In fact, Matthews admitted that he was "rocked" by how radically-right the Court has become in the last 50 years.

Referencing recent Court decisions on gun rights and campaign financing, Matthews lamented that "common sense" prescriptions of gun control and campaign finance reform are dying.

"I think that conservatives would agree with that, that there's a movement so abruptly to the Right on issues like gun control...the power of corporations," Matthews opined.

The segments, which aired on MSNBC today at 11:10 a.m. and 11:34 a.m. EDT, are as follows:

June 29, 2010
11:10 a.m.-11:13 a.m. EDT

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC Anchor: This has become, Senator, a fascinating look at America, almost like a split-screen look at Red State-Blue State America. Listening to Jeff Sessions is to listen to the, really, the Confederacy, to listen to, really the conservative view of the Deep South. And the comments made by John Kyl about how Elena Kagan has signposts on the West side of New York of Manhattan – this is a really sort of out-in-the-open culture war we're seeing here.

Sen. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: I think they are trying to do their best to frame her as outside of, what they call the "mainstream." For them, of course, the mainstream is remarkably consistent with Republican party ideology. But that's the effort, and they're going at it hammer-and-tongs. By the way, I don't think it's having much effect on her, she seems to be answering the questions calmly, steadily, effectively, and doing a great job.

MATTHEWS: Is there a bit of pantomime – masquerade– it seems like Supreme Court nominees tend to be political. They're chosen because they share a like ideology with the President. I think that it's fair to say that Elena Kagan is very much a like soul to President Obama, as was Sotomayor. Someone who comes out of high academia, someone with liberal sentiment. And yet they have to act as if they're neutral. Is this a game that just has to be played, given the certain rules of engagement?

WHITEHOUSE: I don't know if it's a permanent one, but certainly it has been the Republican strategy for decades now, to, on the one hand decry judicial activism, and on the other hand engage in it as aggressively as they possibly can, through the establishment of the Federalist Society, to groom candidates, and by ramming people through and onto courts, who once they're there, as we've seen on the Supreme Court, are incredibly activist, both in terms of strengthening the hand of corporations against regular folks, and in terms of applying Republican Party ideology into our law.

MATTHEWS: Well let's get to that point. The Supreme Court on issues like Second Amendment, on issues of the power of corporations to spend money on campaigns. You know, the last fifty years – it just rocks me how hard-right it's gotten. I mean it's just a fact, and I think conservatives would agree with that, that there's a movement so abruptly to the right on issues like gun control, which was almost discredited by this court, the power of corporations, which seems to be far broader than it was before in terms of influencing campaigns. What we took to be common sense solutions on gun ownership and use, and we thought to be common sense restraints on money and politics coming out of Watergate seem to be gone.

WHITEHOUSE: Not only are these turns always to the right and harshly abrupt, but they're also these days by 5-4, very narrow, partisan, block of the Court. Whereas the major decisions of the past, you think back to Brown v. Board of Education – they pulled that off as a unanimous decision, and if I remember correctly, it was actually mostly Republican appointees on that Court. So there's been a distinct change, and we have to react to it, because it is really transforming the Judiciary, and politicizing the Judiciary in a way that we haven't seen for a long, long time.


(11:34 a.m. EDT)

CHRIS MATTHEWS: But here we have a woman who has been very careful to guard against the charge of partisanship, obviously under strong assault in that regard from the Red State senators like Jeff Sessions who would love to have a culture fight right here on television, right? They would love that.

Prof. ROBERT SHAPIRO, Emory University: Oh absolutely. I think a lot of what this confirmation hearing is about is really not about Elena Kagan, or about the Supreme Court. It's some attempt to have some kind of culture war, and Elena Kagan is ducking as best as she can.

MATTHEWS: That's right, it's interesting. They want to make her into a voodoo doll, as we used to say. I'm not even sure what a voodoo doll is, but it's certainly common parlance. It's somebody – you get a little image of somebody, you put a pin into it, and they feel it.

DAVID CORN, Washington Bureau Chief, Mother Jones: I think that they'd like to make her a pinata, but –


MATTHEWS: But isn't it fair, if you take the more conservative side of this argument, that President Obama has been, in the case of Sotomayor, Sonia Sotomayor, the previous nominee for [Supreme Court] Justice, and now with this nomination of his Solicitor General, basically picked himself in each case for the Supreme Court. Someone Ivy League, someone from generally a liberal environment, an academic environment, someone who has his sensibility. He's picking people like himself to be on the Court.