A former law clerk for Clarence Thomas is leading a pack of critics who say Barack Obama’s comments about the Supreme Court justice reveal the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s ignorance and misunderstanding of the Constitution. A weekend event at the 22,000-member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., was meant to give both Obama and John McCain a chance to address questions of importance to the large evangelical community. Church Pastor Rick Warren, known for his bestselling book “The Purpose-Driven Life,” posed the series of questions to each candidate, which were aimed at getting to their personalities, foibles and leadership styles. During the symposium, Obama said he would not have nominated Thomas to the bench because “I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution.” Click here to see many of the question-and-answer segments at the Saddleback forum. Obama then added that he would not have nominated Justice Antonin Scalia because they disagree, not because of any intellectual deficiencies. Wendy E. Long, currently counsel to the The Judicial Confirmation Network, called Obama’s responses about the bench “ludicrous.” Long released a statement saying the remarks demonstrate Obama contradicts himself in his “own alleged criteria” for high court nominees. ”Obama started to say that Justice Thomas didn’t have enough ‘experience’ for the Supreme Court. In mid-sentence, when Obama realized that he himself has far less experience for the presidency than Justice Thomas had for the court in 1991, he shifted and said Justice Thomas ‘was not a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time,’” said Long, a former Senate aide whose conservative group works to get “highly qualified” justices confirmed to the bench. “This is all reminiscent of (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid’s comment several years ago that Justice Thomas was ‘an embarrassment to the court’ and that his opinions ‘were poorly written’. Reid was exposed as the ignoramus then, and the Congressional Black Caucus asked him to stop using ‘stereotypes and caricatures,’” she continued. Reid is among several critics who have called Thomas’ written opinions lightweight and suggested that he wants to abandon the principle of “stare decisis” — standing by precedent — and reinvent the wheel with every case. The topic of several biographies, Thomas, who was confirmed to the court by a 52-48 margin, has also been described as disinterested because he does not ask questions during oral presentations before the court. The justice has defended himself against the criticism, it as an effort to demonstrate respect for the attorneys presenting their cases. “Reasonable Supreme Court observers of all political stripes, who do not necessarily agree with Justice Thomas’ jurisprudence, consider his work to be scholarly and of top quality. And yet Senator Obama is, sadly, unable to acknowledge even that much about an intelligent, wonderful and kind man who broke racial barriers to rise to the very top of the legal profession,” said Helgi Walker, a former associate counsel to President Bush and former law clerk for Thomas. Long and others said Thomas has repeatedly proven critics wrong about his intellectual capacity and repeated previous defenses that much of the criticism of Thomas is because he is a black conservative. “Apparently, Obama can do no better than to recycle discredited statements of Harry Reid when it comes to Justice Thomas. Like other liberal elites, Obama cannot stand it when a black man strays from the ideological plantation and refuses to implement liberal policies through the courts. But Obama will never point out any intellectual deficiencies in Justice Thomas’s work, because he can’t. Justice Thomas’s opinions consistently reveal faithfulness to the Constitution, judicial modesty and deference to the will of the people in our representative democracy. That is opposed to everything that Obama and the liberals are trying to do in grabbing power from the people and giving it to the courts,” she said. “It’s precisely because Justice Thomas has proven himself such a faithful steward of the Constitution that Barack Obama says he wouldn’t have nominated him,” said Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Policy Center and a former law clerk to Scalia. “If he is elected, Obama is a sure bet to appoint liberal judicial activists eager to invent farfetched constitutional ‘rights’ that entrench the left’s agenda on issues like same-sex marriage, stripping God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, child pornography, partial-birth abortion, and national security. It’s Obama who lacks the experience and judgment for the position that he seeks.” Long did not offer comment to McCain’s response to the same question in which he said, “with all due respect,” he would not have nominated Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. “Well, I think that the president of the United States has incredible responsibility in nominating people to the United States Supreme Court. They are lifetime positions, as well as the federal bench. There will be two or maybe three vacancies. This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record, of strictly adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America and not legislating from the bench. Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench,” McCain said. Left off both candidates’ lists were the nominal moderate in the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and the newest Justice on the court Samuel Alito. The nomination of justices to the bench is one of the most important criteria for conservatives in the coming election, and several leaders on the right have said they will swallow their distaste for McCain’s record on other matters and vote for him because they know he will nominate conservative justices. The Wall Street Journal editorial page also took jabs at Obama’s answer, noting both his and Thomas’ career at the time they reached the highest office of their ambitions. The editorial noted that Obama’s response may have been inartful. “Even more troubling is what the Illinois Democrat’s answer betrays about his political habits of mind. Asked a question he didn’t expect at a rare unscripted event, the rookie candidate didn’t merely say he disagreed with Justice Thomas. Instead, he instinctively reverted to the leftwing cliché that the Court’s black conservative isn’t up to the job while his white conservative colleagues are,” the editorial board wrote. Long warned that Obama’s response reveals the kind of judges Obama would appoint. “Obama wants justices who will do his bidding, who will implement the preferred policies of the liberal establishment – not Justices like Thomas, Scalia, Roberts and Alito, who understand that the role of a judge is not to legislate from the bench,” she said. She also slammed the candidate for saying that he would take the counsel from his wife and grandmother as well as former Sen. Sam Nunn and Sens. Dick Lugar, Ted Kennedy and Tom Coburn. “Obama’s answer about the three wisest people in his life, upon whom he would rely heavily in his administration, also sheds light on the way he would choose Supreme Court Justices. Obama said he would consult his grandmother, his wife, and Ted Kennedy. This is unlikely to yield the highest quality judicial nominees who understand the Constitution and the role of judges in our constitutional democracy,” Long said.