NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

Judge Jackson: A model of class and patience confronted by classless interrogators

Unit­ed States Supreme Court nom­i­nee Judge Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son has shown the patience of Job and the wis­dom of Solomon dur­ing her Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee hear­ings. She has dis­cussed the law, and her delib­er­a­tions as a judge, with the lucid­i­ty of a skilled edu­ca­tor. The prob­lem is, some in the U.S. Sen­ate nei­ther wish to be edu­cat­ed nor have the capacity.

The com­mit­tee hear­ings have wit­nessed the dog whis­tles of white suprema­cy, wild for­ays into irrel­e­vance, and the kind of raw dem­a­goguery that then-Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee Chair­man James East­land deployed on the first Black Amer­i­cans nom­i­nat­ed to the fed­er­al bench. It was a class­less effort by Repub­li­cans to dis­cred­it a nom­i­nee who embod­ies class.

Wit­ness this exchange: Seek­ing to link Judge Jack­son to Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry, Sen. Ted Cruz, R‑Texas, demand­ed: “Do you agree… that babies are racist?”

He post­ed blown-up images of a book by schol­ar Ibram X. Ken­di, tak­en from the library of a pri­vate school in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where Judge Jack­son is a board member.

At the end of Monday’s hear­ing, Sen­a­tor Mar­sha Black­burn, R‑Tennessee, went on a riff about trans­gen­der youth and posed this ques­tion: “Can you pro­vide a def­i­n­i­tion of the word woman?”

“No, I can’t,” replied Jack­son, as if it had any bear­ing on judi­cial duties.

“You can’t?” asked Black­burn, one of the Senate’s dimmest bulbs.

“I’m not a biol­o­gist,” said the judge.

As with oth­er riffs, on sub­jects rang­ing from child pornog­ra­phy to antiracism edu­ca­tion, Repub­li­cans were reach­ing to their base.

They were reach­ing low, cod­dling fan­tasies of the far right. There was a nas­ti­ness and ugli­ness on dis­play in the World’s Great­est Delib­er­a­tive Body.

The right’s mouth­pieces and media were stok­ing hate.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son (White House photo)

“Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son serve on board of school that pro­motes crit­i­cal race the­o­ry,” ran an FNC head­line. After the Black­burn exchange, Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee chair Ron­na McDaniel sneered on Twit­ter, “Democ­rats have gone from ‘Believe all women’ to ‘We don’t know what a woman is.’”

Jen­nifer Rubin, the con­ser­v­a­tive Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist, summed it up well under the head­line: “Fringe Repub­li­cans are not the prob­lem. It’s the party’s mainstream.”

The writer and thinker Heather Cox Richard­son cit­ed a decade-old paper by Thomas Mann of the Brook­ings Insti­tute and Nor­man Orn­stein of the right-lean­ing Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute, which concluded:

The GOP has become an insur­gent out­lier in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. It is ide­o­log­i­cal­ly extreme; scorn­ful of com­pro­mise; unmoved by con­ven­tion­al under­stand­ings of facts, evi­dence and sci­ence; and dis­mis­sive of the legit­i­ma­cy of its polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion. When one par­ty moves this far from the main­stream, it makes it near­ly impos­si­ble for the polit­i­cal sys­tem to deal con­struc­tive­ly with the country’s challenges.

(Mann and Orn­stein were writ­ing in 2012. The Repub­li­cans’ nom­i­nee for Pres­i­dent that year, Mitt Rom­ney, is now in the Sen­ate and twice vot­ed to con­vict Don­ald Trump. Rom­ney is now reviled in the par­ty as a Repub­li­can In Name Only.)

Judge Jack­son is a Har­vard Law grad­u­ate, for­mer fed­er­al pub­lic defend­er, clerked at the Supreme Court for the jurist she will replace – Jus­tice Stephen Brey­er – has served nine years as a U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge, and is now on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Columbia.

She is endorsed by the Fra­ter­nal Order of Police.

She’s even a rel­a­tive by mar­riage of for­mer Repub­li­can House Speak­er Paul Ryan.

Yet, here were Sen­ate Repub­li­cans fan­ning the Q‑Anon con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry by charg­ing that Jack­son is “soft” on child sex abuse. Wit­ness this false charge from Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz, R‑Texas: “I believe you care for chil­dren, obvi­ous­ly your chil­dren and oth­er chil­dren. But I also see a record of activism and advo­ca­cy as it con­cerns sex­u­al preda­tors that stems back decades, and that is concerning.”

“Advo­ca­cy?” The absurd charge has been dis­missed as “mer­it­less to the point of dem­a­goguery” by the con­ser­v­a­tive mag­a­zine Nation­al Review. Yet, it was tak­en up again Wednes­day morn­ing by Sen­a­tor Lind­say Gra­ham, R‑South Car­oli­na, who vot­ed in favor of con­firm­ing Jack­son to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Judge Jack­son tried to explain what goes into decid­ing such a case, notably sen­tenc­ing guide­lines set down by Con­gress, and penal­ties (e.g. restrict­ed com­put­er use) that stay with a defen­dant long after he/she has done time.

“These are some of the most dif­fi­cult cas­es that a judge has to deal with because we are talk­ing about pic­tures of sex abuse,” she told sen­a­tors. “We are talk­ing about graph­ic descrip­tions that judges have to read and consider.”

Gra­ham strayed from porn to claim that Black con­ser­v­a­tives have been per­se­cut­ed for their views. Kick­ing off his ques­tions on Tues­day, he want­ed to know from Jack­son: “What faith are you, by the way?”

Jack­son is a non-denom­i­na­tion­al Protes­tant, prompt­ing this fol­lowup from Gra­ham: “Could you fair­ly judge a Catholic?” Gra­ham asked Jack­son to rate the impor­tance of her faith “on a scale of one to ten.”

“Sen­a­tor, per­son­al­ly, my faith is very impor­tant, but as you know, there’s no reli­gious test in the Con­sti­tu­tion,” Jack­son replied.

Gra­ham repeat­ed­ly inter­rupt­ed Jack­son, so often that Judi­cia­ry Chair Dick Durbin gave her a chance to respond on Wednes­day when Graham’s time was up. Gra­ham inter­rupt­ed again, and then stormed out of the com­mit­tee hearing.

The Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca will get the Supreme Court Jus­tice it deserves in Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son, the first Black woman ever to be nom­i­nat­ed to the body.

The coun­try deserves bet­ter on Capi­tol Hill.

The Unit­ed States Sen­ate is a linch­pin of the repub­lic, yet in Mar­sha Black­burn, Ted Cruz, Lind­say Gra­ham, Josh Haw­ley and Tom Cot­ton, it is pop­u­lat­ed by some peo­ple who rep­re­sent the dark­er side of the Amer­i­can story.

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