Commentary

The GOP displayed its inner bigot during Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings

Yelling at a black woman is a voter base booster

March 25, 2022 7:00 am

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 23, 2022. Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Just when you think conservatives have reached their nadir, the absolute bottom of the stupidity barrel, they start slinging poop like a bunch of over-stimulated chimps.

During the confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Republican senators picked up all kinds of rhetorical turds to hurl. They only soiled themselves, wallowing in victimhood and Q-Anon innuendo about her supposed affinity for pedophiles.

White men have been yelling at black women for 400 years. Judge Jackson handled their display of Fox “News” pandering with predictable calm grace.

Of course, this orgy of made-for-television tantrum-throwing is not really about her; it’s all about the coming elections. For Republicans, yelling at a black woman is a voter base booster.

Republican senators spent much of their allotted time (and more) whining about how mean Democrats have been to past nominees.

That nice Robert Bork, Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre henchman, whose only crime was disliking democracy.

That poor beer-loving Brett Kavanaugh, treated so badly he had to shout and cry merely because he was credibly accused of sexual assault.

And what about Clarence Thomas, that oppressed Catholic reactionary who was just engaging in good-natured banter about pubic hair and porn with Anita Hill?

Also that lovely Janice Rogers Brown, an African American nominated by George W. Bush to the D.C. Court of Appeals? Yes, she was hostile to civil rights, untroubled by torture, and called New Deal social programs “the triumph of our own socialist revolution,” but that’s nothing to the way Judge Jackson has represented accused criminals as a public defender and even spoken approvingly about diversity, equity, and inclusion!

‘The 1619 Project’

Sen. Ted Cruz charged Jackson with unrepentant wokeness. She has called “The 1619 Project” and its lead author Nikole Hannah-Jones, “provocative.” She sits on the board of Georgetown Day, a private school founded in 1945 by a group of interracial families opposed to segregation, which her daughters attend. Seems this bunch of pinkos encourage students to read the works of Ibram X. Kendi, a National Book Award winner who writes about antiracism.

Funny coincidence: The private school in Houston that Ted Cruz’s daughters attend also teaches anti-racism and includes Kendi in its library. Maybe Cruz, lately known as “Cancun Karen,” was especially nasty owing to his recent fracas at a Montana airport on his way back to Washington for the hearings. He missed his flight and abused gate staff. They called security.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Credit: Toni Sandys-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley, the unlovely senator from Missouri, jumped into the deep end, trying to get Judge Jackson to confess to a partiality for child sex offenders because she sometimes gave them to lower sentences prosecutors (who are always right) wanted.

The truth is, Jackson’s sentences for child porn viewers are in line with 80 percent of judges — including a gaggle of Trump appointees.

But when has Josh Hawley allowed reality to impede his presidential run?

Sen. John Cornyn, of the White Fundamentalist Republic of Texas, banged on and on about how gay people have too many damn rights, like getting married. What about people who “may believe as a matter of their religious doctrine or faith” that same sex marriage is an abomination?

And what about people who believe that interracial marriage is bad? Indiana senator Mike Braun, who is not on the Judiciary Committee, said it would be fine by him if the Supreme Court overturned the 1967 ruling allowing it.

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who is on the committee but whose legal training consists of a bachelor’s in Home Economics, said it would be fine with her if the court overturned their 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut.

That’s the one that legalized contraception.

The Constitution doesn’t say anything about contraception. Or gays. Or marriage. Or health care. Or Twitter. Or semi-automatics. Or prayer before football games. Or women judges.

‘War criminals’

Cornyn went on to charge Jackson with calling George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld “war criminals.”

Leaving aside the clear evidence that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are, in fact, war criminals, having authorized waterboarding and other forms of torture, that’s not what she did.

As a public defender, assigned to represent a Guantánamo detainee, she signed a petition for habeas corpus on his behalf, alleging that those in charge, Bush as president and Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, authorized “the torture and other inhumane treatment of petitioner Khiali-Gul,” which “constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity in violation of the law of nations under the Alien Tort Statute.”

The problem here is the Republicans think even being a public defender, representing  powerless, often minority, people means Jackson is “soft on crime” and a tool of the “radical left” — not so much a racist dog whistle (black folks sympathize with criminals!) as an entire brass band concert of racism.

Never mind that Jackson’s brother and two uncles are cops; never mind that she’s been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.

Apparently, Republicans missed the part about how you’re innocent until proved guilty, one of the great principles of our legal system. So what if the Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to counsel?

And speaking of white people, how about South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham? He assured Judge Jackson that her hearing “wouldn’t be a circus,” then drove his custom clown car into the hearing.

He hollered, he stamped his foot and, when he didn’t get his way, he stormed out of the committee room.

He had a list of grievances. Joe Biden picked the wrong black woman. Jackson is an “activist” (as opposed to the loony tunes comprising the Supreme Court majority). He huffed that it’s easy to get onto the high court “if you are a person of color, a woman, supported by liberals.”

He demanded she rate her faith on a scale of one to 10, then pitched a hissy fit so epic Veruca Salt would be envious, ordering her to participate in re-litigating Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings, shouting over her when she tried to speak.

Despite pious pledges of “respectful” behavior, Republicans are going to war against Judge Jackson and the diversity she represents. Donald Trump Jr. called her a “pedophile apologist.” Someone from the demented right-wing outfit Judicial Watch tweeted, “A vote for Judge Jackson is a vote for CRT in schools, leniency on child porn crimes, abortion on demand, the definition of ‘woman,’ undermining Second Amendment, etc. @Sen_JoeManchin, @SenatorSinema, what do you think?”

Weirdly enough, the best description of these Republican white men came from a Republican white man, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

He called the whole unedifying spectacle “jack-assery.”

Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin thanked him. The sane half of America also thanks him.

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Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.

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