I watched in anguish and disgust as the Republican senators on the judiciary committee turned the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearing into three days at the circus. To quote Woody Allen, from his 1971 film Bananas: “I object, your honor! This trial (in her case, this hearing) is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”
Assurances by top Republicans to show respect for Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings turned out to be empty (surprise, surprise) as potential Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley used their platform to appeal to their potential voters and grill the first Black woman nominated for the Supreme Court on her views on critical race theory and insinuate that she was soft on child sexual abuse and child pornography. It was their mission to paint her as a criminal-coddling, soft-on-pedophiles, and someone who supported subjecting white people to the view that they were oppressors.
What about Senator Marsha Blackburn of Kentucky actually asking KJB, “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?” as she tried to paint her as a gender-bending danger to the moral foundation of our country.
Wouldn’t it have been great if KJB could have pulled a Bret Kavanaugh (during his confirmation hearing he aggressively responding to a question by senator Amy Klobachar regarding his drinking: “You’re asking about blackout, I don’t know, have you?”) and responded:
- Are you a woman Senator Blackburn?
- Actually Senator Blackburn, are you a human?
- Are you shitting me with that question?
- Senator Blackburn, do you remember the scene from the movie Clockwork Orange when the main character is tortured by being forced to listen to Beethoveen’s Ninth Symphony? Well, I would like to tie you up and force you to watch all the seasons of Transparent.
Let’s return to Cruz badgering KJB on her involvement as a board member of her kids’ private school Georgetown Day. Cruz began pulling out books, including Antiracist Baby by Ibram X Kendi, in order to claim the school is definitely teaching CRT, even though CRT is, as KJB pointed out, is an academic theory that was taught in law schools. (Factoid: KJB and Cruz were at Harvard Law School at the same time. I bet they spent a lot of time hanging out together in the cafeteria.)
Here’s the repulsive, smug, attention-whore Cruz:
“There are portions of this book that I find really quite remarkable. One portion of the book says babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist.” “Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?”
With much poise and extraordinary restraint KJB answered: “I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist, or though they are not valued, or though they are less-than. That they are victims. That they are oppressors.”
Wouldn’t it have been beautiful if KJB smiled and responded:
“Senator Cruz, you really have me confused. Isn’t it true that your children go to St. John’s school in Houston? Well, let me read a quote I happen to have by former headmaster Mark Desjardins and John Moody, the chairman of the board of trustees. ‘St John’s as an institution, must be anti-racist and eliminate racism of any type — including institutional racism — within our school community and beyond.’ And here’s a statement on community and inclusion, approved by the board in 2018, that says the school ensures ‘cultural intelligence and proficiency’ for all community members. It also incorporates ‘cultural proficiency, diversity, global awareness and inclusivity into all facets’ of the curriculum. In fact, Senator Cruz, I wouldn’t be surprised if your own children have a copy of Anti-Racist Baby on their bookshelf. How do your antiracist children put up with such a racist asshole like you?”.
The inquiry by Cruz, Hawley and Blackburn on KJB’s record on sentencing for sex offenders was outrageous and inaccurate.* This line of inquiry was actually a political ploy and a dog-whistle to QAnon. You know, those crazies, who are a strong part of the Republican base, who believe the conspiracy theory that the Democrats are running satanic pedophile rings in Pizza joints (Pizzagate!) or butterfly sanctuaries (See my last piece Butterflies Are Not Free!). Rumor has it that before Hawley started his questioning of KJB that he texted Q (the purported QAnon leader) and said: “This one’s for you.”
Wouldn’t you have loved it if KJB looked right into Hawley’s eyes and said: “Senator Hawley, it is interesting you have questions about my judgment in these cases. After all, you supported a president who was a sexual predator for 4 years, voted for a Supreme Court Justice that was probably a rapist and didn’t seem to mind Roy Moore, a known pedophile, from being in the senate. And by the way Senator Hawley, where do you stand on the matter of Matt Gaetz?
But when all is said and done, we will have our first black female Supreme Court Justice!
All I can say is that KJB was lucky she wasn’t married to a white man as she might have been asked to respond to Indiana Senator Mike Braun’s comment that he would leave the issue of interracial marriages to the states, allowing for the banning of interracial marriage in those states. Wait, isn’t Clarence Thomas married to a white woman?
*Andrew C. McCarthy, wrote in the National Review that he would oppose Jackson on many grounds, “[b]ut the implication that she has a soft spot for ‘sex offenders’ who ‘prey on children’ because she argued against a severe mandatory-minimum prison sentence for the receipt and distribution of pornographic images is a smear.” As McCarthy noted, those mandatory minimums have not been updated in more than a decade, and even the most hardened prosecutors often argue for leniency for younger perpetrators, as did Jackson, because of the nature of the crime and the distorted nature of the current guidelines. As the Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted, it is a widespread view in the judiciary that these sentencing guidelines are too harsh and judges often depart from them. As the Post reported, “A 2010 survey showed 71 percent of judges said the mandatory minimums for receipt of images were too high.” Further, a 2021 report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that judges gave these non-production child-porn offenders sentences below the guideline range 70% of the time.