Republicans Senators seem to be following a party strategy that is less about fitness and facts and more about grandstanding for the base. It’s one thing to disagree with and clarify points of contention with a given nominee. It Is entirely different to inject debunked claims and distortions into the confirmation process.
At several points during Tuesday’s more than 12-hour confirmation hearing, Republican senators pushed an agenda clearly outside the scope of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson‘s professional background and judicial experience.
People seeking to reach the highest Court in the country should be able to handle tough questions about their record, character, and other reasonable and relevant concerns. Continuing to distort the nominee’s record and experience, Republican senators echoed GOP talking points riddled with disinformation undermining the integrity of the confirmation process.
Distorting Jackson’s Record in Cases Involving Child Pornography
Sen. Josh Hawley is not the only Republican stuck on the previously debunked claim that Jackson is not only “soft on crime” but favorable toward sex offenders, including child pornographers. But has been leading the pack on the line of attack that has been discredited by sources across the media spectrum, including the conservative outlet The National Review.
Written by senior fellow Andrew McCarthy, who does not support Jackson’s confirmation, the article made clear that Hawley (and by extension others repeating his points) was out of bounds in making the claims about the judge’s record. Also, a lot of his discussion about the Sentencing Guidelines is outside of the average person’s understanding and clearly many members of Congress as well.
Despite the alleged concern about child sexual exploitation, Republicans are silent on actual cases involving members of their party. The New Republic pointed to the recent arrest of a now-former RNC digital strategist in a federal child exploitation investigation as an example of the party’s hypocrisy. Republican Rep. Matt Goetz remains under investigation for the sex trafficking of an underage girl.
As Sen. Cory Booker noted, Jackson has support from victim advocacy groups, and she is within the national average of federal judges making downward departures from the sentencing guidelines. During her Tuesday testimony, Jackson pushed back on Republican Senators noting sentencing discretion of federal judges they can introduce legislation to change it.
Questions Outside the Scope of the Role of a Supreme Court Justice
Several points during the hearing, notably in Jackson’s exchanges with Sens. Tom Cotton and John Kennedy, the judge repeatedly declined to engage in hypotheticals about policy matters not suitable for a Justice to discuss. Cotton kept asking questions based on generalizations and out-of-context data points concerning crime and policing, questions that have nothing to do with Jackson and everything to do with scoring points with the November electorate.
During her exchange with Cotton, Jackson had to remind him that Congress, not the Supreme Court or other federal judges, was responsible for the issues in question. Also, questions like should we have more police are for local communities and their residents to decide, not a judge.
Jackson also used her exchange with Cotton to spotlight the unwarranted sentencing disparity in connection with a case where she resentenced a drug offender based on an updated law passed by Congress. According to Jackson, her discretion as a judge permitted her to bring the defendant’s sentence in alignment with other similarly situated defendants.
In claiming Jackson “twisted the law,” Cotton twisted her record and continued to double down on the distortion.
Another area where Jackson asserted that she should not venture to provide a public opinion was on proposals to expand the Supreme Court. Despite claims that “court expansion,” or “court-packing,” as Republicans call it, would “delegitimize the Court,” it isn’t a new concept. The number of Supreme Court justices is not fixed in the Constitution, and Congress has changed the Court’s makeup on several occasions.
“Senator, I feel so strongly about ensuring that judges remain out of political debates,” Jackson told Kennedy. She also mentioned Justice Amy Coney Barrett similarly declined to answer the question.
Fear Mongering About Critical Race Theory and Schools
The GOP has made it clear they are trying to make Jackson synonymous with critical race theory to expand its disinformation campaign ahead of the midterm elections. During his questioning, Sen. Ted Cruz happily played the role of making claims about Jackson’s relationship and understanding of the legal concept. Contrary to Republican claims, it has nothing to do with public school curriculums or children’s experiences in k-12 public education programs around the country.
But facts don’t matter to Cruz and his colleagues or their party leadership. Cruz harped on his former Harvard Law School classmates’ position on a progressive private school board as evidence she supports critical race theory. In its most basic form, critical race theory refers to a framework that recognizes the systemic racism within the system of laws and policies. It has been distorted by the right and made into a boogeyman for anything related to equity and justice.
As Jackson explained, the Georgetown Day School was founded in 1945 when Washington D.C. public schools were segregated. She recounted how a diverse group of families came together to establish the school because they wanted their children to co-exist as equals.
Grilling Jackson about the school’s curriculum, Cruz referenced the book “The End of Policing” by Alex Vitale. Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College, tweeted that the senator intentionally confused “a specific school of legal scholarship” and efforts to shed light on the history of racism in America.
While the board does not have a say in the school’s curriculum, Jackson explained that there are different standards as a school committed to social justice at its core.
Cruz also took issue with Jackson recognizing 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones in a speech she gave at an MLK Day event in early 2020. But Jackson should not be put in a position where she feels like it is wrong to recognize the contributions of another Black woman, particularly in a speech about the leadership of Black women.
Most of his questioning had nothing to do with Jackson’s future tenure on the Supreme Court and everything to do with the Republican witch hunt and desperate need to hold on to a whitewashed version of history.
Disregarding the Privacy Rights of Abortion Clients in Favor of Anti-Abortion Harassment
Sen. Marsha Blackburn closed out Tuesday’s 12-hour hearing with questions she claimed to present in good faith about Jackson’s attitude toward anti-abortion women. But instead of asking Jackson about her position regarding the First Amendment and buffer zones sometimes enacted around abortion clinics, the Tennessee senator pretended the judge was offensive to most American women.
She also distorted the prevalence of women’s beliefs about abortion restrictions and those who stand near clinics bothering people dealing with what ought to be a personal medical decision. Contrary to Blackburn’s claim that a majority of women agree with her, the majority of adults believe abortion should be legal.
Even if the statistic she cited of those who support abortion restrictions was accurate, it’s not the same as endorsing people interfering with the rights of others.
No one expects Republicans to accept a nominee without asking questions. And no person is above reproach or concern, but they continue to go to the most extreme positions, often not grounded in fact or reality.