Lindsey Graham said Jackson's hearing wouldn't be a circus. Then he laced up his clown shoes.
Republicans turned the second day of Jackson's confirmation hearing into a sideshow.
Longtime readers know I have little to no faith in the vast majority of Republican senators. But it turns out I may have overestimated them.
You might recall that just yesterday, I contrasted the relatively calm and orderly first day of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing with the hearings for Trump’s final two nominations to the court, describing the latter as “media spectacles” that “symbolized the shocking decay of American institutions under his administration.” Well, Trump may be out of the White House, but during the second day of Jackson’s hearing on Tuesday, Republicans seemed determined to demonstrate that the institutional rot is proceeding apace.
On Monday, Lindsey Graham began Jackson’s confirmation process by vowing it “won’t be a circus.” So it was somewhat ironic that he kicked off the histrionics on Tuesday with a meltdown over Jackson’s work representing Gitmo detainees — one that concluded with him yelling, “it won’t bother me one bit if 39 of them die in prison!” before he stormed out of the room.
Graham had already made things weird by the time he left in a huff. At one point he asked Jackson, “on a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion?” Jackson tactfully dodged the question, pointing out that the public needs to have confidence judges can separate personal views from their work, but it was the first of many times throughout the day that Republicans tried to bait her.
John Cornyn asked Jackson if she celebrated Clarence Thomas’s nomination to SCOTUS — you know, because they’re both Black. Ted Cruz tried to Republican-splain the teachings of MLK to her, claiming dubiously that King would’ve been an opponent of critical race theory; he also asked her if she agrees that “babies are racist,” citing the contents of an antiracist book in the library of a school on whose board she sits as proof of her agenda. He said “critical race theory” many, many times.
Read this Forbes tweet carefully to really take in how asinine this stuff is.
Both Cruz and Josh Hawley spent a lot of time grilling Jackson about widely debunked allegations she’d given lenient sentences to child porn offenders, with Hawley going as far as to graphically describe the details of pornographic images. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) immediately refuted him by using her questioning time to list Republican-nominated judges who also, for one reason or another, haven’t thrown the book at child porn offenders. (Cory Booker later said he was “a little bit insulted” by Republicans harping on the child porn stuff, noting that victim advocacy groups are among Jackson’s staunchest supporters.)
And yet Republicans weren’t done. Far from it.
An angry Tom Cotton asked Jackson a number of bizarrely inappropriate questions about criminal justice policy, including “do you think we should catch and imprison more murderers, or fewer murderers?” Jackson handled this nonsense skillfully, explaining to Cotton that she wouldn’t provide specific answers to his questions because “they are not questions for me. I am not the Congress.”
About 12 hours after it began, Tuesday’s hearing started winding down with John Kennedy desperately trying to turn it into a Fox News segment by getting Jackson to weigh in on court packing. Everyone was tired by the time Marsha Blackburn closed things out with a final burst of transphobic lunacy.
“Can you provide a definition for the word woman?” she asked.
“No,” Jackson replied, visible perplexed. “I’m not a biologist.”
Aside from Trump’s second impeachment, there weren’t a lot of high-profile congressional hearings over the past year, so Tuesday served as an important reminder not only of the shabby state of the Republican Party, but also of the fact that it isn’t improving.
But why, you might be asking, do Republicans beclown themselves in this manner? For one, all the performative tantrums and overriding devotion to owning the libs makes for perfect Fox News fodder, as illustrated by the following clip from Tuesday’s installment of Hannity.
Perhaps more importantly, Republicans understand that by making incendiary allegations about someone like Jackson — no matter how baseless — they can force the press to reframe what ought to have been an anodyne confirmation hearing with few surprises to “Cruz presses Jackson on critical race theory.”
After all, who has the time or patience to watch the entirety of a 13-hour hearing? I do, but it’s my job. Normal people are much more likely to learn about what happened from short clips on news broadcasts or articles published by outlets that often sanitize the facts of a given story so they’re not seen as being biased. Republicans understand this and hunt for soundbites that will play well among their base voters and on right-wing media.
Ultimately, however, nothing that happened Tuesday will change the end result of these hearings. Jackson is eminently qualified, has already been confirmed to other positions by the Senate three times, would be the first Black woman on SCOTUS, and has handled herself remarkably well throughout her confirmation hearing. Barring a stunning nay vote from the likes of a Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin, she will be confirmed.
But Jackson’s confirmation hearing, which will extend into a third day on Wednesday, reminds us that maintaining a functioning two-party democracy is hard when one of those parties is completely off the rails, and eager to turn any aspect of governance, no matter how ordinary, into a sideshow.
Mike Braun wants to roll the clock back to 1967
As if there wasn’t enough backwardness on display yesterday, one of the Republican senators who isn’t on the Judiciary Committee, Mike Braun of Indiana, indicated during an interview that he would have no problem with states invalidating interracial marriages like Jackson’s.
Braun later tried to walk his comments back, but what he said isn’t an isolated occurrence — Republican senators this week have hinted they support rollbacks to a whole host of rights people probably take for granted.
Braun doesn’t get a lot of national attention, but he’s said he wants abortion “to be eliminated from the landscape” and spread Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud. In other words, he’s a mainstream Republican.
That’s it for today!
I’ll be back tomorrow with one final newsletter for the week. After sitting through three days of confirmation hearings, I’m going to need a stiff drink or three this weekend.