Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court Hearings Are Embarrassing
Today, as I write this, the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson continue. In the past, the length of these hearings might have been a monument to due diligence, a testament to the care taken when selecting a lifetime appointment to one of the most powerful judicial seats in the world. I think it’s fair to say now that the drawn out proceedings have turned into a parade of grievances that bring to mind a high-stakes version of one of the town meetings from Parks & Recreation.
Perhaps what draws this into particular relief in this latest round of questioning is the foregone conclusion of Jackson’s confirmation, thanks to the current balance of power in the Senate, combined with the deep, clear qualification of Jackson for the position. In the past, Jackson has had few problems finding support across party lines. In 2012, Republican and part-time fitness model Paul Ryan testified on her behalf. Here are two excerpts from that testimony:
I appreciate the opportunity to share my favorable recommendation for Ketanji Brown Jackson. I know she is clearly qualified. But it bears repeating just how qualified she is.
Now, our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji's intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal. She is an amazing person, and I favorably recommend your consideration.
In fact, looking back less than a year, to her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals, we find support in the form of a vote for her confirmation from Senator Lindsey Graham, the same Lindsey Graham we now see foaming and attempting to demonize her. It’s quite a shift in support to go from an affirmative vote to storming out of a hearing on the same candidate in less than a year. In fact, I think it wouldn’t be overly hyperbolic to describe Graham’s current behavior and lines of questioning as a “performance,” because that’s the overwhelmingly the feel of the current hearings.
Perhaps it’s the escalation of a hearing to a greater watching audience, and a more public-facing political stage, like a Supreme Court nomination offers, that has inspired the venomous melodrama of the Conservative wing. There is no process, no public discussion, which they can’t seek to derail and use to bloviate on their supposed victimization. The more qualified the candidate, the uglier and more misleading their attacks have to become.
We can look at Ted Cruz’s ironically childish attempts to use a Kinko’s posterboard of a children’s book to somehow pretend the question “Do you think babies are born racist?” belongs in a Supreme Court Nomination hearing instead of on the title of a downvoted AskReddit thread. We can look at his maliciously idiotic attempt to quote a question Jackson asked of someone else as an affirmative statement of her own beliefs. We can look at Josh Hawley’s disjointed brayings that Jackson, a mother of two, is somehow soft on child pornography, linking it to federal sentencing guidelines Congress, in fact, has the power to change. We can also look to Lindsey Graham’s bad-faith determination to draw parallels between these lines of “harsh questioning” and those experienced by Brett Kavanaugh, who is currently a Supreme Court Justice, when his nomination brought into focus allegations of sexual assault.
Even with every Republican senator voting against her confirmation, Jackson will be confirmed, because of the Democratic control of the Senate and tie-breaking votes. We’re watching the live table-flipping and foot-stomping of people already in checkmate, meant to be the nation’s best diplomatic minds. None of this is new, but it’s certainly embarrassing.