Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its third day of hearings on the nomination of federal appellate judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
Lets’ be clear: Judge Jackson’s credentials are impeccable. She is the only Supreme Court nominee ever to have served as a public defender. She has handled civil and criminal cases, served on the federal sentencing commission, worked in private law firms and clerked for Stephen Breyer (the justice she’d be replacing). She has been a district court judge and a court of appeals judge. The American Bar Association has given her its highest rating. She is also the first Black woman nominated to serve on the high court.
But none of this has stopped senate Republicans from trying to turn her nomination into a cesspool of rabid partisan charges.
Tuesday, senators Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn claimed that Judge Jackson had called former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former President George W. Bush “war criminals.” In fact, she never used that phrase. Ted Cruz insinuated she was soft on child sexual abuse. After displaying several large color photos from a children’s book called “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi, Cruz asked her “Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?”
But the cesspool prize goes to Senator Josh Hawley — the senator who, you recall, fist-bumped those who were attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and voted against certifying Joe Biden as president. Hawley spent his entire 30 minutes questioning Jackson on a single case where he repeatedly referenced child pornography, sex trafficking, and pedophilia, after tweeting “Judge Jackson has opined there may be a type of ‘less-serious child pornography offender.’ … ’A ‘less-serious’ child porn offender?”
Utter rubbish. When she was vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Judge Jackson once asked a question about child pornography during a hearing on sentencing guidelines in 2012. She said she was surprised at a Justice Department expert’s testimony that some child-sex offenders may actually “not be pedophiles” but perhaps “loners” looking for like-minded company in child pornography circles. She then asked the expert: “I’m wondering whether you could say that there is a — that there could be a — less-serious child pornography offender who is engaging in the type of conduct in the group experience level?”
Hawley’s charge was made for the most cynical of political purposes. America’s extreme right seems to have a fetish about pedophilia. Remember the 2016 “pizza-gate” — when Russian operatives, Trump campaigners, Twitter bots, and the radical right manufactured the ‘news’ that Hillary Clinton ran a pizza-restaurant child-sex ring? It turns out that nearly a quarter of Republicans say they believe that the U.S. government, media, and financial sector are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.) But for a senate Republican to distort an eminent jurist’s record like this is below contemptuous.
So today’s Office Hours questions: Will Judge Jackson be confirmed? And will the Republicans’ despicable performance with regard to her nomination make a difference to voters (especially Independents and “moderate” Republicans) when they next go to the polls in the midterm elections?