Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing shows nation still deeply divided

Instead of celebrating America’s racial milestone, some politicians turned Jackson’s confirmation hearings into political theater.

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Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson listens to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 during Jackson’s confirmation hearing.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson listens to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Wednesday, during Jackson’s confirmation hearing.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

I had hoped we would see something fresh — national healing, even — in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.

After all, it’s been a long, long time coming.

If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court since it was first assembled in 1790.

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And assurances were made that led me to believe politicians had finally gotten over the Trump-itis that turned politics into a blood sport.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the committee, said the process would be “respectful” and promised Republicans would not try to turn it into a “spectacle.”

And Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Jackson would not be “vilified” or attacked for her religious views or be “accused of doing something she could not defend herself against before it’s too late.”

After four days of hearings, the headlines told a different story:

“QAnon Cheers Republican Attacks on Jackson,” The New York Times said. Axios’ online headline called the hearings “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s political circus Supreme Court hearing.” The Guardian had a similar theme: “Republicans turn Ketanji Brown Jackson hearing into a political circus.”

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is questioned by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., (front left) during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is questioned by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., (front left) during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Susan Walsh/Associated Press

On the final day of the hearings, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the committee, noted the attacks from Republicans were “unfair, unrelenting and beneath the dignity of the U.S. Senate.”

I don’t know how Jackson got through hours of bullying from people who seemed more interested in tearing her down than they were in learning about her judicial philosophy.

I was stunned when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, went ballistic after being told his time was up. Even after Durbin banged the gavel, Cruz refused to shut up.

Cruz used his time to try and link Jackson to the Critical Race Theory concept that has people of his ilk darn near hysterical.

Most people don’t even know what Critical Race Theory is, and Cruz didn’t bother to explain it.

Instead, the senator waved it like red meat in front of a pack of hungry hounds.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. describes Critical Race Theory as “an academic and legal framework that denotes that systemic racism is part of American society — from education and housing to employment and health care.”

Jackson had nothing to do with the spread of this concept in the mainstream.

Cornyn, R-Texas, (left) speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. (right) and ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, (center) listen.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, (left) speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. (right) and ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, (center) listen.

Susan Walsh/Associated Press

During the confirmation hearings, Cruz also mischaracterized two children’s books that he found offensive and were being used at a private school where Jackson served on the board.

“I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas — they don’t come up in my work as a judge, which I am, respectfully, here to address,” Jackson responded.

Some senators accused Jackson of being “soft on crime” — particularly on pedophiles — even though she received the highest rating from the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

Although Jackson repeatedly walked the senators through the decision-making process that led to her sentencing in some criminal cases, Republicans stuck with the “soft on crime” narrative.

It was exasperating to watch, so I can imagine how exhausting it was for Jackson to sit through.

Jackson maintained her composure despite being falsely accused, being called a liar and being rudely interrupted by pompous white men.

It took an impassioned speech by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to move her to tears.

“Your family and you speak to service, service, service. And I’m telling you right now I’m not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy,” Booker told her.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson listens as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson listens as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

“You didn’t get [here] because of some left-wing agenda. You didn’t get here because of some dark-money groups. You got here how every Black woman in America who’s gotten anywhere has done. By being like Ginger Rogers said: ‘I did everything Fred Astaire did but backward in heels,’” Booker said.

“Nobody’s stealing my joy. Nobody’s making me angry. I’m not going to let my joy be stolen,” he said defiantly.

Me either.

No one said the road would be easy.

But joy does indeed come in the morning.

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