Marx said that history begins as tragedy and ends up as face. Let’s begin with a farce. Here was the headline of a Washington Post Op-Ed today: “The Senate Judiciary Committee mistreated Judge Jackson. I should know.” The author: Anita Hill, the Democratic lawyer and former staffer of Clarence Thomas who ambushed the then-SCOTUS nominee and accused him of unverifiable sexual harassment (for example, she said he once made a joke about a pubic hair on a Coke can in a meeting!), smearing and embarrassing him on national TV. In this latest screed, she’s not analogizing Thomas’s treatment by Democrats to that of Republicans attacking Jackson. It’s the criticism of herself for turning those 1991 hearings into a circus she thinks is telling, for she is black, and…wait, Thomas is also black, and he, like Jackson, was being considered before America for the highest court in the land. But Hill’s a black woman, see, so that justifies the column’s thesis, apparently. She’s a law professor, and that’s the quality of her analogy skills. Let’s hope Judge Jackson is better.
Hill has been making a living off of her unethical attempt to derail Thomas’s career for over 30 years. The only fair response to her at this point is, “Shut up, Anita.” But at least she made me laugh.
Now that we’ve checked the funny papers, back to the news:
The Senate today confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, with three Republicans adding their support to the unanimous Democratic block, making the vote 53-47.
1. The conservative news media reacted with headlines like this: “Republican Turncoats Help Confirm Biden’s Radical Nominee to Supreme Court.”
Idiotic. Voting for a qualified nomination by a President who won the election (I won’t say “fair and square, but he still won) when she cannot be rejected anyway is not being a “turncoat.” I’d say Romney, Collins and Murkowski helped reduce the GOP disgrace, except that those three might vote against their party just for the hell of it so it is not exactly integrity on parade in their cases.
Jackson is not a “radical,” either. That really is a smear, but Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement after the vote,
“Biden’s pick Ketanji Brown Jackson is a radical, activist judge, one who failed to answer simple questions on her record, including leniency for child porn offenders and support of CRT. Jackson has proved to be in lockstep with the far left’s political agenda, even refusing to define what a woman is. The RNC will hold Democrats accountable this November for supporting Biden’s radical pick.”
At least Hill’s silly column was funny; this is indefensible. Jackson hasn’t proved anything—she won’t cast a vote or author an opinion until the Fall— except that she could handle herself well under fire. The questions about her record weren’t ‘simple,” they were “gotchas.” The beef over her sentencing of child pornography defendants was political contrivance at its worst: there are legitimate disagreements over the most just way to handle such offenders, or any defenders. Many judges and legal scholars object to the entire concept of mandatory minimum sentences, but Supreme Court justices don’t sentence anybody, and child porn is not one of the nation’s most pressing issues. The degree to which it dominated the hearings was a blight entirely the fault of the GOP.
Nor was the judge’s refusal to define what a woman is at a time when a biological man is being allowed to cheat women in Ivy League swimming by claiming to be one inappropriate (I may have suggested otherwise earlier: I was wrong). Some version of this issue may well come before the Court eventually. She should not decide it now.
2. The worst unethical line of attack by the Republicans was criticizing Jackson for “defending terrorists” at Guantanamo Bay. How many times have I had to make this basic point? Defending unpopular and even evil clients is what lawyers do and must do for us to have a system of justice. Lawyers know that, and they know that representing someone isn’t an endorsement of their actions, beliefs or character. The public doesn’t get this, and the GOP made them dumber and more legally illiterate by its foolish claims.
3. All the networks, even Fox, and news reports made the big story that Jackson’s confirmation was historic—you know, we’ve had black Justices and female justices, but she’s the first black female justice. That’s trivia, just as it will be when the Court has the first paraplegic justice, or Asian-American albino. The emphasis on identity over substance is symptom of a serious cultural sickness. Joe Biden, of course, started the oubreak in this instance
4. Again, the stupid party. When Jackson’s confirmation was announced by Kamala Harris (who somehow had to fight off a giggling fit: what’s wrong with her?), the Democrats gave Jackson (who wasn’t present) a rousing standing ovation. The Republicans had all left the Chamber. How graceful! How statesmanlike! How professional!
Morons. They should have stayed around, and applauded too. I would have, no matter how I voted. “So, they wouldn’t applaud a black woman, eh?” They deserve that cheap shot. They asked for it.
But wait! There were more unethical confirmation doings elsewhere:
Tennessee Valley Authority board nominee Beth Prichard Geer, a former chief of staff for Al Gore, was savaged by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in her hearing this week based on a single word tweet Geer had authored seven years ago. Ernst apparently holds grudges: she had a blown-up image of the tweet ready so she could confront the nominee.
Geer stepped into the trap when she agreed with Ernst, in response to the Senator touting the importance of civility and working with others. Then Ernst hauled out Geer’s tweet on a floor chart. It showed a retweeted Fox News photo of Ernst in 2015 when she delivered the GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union address. The single word: “Hideous.”
“Can you explain that tweet?” Ernst asked. Clearly surprised, the nominee first huminahumina-ed that she couldn’t read the chart. “I just read it to you. ‘Hideous,'”Ernst responded. Then Geer stooped to a non-apology apology:
“Well, I apologize if I offended you, and I appreciate you bringing it to my attention. And I do, in fact, believe that civility is key, and I’m sorry that I did not demonstrate that, in your opinion, with that tweet.”
Not good. Ernst then asked if Geer has “made a habit of calling women that disagree with you ‘hideous,’ or if it was simply an exception,” adding,
“Folks, this tweet is from 2015. We heard a lot about tweets in the former administration. This is prior to that. This is not Iowa nice and I’m calling you out.”
“Ms. Geer, when you called me hideous, were you referring to my appearance or to the views that I held and are held by many Americans across this country?”
Geer denied that she was referring to Ernst’s physical appearance—I think this was obvious anyway. Ernst has some self-esteem issues. The Senator then “pounced”:
“Ma’am, I’ll cut you off right there. How else could this come across? The word hideous, to me, only has one meaning. And the views I expressed in my State of the Union response were personal experiences. So maybe you didn’t appreciate that I grew up on a small, rural farm in an economically disadvantaged area of Iowa. Maybe you didn’t like that my mother had to put bread bags on my shoes when I went to school. Maybe you didn’t like that, but a lot of Americans have had the same experiences that I have had. And so to call my personal views as hideous is an affront to half of America.”
Ernst then announced she would vote against Geer’s nomination, because she could not be counted upon to be civil.
So a U.S. Senator’s feelings were hurt by a vague tweet that she thought might be insulting her looks, and based on that, she is voting against the tweeter seven years later.