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Hawley, Cruz

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) questions witnesses as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) observes the fourth day of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's nominee the U.S. Supreme Court, on March 24, 2022. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Senators' Attacks of Judge Jackson Expose 'Total Bankruptcy' of the GOP

Critics say the "childish political theater" is intended to keep the Republican base "in a constant state of frothing-at-the-mouth" so they show up at the ballot box.

Jessica Corbett

As the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday began its fourth and final day of hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, criticism of how Republican senators have conducted themselves—and what that behavior reveals about their party—continued to grow.

"They're trying to craft perfect 20-second clips of owning libs for Fox News."

"What should have been a historic moment for the first Black woman to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, has become a scene of childish political theater, thanks to Senate Republicans," Tayo Bero wrote Thursday for The Guardian.

She noted that not only is President Joe Biden's first nominee to the high court "already being held up to far more scrutiny than any white man in her position would be, but the line of questioning from across the aisle has devolved into the absolutely ridiculous."

The nominee's response has been widely praised, with Alliance for Justice president Rakim H.D. Brooks saying that "while it has been challenging to watch Republican senators repeatedly disrespect Judge Jackson this week, it gave us an opportunity to observe Judge Jackson's remarkable judicial temperament. At all times, she has comported herself with grace and dignity."

While also applauding Jackson for remaining composed "in the face of intense and often ludicrous lines of inquiry," Bero asserted that "the bad-faith questions, the baseless accusations, the time-wasting" from GOP senators all make clear that "Jackson's interrogators do not see her as an equal, and are determined to undermine her however they can."

Bero also agreed with Paul Waldman's conclusion, in a Tuesday opinion piece for The Washington Post, that this week's hearings have "become yet another forum for Republicans to claim victim status, given the absolutely central place this occupies in their political project."

According to Waldman:

As conservatives have learned well in recent years, in the right circumstances, adopting the stance of victimhood can be thrilling, particularly if you don't have to suffer any actual victimization along the way. You can take the normal unpleasantness that comes with politics—having people disagree with you, or watching as a figure you admire gets criticized in ways you consider unfair—and turn it into something noble, profound, even epic.

Are people calling me a jerk for something repugnant I said? I'm not a jerk, I'm a victim of cancel culture, persecuted for my devotion to free expression! Are people opposing my legislation to ban books and target the families of transgender kids? I'm a victim of the woke mob! Proclaim yourself a victim and not only do you become the hero of the story, you can claim moral absolution for your own grimy choices.

"It all culminates with Brett Kavanaugh, the victim to beat all victims, his name invoked again and again," Waldman wrote, referring to former President Donald Trump's second nominee to the court whose 2018 confirmation hearings featured credible sexual assault allegations.

Suggesting Thursday that "people should notice what kinds of nominees senators feel empathetic towards," The Nation's justice correspondent, Elie Mystal, recalled that in 2018, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) got emotional "in his defense of prep school bro Brett Kavanaugh, after he was accused of attempted rape by a credible, named witness who gave testimony before the Senate," and this week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) "even derisively referred to the attempted rape allegations as an inquiry into his 'teenage dating habits.'"

Graham and Cruz aren't the only Republicans under fire for what Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, condemned as "vile antics" at Jackson's hearings. Comments from GOP Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), John Cornyn (Texas), Tom Cotton (Ark.), and Josh Hawley (Mo.) have also garnered widespread attention and criticism.

As Thom Hartmann summarized Wednesday for Common Dreams: "Lindsey Graham throws his trademark hissy fit and storms out, John Cornyn tries to sound erudite and fails, Marsha Blackburn outs herself as a fanatic, Ted Cruz thinks Black judges should vet children's books about racism, and Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton just end up making fools of themselves."

Hartmann argued that GOP senators had two goals for the hearings:

The first was to smear the Democratic nominee in a way that will guarantee that—over the next 24-hour news cycle—the name "Judge Jackson" will repeatedly occur in the same headline or sentence as "child porn," "critical race theory," or "terrorists from Gitmo."

The second was to craft a short soundbite of their own performance art that Fox "News" and other hard-right media can play on a loop. White Republicans dressing down a Black woman? Perfect for conservative hate media.

...This is happening because the Republican Party is no longer interested in governing. They've become the mouthpiece for a faction of business and great wealth, and beyond that have no commitment to rebuilding or improving this country in any meaningful way.

The GOP's priority is "doing anything they can to increase corporate profits (regardless of the harm to consumers, competition, or the planet) and to keep taxes low on their morbidly rich donors. And to winning the so-called 'culture wars,'" he wrote. "All the sturm and drang about race, porn, drugs, religion, and gender identity" is a strategy that "keeps their base in a constant state of frothing-at-the-mouth" so they continue to show up at the ballot box.

As Joan Walsh, a national affairs correspondent for The Nation, put it: "This hearing reveals the total bankruptcy of the Republican Party."

Noting that some of the "ridiculous, offensive questions" for Jackson came from Republican 2024 presidential hopefuls, Walsh wrote Wednesday that "too many GOP senators seemed hell-bent on turning her into a friend of child pornographers and pedophiles."

"It was not hard to suss out a theme the afternoon of the first day: What used to be a fringe theory espoused by QAnon cultists, linking top Democrats (with no evidence, obviously falsely) to the vile abomination of child sex trafficking, has now become a GOP mainstay," Walsh pointed out. "Polls show that half of all Trump supporters believe it; the 2024 wannabes see a key constituency."

Sheryll Cashin, a law professor at Georgetown University and Politico Magazine contributing editor, also concluded that GOP senators acted with elections in mind.

"Republicans had an opportunity with Jackson's nomination to do the right thing," she wrote Thursday. "And yet this brilliant, even-handed jurist who has ruled for and against presidents and prosecutors was cast as a soft-on-crime, child-predator-enabling, critical-race-theory believing, left-wing activist by the GOP's most arch political performers."

"Why would Republicans do this when Jackson's confirmation would not upset the current 6-3 conservative-leaning tenor of the court?" Cashin continued. "My guess is that dividing and conquering to win elections at any cost [has] become muscle memory for far too many members of Congress."

While engaging in a "dangerous character assassination," Republican panel members "offered the disturbing optics of mainly southern, white men lecturing, interrupting, and sometimes yelling at a gracious, poised Black woman," she noted. "If no Republicans vote to confirm this eminently qualified Black female to the highest court, it will send a searing message about what the GOP has become."


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