Thursday, February 2

Juan Williams: GOP plays the race card on Ketanji Brown Jackson


Can you say you are confident that Ketanji Brown JacksonKetanji Brown JacksonDurbin: Hawley criticism of Jackson ‘inaccurate and unfair’ Sasse: ‘There are things in Judge Jackson’s record that are troubling’ Criminal justice reformers rally for first public defender on Supreme Court MORE is about to join the Supreme Court?

If the past is prologue, Jackson is in for some very rough treatment, if not rejection.

Only three people who are not white have been confirmed by the Senate to serve on the nation’s highest court. All came close to being derailed.

In 1967, Thurgood Marshall was flat-out asked if he was “prejudiced against white people in the South?” The question came from Sen. James Eastland (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) sought to caricature Marshall as a dumb Black guy — or as today’s Republicans might say, an “affirmative action hire.” 

Thurmond’s best effort on that front was to ask Marshall to name the authors of the 14th Amendment. Marshall responded by glaring. 

Other senators on that occasion tried to tie Marshall, a former federal judge and Solicitor General, to crime, riots and racial unrest because of Marshall’s courtroom success in breaking segregation laws.

But Marshall had a history of working with the FBI, as I detailed in my biography of the justice.

In 1991, a different brand of harsh treatment — some might say it was worse — fell on Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasJustice Thomas hospitalized, may miss some oral arguments McConnell says he hasn’t made a final decision on confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson Ginni Thomas’s activism sparks ethics questions for Supreme Court justice MORE.

Even before Anita HillAnita Faye HillMartin Tolchin, acclaimed DC journalist and founder of The Hill, dies at 93 Biden’s pledge atones for decades of shortchanging Black women Confirmation bias: The fighting has already begun, and Biden hasn’t even named a nominee MORE, I remember being asked if I knew anything about scurrilous lies that Thomas beat his first wife.

Then his intellect was attacked.

In Thomas’ case, it was said then-President George H.W. Bush was filling the court’s “Black seat” with Thomas only because he was one of the few lawyers who was both Black and ideologically opposed to Marshall. In other words, affirmative action for Black conservatives.

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Thomas famously told the committee that their treatment of him amounted to a “a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks who…have different ideas.”

Then in 2009, the first Hispanic woman nominated to the court, Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorWill Senate apply the Ginsburg or the Barrett Rule to Judge Jackson? Ketanji Brown Jackson’s judicial superpower: An appreciation of the human consequences of court rulings Graham signals he’s a likely ‘no’ on Biden SCOTUS pick MORE, faced claims that she was a racist because she once said a “wise Latina” might make better decisions than a white man.

In fact, she accurately pointed out the complete absence of women of color in the deliberations of a court that has existed since 1789.

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” Sotomayor said.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ scraps Trump-era China Initiative for broader national security program Trump meets with Alabama GOP Senate candidate Katie Boyd Britt White House unveils team for SCOTUS pick MORE (R-Ala.) told Sotomayor that any suggestion that a judge’s background might impact his or her decisions was “against the American ideal and oath that a judge takes to be fair to every party.”

He never worried about the limited experiences of white men affecting their decisions. Only four people who were not white men had served on the court before Sotomayor. Still, she saw 31 senators vote against her confirmation.

But she got support from Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLoser.com redirects to Putin’s Wikipedia page Russia warns anyone transporting weapons to Ukraine is a legitimate military target Cassidy says transfer of Polish jets to Ukraine ‘within the rules of the game’ MORE (R-S.C.).

Graham also voted to confirm the current nominee, Jackson, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year. But now he rails against her as a member of the “radical left.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell on Republicans supporting Putin: ‘There’s some lonely voices out there’ McConnell says he hasn’t made a final decision on confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson Senate GOP eyes Hunter Biden, Fauci probes after midterms  MORE (R-Ky.) similarly says she is a favorite of the “soft-on-crime brigade” because of her work as a public defender. 

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That’s curious.

Jackson has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Police Chiefs. Her uncle served as the Chief of Police for Miami.

All this is a replay of the weak-on-crime attack on Marshall.

The white Republicans questioning Jackson this week have already planted doubt about her merit and intellect.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyDurbin: Hawley criticism of Jackson ‘inaccurate and unfair’ Sasse: ‘There are things in Judge Jackson’s record that are troubling’ Criminal justice reformers rally for first public defender on Supreme Court MORE (R-Mo.) said Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman was evidence of a “race-obsessed” view on the left.

But it is hard to say Jackson lacks the qualifications or the intellect to join the high court. She went to Harvard Law, served as a Supreme Court law clerk, a federal public defense lawyer and on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

And she has been confirmed by the Senate three times, earning bipartisan votes for the Sentencing Commission post and for two judgeships in lower courts.

As a matter of merit, she deserves a 100-0 confirmation.

Merit was not the issue when McConnell packed the court with right-wingers.

He stole a Supreme Court seat from then-President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaRelearning our lesson on dealing with extortionists   How Biden and Democrats can stack up legislative wins before November Data points to how GOP has built a lasting edge in state governments MORE by refusing to vote on another well-qualified nominee, current Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandGOP senators seek probe of ‘egregious’ conditions at NJ nursing home The post-Trump era has begun Biden signs reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act MORE.

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Then Republicans glossed over serious questions about Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcConnell says he hasn’t made a final decision on confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson Sasse: ‘There are things in Judge Jackson’s record that are troubling’ Will Senate apply the Ginsburg or the Barrett Rule to Judge Jackson? MORE’s qualifications, including his record of overt partisanship.

Later, they fast tracked Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettWill Senate apply the Ginsburg or the Barrett Rule to Judge Jackson? Graham goes quiet on Biden’s Supreme Court pick GOP White House hopefuls get Supreme Court spotlight MORE to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgMcConnell says he hasn’t made a final decision on confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Senate apply the Ginsburg or the Barrett Rule to Judge Jackson? Senators should ask Biden’s SCOTUS nominee about judicial code of conduct MORE’s seat.

It was incredible hypocrisy. They denied Garland a vote by claiming his nomination came too close to a presidential election. But Garland was nominated eight months before the 2016 election. Barrett was nominated less than six weeks before the 2020 contest.

Given that track record, I expect the GOP and their allies in the right-media echo chamber to use every wink and nod of racist attacks to deny Jackson a court seat.

But maybe I’m wrong.

Either way, my best advice for Jackson is to follow former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden to warn Xi against arming Russia The Memo: COVID-19 risks quietly rise First ladies help fight the good fight during war MORE’s legal advice — when they go low, go high — and demonstrate why she will be a fine jurist.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.



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