A relentless grilling from GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee was anticipated by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and she withstood it exuding a relative calm, complete poise, and keeping to her plan not to voice any personal opinion or answer hypotheticals.
She was as unshakable as Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz were determined in Tuesday’s round of questioning President Biden’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat occupied by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. This is the fourth time Judge Jackson has faced the judiciary committee, each time holding her own and getting the confirmations. This time it’s for higher stakes as she seeks to become the first African American woman on SCOTUS.
Graham devoted much of his time on her as a public defender, especially her clients in custody at Guantanamo Bay accused of being terrorists and participating in the 9/11. Graham in his badgering was implying that she was sympathetic to the “criminals” as he called them. But she was adamant, explaining that she didn’t choose to represent them and was assigned the case as a federal public defender from 2005 to 2007. Her principal responsibility at that time was writing and research and she never set foot on the Bay. “Federal public defenders do not get to pick their clients. It’s a ‘core constitutional value’ that even those accused of the most heinous crimes get to be represented by a lawyer,” she said.
Unable to bend her to his will, Graham took another approach, invoking the name of Dr. Leonard Jeffries, who was often in the headlines for his alleged anti-Semitic comments and lectures. Once more Graham’s intentions were to blemish her record, make her guilty by association. Jeffries, at one time head of the Black Studies Program at City College, and the uncle of House Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries, was invited to speak at Harvard by Black
Students Association, of which Judge Jackson was a member. She claimed that she didn’t attend the lecture.
All of the Jeffries controversy notwithstanding, the Anti-Defamation League, which took exception to Jeffries’ statements in the past, endorsed Judge Jackson’s nomination, citing that it will “bring an important new perspective to the work of the court.”
Sen. Cruz would probably not agree with that and during his quizzing of her leaped on the troubling issue of critical race theory. He began by asking her definition of the theory that essentially posits the centrality of white privilege in
American society and aligns with white supremacy. Jackson said it was “an academic theory that is about the ways in which race interacts with various institutions, it doesn’t come up in my work as a judge.
“It’s never something that I’ve studied or relied on and it wouldn’t be something I would rely on if I were on the Supreme Court,” she added. Cruz continued to press the issue, and Jackson, in response to his question if the U.S. was inherently a racist society, said that she didn’t believe that American society was irredeemably racist.
Cruz invoked another African American, the scholar and author Ibram X. Kendi, hoisting his book “Antiracist Baby” in the air and declaring it was used at Georgetown Day School in D.C. where Jackson is a board member. “Do you agree with this book?” he asked.
“Senator, I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist or that they are not valued, or though they are less than or that they are victims or oppressors,” she said. “I don’t believe in any of that.”
Round three on Wednesday, and possibly more battering.