Wise Words From A … Republican?

It’s easy to become immune to the rantings and ramblings of one political party complaining about the words and actions of another.  Liberals, myself included, opined last week during the senate confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the ludicrous questions that were asked by senators on the right side of the aisle, and insinuations snidely made by the likes of Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and others.  The selection of a Supreme Court justice should not hinge on petty partisan politics nor on personal grudges, racism, or other forms of bigotry.  So, when a man of intellect and a member of the Republican Party critiques the behaviour of those in his party, perhaps it’s time for the party members to sit up and take note.

Michael Gerson is a well-respected journalist and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush … he is also a staunch conservative.  I don’t often agree with Gerson’s views, but I respect him for putting thought into his opinions rather than simply spouting from emotion in his column for The Washington Post.  One of his OpEd pieces last week caught my eye and I thought I would share it with you today, for his thoughts mirror my own — that the Republican Party is in need of a major overhaul …

The Jackson confirmation hearings show a Republican Party in decay

By Michael Gerson


March 24, 2022 at 1:51 p.m. EDT

If the Senate’s current exercise of Supreme Court advice and consent needed a title, it might be “The puzzlement of Judge Jackson.”

When Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has fielded a question about the influence of critical race theory on children or has been asked, for the record, to define a woman, she has often reacted with a puzzled pause before offering a measured response. What must she be thinking? Should she advocate for sleeping infants rather than woke ones (a populist cause if ever there was one)? How current are Republican senators on their sex ed? Should she start with the birds and the bees?

Jackson’s performance during her confirmation hearing this week has been impressive for its restraint and general grace. But the deliberations of the Senate Judiciary Committee might be remembered for her understandable confusion about topics that make complete sense only among movement conservatives. On the evidence of Jackson’s most tenacious questioners, this is now what it takes to win prominence in the modern GOP: a quiver full of culture-war attacks and a stout willingness to look foolish in public.

It is sad and sobering to have seen the decline of the Supreme Court nomination process firsthand. I worked in the Senate in the 1980s and 1990s. When I wrote the floor statement of my conservative Republican boss, Sen. Dan Coats, supporting Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nomination, we were applying an older tradition of confirmation that looked mainly at disqualifications. Did the nominee lack integrity, impartiality or a judicial temperament? Had he or she violated any ethical or professional standards? The power of appointing Supreme Court justices was generally thought to reside in the executive branch. The president was given wide latitude. The Senate acted as a filter of unfitness.

In the post-Robert Bork era — after a lot of mutual recrimination and a period of adjustment and (sometimes) inconsistency — this undoubtedly changed. The focus of conservatives turned to judicial philosophy, particularly the constraints of originalism and textualism. This was the ascent of ideology, in which Republicans grew very comfortable criticizing judicial overreach. Everyone knew the real game was Roe v. Wade. But the standard of public judgment was provided by the Federalist Society. (Rather slyly, Jackson defused this debate during her hearing. “I am focusing on original public meaning because I’m constrained to interpret the text,” she said. This “adherence to the text is a constraint on my authority.”)

What we have seen among Republican senators this time around — with a few notable exceptions — is a departure from what preceded it. And it says far more about the state of the GOP than it does about the views of the nominee.

Jackson’s main Republican questioners are not focused on qualifications, temperament or even judicial theory. Their clear objective has been to trip up the nominee by asking about the latest Republican culture-war debates. It is surprising to me how little Republicans have emphasized judicial theory. For now, the culture war is all.

This is not just change; it is decay. Republicans have gone from arguing about the intent of the Founders to reproducing the night’s lineup of questions from Tucker Carlson.

This has, no doubt, been favorable to the judge’s confirmation. In the comparison of intellectual seriousness, Jackson is the clear winner. She is a responsible judge of moderate temperament, as well as an admirable human being, who will often do liberal things on the high court. What else could Republicans expect in this circumstance?

The GOP performance is particularly disturbing because it is not the direct result of incitement by Donald Trump. The former president does not lack for provocation. As a district court judge, Jackson joined in decisions that limited executive privilege. “Stated simply,” she wrote in November of 2019, “the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings. … This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

No one has issued a more direct assault on the philosophic basis of Trumpism — that one former president should effectively be king. But Trump has said next to nothing about the Jackson nomination. Instead, he talks endlessly about the illegitimacy of the 2020 election. So the approach among the senators is moving on its own power and momentum within the Republican Party.

The MAGA world now has animating manias beyond Trump’s immediate priorities. The circus in the Senate is how ambitious elected Republicans understand the avenue to influence — with or without Trump’s direction. And they are probably reading the base of the GOP correctly. The problem, as usual, is deeper and greater than Trump. The shallowness and cynicism of the nomination process may well be previewing our political future.

Confirmation Hearing Or Political Circus?

Who could have seen it coming, eh?  Yesterday was day #2 of the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.  She answered questions for the better part of twelve hours … heck, five minutes of talking does me in.  I have no doubt that Ms. Jackson wished, on more than one occasion, that she could fire back at some of the questions she was asked, but to her credit, she proceeded with dignity and respect, only letting out the occasional sigh to indicate a bit of frustration.

Barring some dramatic revelation that I cannot foresee, I strongly believe that Ms. Jackson will, indeed, become the next Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.  I even think a few of the more … shall we say ‘honest’ Republicans … will vote to confirm her … perhaps Senator Collins of Maine, Senator Murkowski of Alaska, and Senator Romney of Utah.  Others are likely to vote ‘Nay’ for a number of stated reasons, but the main reason being that Judge Jackson has two strikes against her:  she is Black, and she is a woman.  Period.

I did not watch the 12-hour confirmation hearing … I really haven’t got either the time or the patience … but I have read numerous accounts of the questions and answers from the day.  The first one to come to my attention was, unsurprisingly, from Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.  Among Blackburn’s false or distorted accusations, she …

  • linked Jackson to the controversy over transgender athletes and women’s sports
  • suggested Jackson would trample parental rights
  • accused Jackson of wanting to put dangerous criminals on the street
  • accused Jackson of saying every judge has a hidden agenda
  • said Jackson praised the 1619 Project
  • said Jackson thinks judges must use ‘critical race theory’ when sentencing criminals

Blackburn went so far as to suggest to Jackson, a Black woman, that white privilege doesn’t exist in America, a country where of the 114 justices to have been confirmed to sit on the highest court in the land, only two have been Black.  She also asked Judge Jackson to “define the word ‘woman’”.  When Jackson told her she couldn’t, at least “Not in this context. I’m not a biologist,” Blackburn responded with acidity … “The meaning of the word woman is so unclear and controversial that you can’t give me a definition?”  Sigh.  Seriously, is this what we’re paying our lawmakers to do?

And then there was good ol’ Ted Cruz, never one to mince words, or even to attempt to make his words sensible. Noting that the judge is a board member of her kids’ private school Georgetown Day, the senator began pulling out books, including Antiracist Baby, in order to claim the school is definitely teaching CRT. “There are portions of this book that I find really quite remarkable. One portion of the book says babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist,” Cruz bellowed, displaying an enlarged page from the book. “Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?”  Her response …

“I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist or though they are not valued or though they are less-than. That they are victims. That they are oppressors.”

 She also noted that her understanding was that “critical race theory is an academic theory is taught in law schools.”

I’m not sure what got into Lindsey Graham … I seriously believe that man has some mental issues!  In the middle of his questioning Judge Jackson, he asked … “What faith are you, by the way?”  Say WHAT???  Since when is religion a qualifier for a seat on the bench???

Then Lindsey began berating Judge Jackson for defending detainees at Guantanamo Bay back in her days as a public defender.  He went on a verbal diatribe, spouting …

“We’re at war, we’re not fighting crime! This is not some passage of time event. As long as they’re dangerous, I hope they all die in jail if they’re going to go back to kill Americans. It won’t bother me one bit if 39 of them die in prison. That’s a better outcome than letting them go and if it cost $500 million to keep them in jail, keep them in jail because they’ll go back to the fight. Look at the freaking Afghan government made up of former detainees at Gitmo. This whole thing by the left about this war ain’t working!”

And then he stormed out of the hearings without waiting for a response.

John Cornyn, who I typically think of as one of the less toxic Republicans in the Senate, questioned Judge Jackson about her stance on LGBTQ rights, claiming that granting equal rights to LGBTQ people conflicts with the religious beliefs of some people. To which Jackson responded, “Well, senator, that is the nature of a right. That when there is a right, it means that there are limitations on regulation, even if people are regulating pursuant to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

From everything I’ve read and the video clips I have seen, it appears that Judge Jackson handled herself well through the entire ordeal … far better than I would have in similar circumstances!  It’s just too damn bad that the confirmation of a Justice who will serve on the highest court in the nation for life has been turned into a political circus in recent years.  The Supreme Court are the people who will make the decisions we have to live by.  They will decide if women have the right to control their own bodies, whether LGBTQ people should have certain unalienable rights, whether a single religion will force us all into a small, airless box, and whether we have the right to vote.  And yet … the Republicans in Congress seem to care more about the colour of a potential justice’s skin and about her gender.

Note to readers:  This just in from the New York Times“Conservatives are pressuring Senator Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat, to oppose Judge Ketanji Brwn Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.”  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

YO SENATORS!!! Remember Those Oaths???

Today my thoughts (and snarky side) turn to two of President Biden’s nominees … one who was likely doomed from the start, and another who will likely succeed, although not before being run through the grist mill.

Sarah Bloom Raskin

Once again, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has put his own self-interests above the interests of the nation.  This time, he has said that he will not vote to confirm President Biden’s nominee for the Federal Reserve vice chair of supervision, Sarah Bloom Raskin.  Why?  In a nutshell, because she “has written in the past in support of the Fed increasing its attention to financial risks from climate change.”  Manchin, you see, has vested interests in the production of coal, one of the worst offenders to our environment.  He has holdings valued at between $1 million and $5 million in Enersystems, Inc., the coal brokerage business he founded.

Thus ends Ms. Raskin’s nomination for the position, as Republicans have made it clear that as a block they intend to oppose the nomination.  It’s not about what’s best for the country, y’know, but about “loyalty” to the ‘Party’.  In fact, the Republican senators successfully blocked her nomination from advancing to the Senate floor for discussion and a vote.  Yesterday, after Manchin’s self-important, bloated announcement that he would not vote in support of her, Ms. Raskin sent a letter to the White House asking to withdraw her name from consideration.  President Biden then announced that he would withdraw her name.

When a member of Congress puts his own financial self-interest ahead of the best interests of not only the nation, but the entire world, that person has long since forgotten that Oath of Office he took and should be expelled from Congress.  But, of course, if we expelled every member of Congress who has blatantly shredded his or her Oath of Office, we would have very few legislators left in the Capitol.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

And then there’s Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement.  Jackson is well-qualified and well-respected, even by those in the Republican corner, but you’d never know it to hear them.  Mitch McConnell complains because of her history as a public defender, saying “the soft-on-crime brigade is squarely in Judge Jackson’s corner.” 

One line of attack by Republicans appears to be that Jackson tried too hard when representing terrorism suspects. The Republican National Committee said Jackson’s “advocacy for these terrorists was ‘zealous,’ going beyond just giving them a competent defense.”  Um … ‘scuse me but … isn’t that what a public defender is supposed to do?  According to D.C. Bar’s rule of professional conduct, “a lawyer shall represent a client zealously and diligently within the bounds of the law.” It seems to me that Judge Jackson did precisely what she was supposed to do.

Then of course there was that time that she wrote in a ruling against Donald Trump, “Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.” Although the Republicans cannot afford to admit it, this simple and truthful statement might actually be the second biggest reason the Republicans will give Jackson a hard time during the confirmation process, for they are irrevocably tied to the coattails of the former guy.  The first reason, you ask?  Her gender and the colour of her skin, of course.  Did you really even need to ask?

I think that despite the hassle Judge Jackson will no doubt endure from Republicans during the confirmation hearings, she will be confirmed, for her credentials are excellent.  That is, of course, unless she speaks about clean energy and disengaging from fossil fuels, in which case Senator Manchin might refuse to vote for her!

Loads of This, That, and T’Other

Elections, elections, elections … all across the U.S., elections are somewhere near the front of our minds.  Mid-terms, special elections, voices of gloom and doom, conspiracy theories … it’s enough to keep us awake nights!  Two candidates flew across my radar this week that deserve huge thumbs DOWN!  And, I have a few other snippets, but since what you are about to read is not in the least bit cheering, I thought to start with this heartwarming video about a pup named Rambo who was rescued by Ukrainian soldiers and became a part of their unit …

And now on to the less awwwww-inspiring stuff …

Lock her up!!!

Okay, so … it is the Republicans who have been screaming about fraud in the 2020 election, even though it has been the most audited election in our history with no evidence of fraud to be found … right?  So, imagine my surprise 😲 when I read this …

Tina Peters, a county clerk running as a Republican for secretary of state of Colorado, was indicted Tuesday evening on 10 criminal counts related to allegations that she tampered with election equipment after the 2020 election.

A grand jury indicted Ms. Peters on both felony and misdemeanor charges, including of attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, identity theft, first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty and failing to comply with the secretary of state.

WHOA!!!  Now … tell me again where the ‘voter fraud’ was???  Way to go, Colorado!  First you send gun-totin’ Lauren Boebert to Congress where she has acted like a petulant child for 14 months now, and then you try to scam us with a woman, a lying cheater, who if elected as your secretary of state, would have total control over the ballots in the next election in your state.  WTF???

My only hope is that this Peters woman is wearing an orange jumpsuit by November so she cannot possibly win her election bid.  One might think that these indictments would turn the voting public against her, but don’t bank on it … after all, some 40% of this nation still think the former guy is fantastic, even though he is a criminal.  Has the nation lost its collective marbles?

And in Michigan …

Candidate in a special May election for a Michigan house seat, Robert Regan, is just what this country doesn’t need!  Regan is a supporter of QAnon, and as such has posted videos calling for killing President Biden, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and renowned virologist Dr. Anthony Fauci.  He also claims that Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman “staged” his famous face down with insurrectionists inside the Capitol on January 6th of last year, and also that 9/11 was naught but a hoax.  Now, all this is b.s. garbage and typically I wouldn’t even waste my time writing about the likes of Regan, but I am writing about him because … he is currently polling as the top candidate for the seat in the Michigan legislature!  Yep, you read that right …

The Michigan Republican Party has endorsed his candidacy and he has appeared on Fox “News” several times and is, as of yesterday, the favourite based on Michigan polls.  Oh … and his latest words that sent a chill through my spine and probably every other parent’s …

“I tell my daughters, ‘Well, if rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it.’”

And yet, he is predicted to win in Michigan.  Can the good people of Michigan really have their heads that far up their arses that they would allow this ‘man’ anywhere near the statehouse?

And just a few really short snippets …

  • Aaron Blake of the Washington Post reported last week that after Trump won the 2016 election and we learned that Russia had interfered to help him, Republicans’ approval of Putin jumped from about 14% to 37%. Then, in the Des Moines Register, columnist Rekha Basu explained how the American right then swung behind Putin because they saw him as a moral crusader, defending religion and “traditional values,” from modern secularism and “decadence,” using a strong hand to silence those who would, for example, defend LGBTQ rights.
  • Douglas Macgregor, whom Trump nominated for ambassador to Germany and then appointed as senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, told a Fox News Channel host that Russian forces have been “too gentle” and “I don’t see anything heroic” about Zelenskyy.
  • Senator John Cornyn of Texas: “What role does race play, Judge Jackson, in the kind of judge that you have been and the kind of judge that you will be?”
  • Former National Security Advisor John Bolton said that Trump “barely knew where Ukraine was” and repeatedly complained about Russian sanctions. Bolton said Trump should have sanctioned the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany, rather than letting it proceed, and concluded: “It’s just not accurate to say that Trump’s behavior somehow deterred the Russians.”

Thoughts On Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Nomination

It was just over a week ago that President Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court being vacated by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.  I fully intended to write this post sooner, but the war in Ukraine distracted me and pulled my attention in another direction.  However, I do think it’s important that we take a look at Ms. Brown Jackson prior to her confirmation hearing that is scheduled to begin in just over two weeks on March 21st.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been around for 232 years, and during that time 115 justices have served on the Court.  Care to guess how many have been white males?  Go on … take a wild guess.  Let me give you a hint … only 7 … SEVEN … have been either female or Black, and none have been both female and Black.  It’s about damn time, don’t you think?

left to right: Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, Elena Kagan (not shown is Amy Barrett)

left to right: Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas

However … I would not be applauding the nomination of a Black woman solely based on her gender and ethnicity, but she must also be well-qualified.  Ketanji Brown Jackson is very well-qualified to sit on the highest court in the nation and I support her nomination enthusiastically!

Jackson has a B.A. in Government, and a Juris Doctor, both from Harvard, both with honours.  She began her judicial career clerking for three federal jurists, including a district court judge in Massachusetts, an appellate judge in the 1st Circuit and Breyer himself.  Later she would serve as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C., where she worked on appellate cases, and served as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission for several years.

President Barack Obama nominated Jackson for a district court judgeship in D.C. near the end of his first term as president, and she was confirmed in early 2013. He also interviewed her as a potential nominee after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.  President Biden nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in March 2021 as a replacement for Merrick Garland who became U.S. Attorney General and she has been serving in that position since last summer.

As you can see, her qualifications are equal to any other member of the Supreme Court including Chief Justice John Roberts.  It is widely believed that she will be confirmed by the Senate, but that doesn’t stop some on the right-hand side of the aisle.  Their complaints?  Well, let’s see …

  • Since she served as a public defender, she must be ‘soft on crime’
  • She refuses to commit to opposing the expansion of the Supreme Court
  • She is being promoted by so-called “dark money” groups

At least part of the real reason for the opposition, of course, is that she is a woman, and she is Black.  Let’s call a spade a spade here … we’ve ALL seen the prejudice among many Republicans … it’s nothing new, but rather old and tiresome.  Another bottom-line reason for Republican opposition to Jackson is that during her time on the District Court, she wrote a number of opinions that were not favourable to the whims of Donald Trump.  In one such ruling, she ordered Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn to comply with a legislative subpoena, writing that “Simply put, the primary takeaway from 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.”.  Truer words were never spoken, but needless to say those who have clung to Trump’s coattails will consider that a strike against her.

At the end of the day, I believe that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be confirmed by the Senate in part because the Republican contingent has little to lose.  There are already five conservative judges on the Court – some would say six, counting Chief Justice Roberts, though I consider him to be more non-partisan than, say, Brett Kavanaugh or Amy Barrett.  The confirmation of Jackson would not change the overall balance … or rather, ‘unbalance’ … of the Court, and the senators know this.  Any objections to her confirmation would be for show, to be able to say to their constituents that they ‘tried to keep a Black woman off the Court’.

What I find more disturbing than the stated objections to Ms. Jackson’s nomination is the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has become just another partisan branch of the federal government, which is NOT what was intended when the framers wrote the Constitution.  Impartial justice – is it no longer important to the people of this country?  Are partisan politics, is “winning”, the only thing that matters anymore?