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The best moment of Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearing had nothing to do with politics
Also: Even Fox Business is getting tired of Trump.
The confirmation hearings for Trump’s last two nominations to the Supreme Court were huge media spectacles that, for different reasons, symbolized the shocking decay of American institutions under his administration. They got wall-to-wall coverage and contained meme-worthy moments like “I like beer.” Cable news networks couldn’t get enough.
Blessedly, so far, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing has not been that.
Jackson is eminently qualified, has already been confirmed to other positions by the Senate three times, and would be the first Black woman on SCOTUS. She’s widely respected and won’t shift the ideological balance (or imbalance) of the court, since she replaces a generally liberal justice, Stephen Breyer. There’s no hint of scandal in her background. Her confirmation should be as close to a slam dunk as there is in these ideologically polarized times.
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Still, mindful of the lurid spectacles that were the Kavanaugh and Barrett hearings, I was a bit surprised when CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all cut away from live coverage of the first day of Judge Jackson’s shortly after it began. There’s obviously a lot of other important news right now, and many of the speeches from Senate Judiciary members were far from scintillating (more on that later). But treating the hearing as business as usual encouraged viewers to move on with their days before the best moment came, right at the end.
The last speaker of the day was Judge Jackson herself. Her family story is the stuff of the American dream — she talked about how her parents, who were at the hearing, gave her an African name to express pride in their heritage, and explained how her younger brother enlisted in the Army following September 11 and was deployed twice to the Middle East — but to me, the most moving moment came when she introduced her husband, who cried tears of pride as one of their two daughters looked on, beaming.
Speaking as the father of a young daughter, it was a quintessentially feel-good moment and an inspiring one too. It’s one of the reasons Democrats are excited about Judge Jackson’s addition to SCOTUS.
Republicans, meanwhile, did their best to rain on this parade, occasionally shamefully.
Republicans don’t have much to work with but they’re doing their best
Senators didn’t get to ask questions — that part of the hearing starts Tuesday — but if the speeches Republicans gave Monday are any indication, they’ll spend more of their questioning time crafting soundbites for Hannity than doing their jobs.
Josh Hawley used his time to sound a dogwhistle for QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracists by suggesting Jackson had been soft on child porn offenders — an allegation even the conservative National Review characterized as “meritless to the point of demagoguery.”
Marsha Blackburn was arguably even worse, baselessly suggesting that Jackson might have a “personal hidden agenda” to enshrine critical race theory in US law. Blackburn also criticized Jackson her for serving on the board of a school that “pushes an anti-racist education program for white families.” (The horror!)
And predictably, there was lots of complaining about Kavanuagh’s confirmation hearing, with Lindsey Graham claiming Kavanaugh had been made a pariah on the order of Bill Cosby, and Ted Cruz downplaying the assault allegation against Kavanaugh as merely the now-justice’s “teenage dating habits.”
I crunched the numbers as I watched, and the average age of the first five senators who spoke was 80. Considering that Judge Jackson’s speech happened nearly five hours after the hearing began, you can begin to understand why the cable networks thought it was a good idea to cut away.
But there were more good moments, too. Cory Booker said Jackson told him that her daughter Leilia had written a letter to then-President Obama urging him to nominate her mother to SCOTUS.
“Generations of little young girls and generations of little young boys, no matter who their parents are, will have the audacity to write the president of the United States … I want to tell your daughter right now, that that dream of hers is so close to being a reality,” Booker said.
In light of how relatively smoothly Monday went, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Leila’s dream will in fact become a reality. We just have a lot Hannity soundbites to get through between now and then.
Even Fox Business seems tired of Trump
Shortly after Jackson’s hearing began, Donald Trump joined Fox Business host Stuart Varney for an interview that was such a mess even Varney seemed tired of the former guy by the time it ended.
Varney pressed Trump to explain how specifically his handling of Putin’s war on Ukraine would be different from and superior to Biden’s. Trump at first couldn’t come up with anything, but eventually indicated that he would engage in nuclear brinksmanship.
“You should say [to Putin], if you mentioned that word [nuclear] one more time, we’re gonna send [nuclear submarines and planes] and we’ll be coasting back and forth up and down your coast,” he said.
Later, Varney asked Trump if he believes the climate is changing because of human activity — a timely question considering temperatures have spiked to 70 degrees above normal in Antarctica. Trump responded by indicating he’s still hopelessly confused about the difference between weather and climate.
Varney wrapped things up by getting noticeably perturbed as Trump tried to make the case that the next two elections should be all about the big lie.
So while Jackson’s confirmation hearing provided some hope for the future, the thought that this guy has a good shot at returning to the White House in 2025 was sobering. Such is the dichotomy of America in 2022.
Kid Rock was on Tucker Carlson’s show last night and — well, I’ll just let this clip speak for itself.
Secretary of State Kid Rock might sound ludicrous, but hey, Trump at one point had a toilet salesman serving as his acting attorney general. All I’m saying is it can’t be ruled out.
That’s it for today!
I’ll be back with more tomorrow.