Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing begins Monday at 11 AM ET, but don’t expect much on the first day. The members of the Senate Judiciary Committee—11 Democrats and 11 Republicans—will spend the day listening to themselves talk, with each and every one offering an opening statement. Jackson will also give an opening statement, but she won’t face questions until Tuesday. After two days of questions, Thursday will include testimony from outside witnesses.
But while the meat of the hearing—the questions—doesn’t start until Tuesday, Monday will offer some important signs about how the hearing is going to go. Specifically, the worst of the Republicans on the committee will have the chance to lay down a marker on just how bad they are going to be.
Three Republicans in particular have been jockeying for the title of worst of the worst when it comes to President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees: Sens. Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz. In particular, they have barraged one Black woman after another with particularly hostile questions—hostile beyond the current Republican normal of vicious partisanship—and the signals are that Jackson will face the same treatment.
Last week, Hawley sent a dog whistle to QAnon, claiming that Jackson’s “record endangers children,” part of an accusation that Jackson has coddled pedophiles. Jackson was a federal public defender, in accordance with the basic principles that people are innocent until proven guilty and deserve legal representation to mount a defense.
But several other Republicans on the committee have signaled that they will join this line of attack, along with suggesting that Jackson is pro-terrorist because she represented detainees at Guantánamo Bay on habeas corpus issues (another key constitutional principle). Jackson’s work there contributed to a Supreme Court victory on the right of detainees to challenge their detention.
Republicans are being stretched to some very weak attacks because Jackson’s stellar record, careful legal reasoning, and strong ethics—she has a record of recusing herself at times when other judges might not—don’t leave much room for legitimate critique. Republicans disagree with her on a large number of important issues, to be sure, and most of them would vote against her on that basis. But the tenor of the attacks coming from Hawley, Cotton, and Cruz is very much an attempt at personal character assassination because the sight of a Black woman rising high on her own achievements is a singularly enraging one for those three arrogant little jackwagons (each of whom fancies himself a constitutional law authority while routinely trampling on constitutional principles for partisan advantage) and for large chunks of the Republican base that Hawley, Cotton, and Cruz all hope to win over in a future presidential primary.
Through their predictable and offensive attacks, Jackson will have to keep her cool and offer careful, uncontroversial answers. Any flicker of the self-righteous rage displayed by Justices Brett Kavanaugh or Clarence Thomas in response to credible accusations of sexual assault or sexual harassment will be entirely unacceptable from Jackson as a Black woman nominated by a Democratic president.
That will all come Tuesday and Wednesday, though. Monday, we will mostly hear committee members bloviating, and get a fresh round of warnings on just how bad Hawley, Cotton, and Cruz—along with fellow Republicans like Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Mike Lee—will be.
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