WASHINGTON — A snarling pack of white male Republicans ripping apart a poised, brainy Black woman at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, using sordid innuendoes and baseless claims about race and porn to smear her as her pained family sat behind her.
It has been 31 years since I watched this scene, disgusted, when Anita Hill was questioned during confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas. Now Ketanji Brown Jackson has been cast into the same medieval torture chamber on Capitol Hill, with Democrats once more struggling to shield their witness from being mauled.
This time, the male Torquemadas were joined by a female inquisitor, Marsha Blackburn. The Tennessee Republican is all magnolia Southern charm — until she spits venom.
“Can you provide a definition for the word woman?” Blackburn asked Judge Jackson, invoking the controversy over a transgender swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania. Blackburn’s question inspired Tucker Carlson to later hold up a graphic of a woman’s reproductive system, along with a silhouette of a woman so shapely that Roger Ailes would have approved.
What is a woman? Jackson shows that a woman is someone who stays cool in the face of calumny and is headed for the Supreme Court. And that will be justice for Justice Jackson.
A better question might be: What is a senator?
Is it a dolt who cares more about boosting unrealistic presidential ambitions with distorted information than making the Senate, for once, look like a dignified body?
Feral Republicans took an exemplary record and twisted it to make Jackson look like an enabler of pedophiles. Tom Cotton all but accused her of lying, just as Arlen Specter accused Hill of perjury — based on nothing.
Less than a year ago, Lindsey Graham voted to confirm Jackson for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, calling her “qualified.” Now he berates her with odd questions and seems to blame her for Brett Kavanaugh’s grilling. If only John McCain could appear to him like Hamlet’s father’s ghost and slap him into shape.
Perhaps Joe Biden sees his selection of Jackson as a sort of expiation for his dismal performance as committee chair for the Hill-Thomas hearings. Biden allowed the Republicans to run wild, and then he shut down the hearings before Hill’s backup witnesses testified. He cleared the path for Clarence Thomas, a liar and sexual harasser, to ascend to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court and impose his far-right views on the country.
As Jill Abramson wrote in the Times Opinion section, the court’s 6-3 majority now “seems to be reshaping itself in Justice Thomas’ image.”
In a speech at Notre Dame last year, Thomas lamented, “We have lost the capacity, even I think as leaders, to not allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcomes we like.”
And yet manipulating institutions is exactly what his wife, Ginni, tried to do. As Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in a Washington Post-CBS News bombshell, the conservative activist worked frantically to overturn the results of the 2020 election, calling it an “obvious fraud,” as Donald Trump and his allies were vowing to go to her husband’s court to nullify Biden’s win.
Ginni Thomas has had a chip on her shoulder since the Hill-Thomas hearings — she shamelessly left Hill a voice message in 2010 asking for an apology — and no doubt she thought if she could help claw back the presidency from Biden, that would be sweet revenge.
In a cascade of text messages, she urged Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to get Trump back into the Oval. “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!” she pleaded, adding, “The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.” Ginni — who attended the Jan. 6 rally before the raid on the Capitol started — urged Meadows to “Release the Kraken.”
The Republicans badgering Jackson aren’t asking a single question about the explosive revelations regarding Ginni Thomas — and nor are the rest of their party. Did the justice know what his wife was doing? Was he OK with it? Does he accept that he must recuse himself from cases dealing with Jan. 6 and the election?
Apparently not. “Justice Thomas has already participated in two cases related to the 2020 election and its aftermath, despite his wife’s direct involvement in the so-called Stop the Steal efforts,” Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker.
When the court rejected Trump’s request to prevent the Jan. 6 committee from getting his records relating to the attempt to overturn the election results, Thomas was the sole dissenter. Do the records implicate Ginni?
Stephen Gillers, a judicial ethicist, told Mayer that it was Clarence Thomas’ duty to know about Ginni’s crusade: “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is not an acceptable strategy for the Thomases’ marriage.”
Thomas should never have been on the court. Now that we know his wife was plotting the overthrow of the government, he should get off or be thrown off. You can’t administer justice when your spouse is running around strategizing for a coup.