The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion This isn’t the U.S. Senate. It’s more like day care.

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey O. Graham during Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)
5 min

The usual circus we’ve come to expect from Supreme Court confirmation hearings devolved this week into something less grown-up and more, shall we say, tykey. (Usage: “Is the little tyke up to his tricks again?”)

Watching the performances of Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, I was swept back to my childhood memories of the “Merry Moppets” play school and the Big Babies, as we referred to our toddler colleagues who couldn’t control themselves.

To say that Cruz and Graham have become caricatures of themselves would be to minimize their accomplishments at self-parody.

Cruz, who once distinguished himself in the Senate by reading Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” aloud during a 21-hour-19-minute sort-of-filibuster, questioned Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s opinion about several children’s books that he thoughtfully brought to the hearing.

Remember now, the committee is supposed to determine whether a nominee to the high court is qualified to serve, usually based on experience and judicial temperament, though there are no constitutional requirements. Personally, I’d like to add a spot-check of reading materials on the night tables of nominees and Judiciary Committee members.

Ruth Marcus: Forget advise and consent. This is smear and degrade.

We know what would be found on Cruz’s bedside: “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi, “The End of Policing” by Alex Vitale (currently No. 1 on Amazon, thanks to Cruz), and “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction” by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, to name a few of the tomes keeping Cruz awake at night.

One could hardly transition to another paragraph without pausing briefly to consider the pillow talk at Casa de Cruz:

Honey, would you listen to this?! It says babies aren’t born racist but are taught to be racist. And parents are supposed to teach their children to be anti-racist. That’s outrageous! Honey? Honey, are you awake?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) presented several books that he claimed were taught at Georgetown Day School when he questioned Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on March 22. (Video: The Washington Post)

These books, among others, present a critical conundrum for Jackson’s confirmation, according to Cruz’s graphically illustrated interrogation. This is because they’re available (and sometimes recommended) at Georgetown Day School, a private school in D.C., where Jackson serves on the board of trustees.


So, Cruz thinks that because certain books are accessible to students at an elite, private school, this judge — coincidentally the first African American woman up for a seat at the big bench — can’t be trusted to rule on cases that come before the court? At least we might trust that Jackson, unlike Cruz, would read the facts of the case in their proper context. Cruz apparently hasn’t read the books he finds so repugnant because the excerpts he quoted were demonstrably taken out of context.

If nothing else, Cruz’s performance has reaffirmed why he’s the least popular person on Capitol Hill and why former House speaker John A. Boehner memorably uttered an instruction to his former antagonist while recording the audiobook of his recent memoir, “On the House”: “Ted Cruz, go f--- yourself.”

Graham, who long ago mastered the art of getting attention by saying outrageous things and — once upon a time — hilariously true things, is no one’s audience. Whatever happened to the old Lindsey Graham on his way to flip-flopping infamy no longer matters. Today, he’s the tantrum-throwing tyke who refuses to take off his Batman cape and stomps out of the room when things don’t go his way.

Yes, he did. On the second day of the hearings after grilling Jackson on her faith — “On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion?” — and a fiery exchange with committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) about Guantánamo Bay detainees — Graham raised his voice, grabbed his Coca-Cola bottle and stormed out of the chamber.

In another line of questioning, he referred to the brutal 2018 confirmation hearings of Brett M. Kavanaugh and asked Jackson how she would respond if a letter concerning her past were produced on the last day of her hearing.

“How would you feel if we did that to you?” he asked.

When Durbin reminded Graham that Jackson wasn’t involved in the Kavanaugh proceedings, he said, “I’m asking her what she feels about what y’all did!”

And then, his lower lip began trembling, and he burst into tears, crying, Leave Brett alone!

(Okay, that never happened. But at this point, who would have been surprised if he went full diva?)

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) opened his questioning of Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on March 22 by asking about her religious faith. (Video: The Washington Post)

You know by now who did not resort to theatrics — that would be Judge Jackson. But I suspect she’d have relished calmly collecting her notes and sauntering, not stomping, toward the exit to escape the tyranny of such childishness.

Instead, she remained calm and dignified throughout. If only her poise and temperament could be bottled in a vial (along with Cruz’s tears). For now, we might have to settle for anger management therapy for Graham and remedial reading courses for Cruz, who, in another fantastic foray, asked Jackson whether it would be okay with her if he decided that, instead of being Hispanic, he could be Asian.

Sure, Ted. Whatever you say.