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Opinion Cory Booker demolishes GOP attempts to smear Ketanji Brown Jackson

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on April 4. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg News)
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Sen. Cory Booker had heard enough. After listening to a parade of his Republican colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee repeat the same already-debunked attacks on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Monday, the New Jersey Democrat unleashed a blistering critique of the rationalizations to vote against her.

Booker compared Jackson’s confirmation hearings to the “Festivus” holiday from the sitcom “Seinfeld.” “There’s been a lot of airing of grievances,” Booker noted, including a bunch of GOP whining about the treatment of current justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett during their confirmation hearings that had nothing to do with Jackson. Clearly, Republicans see these hearings as political theater for their base, not a good-faith effort to examine the judge’s record and qualifications. The media should at least have the decency to tell news consumers that their reasons for opposing her were lies.

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And really, what could Republicans say about Jackson’s sterling qualifications? As Booker put it, “How qualified do you have to be?” He noted that many Black women are used to being interrogated and talked down to by men less qualified than them. That was a nice way of saying that Republicans weren’t fit to polish Jackson’s pumps. Hence, they had to dive into the QAnon sewer to sully her.

Booker was not going to let Republicans escape with their smears that Jackson was “soft" on crime and child pornography. He explained that contrary to claims that Jackson had a record of handing down lenient sentences for child pornography defendants, “The norm in many states is 70 to 80 percent of judges going [below sentencing guidelines].” He added a pointed question for his colleagues attempting to paint Jackson as the devil incarnate: "Why didn’t you vote against every one of those Republican judges that was not following the guidelines, as most don’t?” The obvious answer: In Jackson’s case, they were trying to frighten their MAGA cult with blatant character assassination.

Similarly, the Republican effort to characterize Jackson as anti-police was groundless not only because of her record, but also because of the numerous police groups who endorsed her and her own family’s involvement in law enforcement. Booker chastised Republicans for “disrespectful” rhetoric that was “so far out of the lines of what independent groups and law enforcement and visit victim advocates that support this candidate would say.”

That goes to the heart of the matter: Democrats questioned every Republican-appointed justices without resorting to yelling (as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina did); in fact, Kavanaugh was the one doing the yelling during his hearing. And Democrats did not query Republican nominees about their views on theories of race or about how other justices’ hearings were handled. When Democrats did not believe some of Kavanaugh’s testimony, they did not call him a liar. These courtesies were not extended to Jackson.

Booker seemed genuinely troubled on Monday. “I really do worry about where we are spiraling toward,” he said. “I heard things that were just ridiculous and painful and hurtful.” But Booker doesn’t have to wonder where we are headed; we are already there. This is a political world in which truth matters for only one party. For the other party, decency is scorned as weakness, so its members feel emboldened to browbeat the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court.

Booker ended on a high note, quoting a Maya Angelou poem: “You may try to write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies … but still, like dust, I rise.” He beckoned Jackson to rise “to the highest court in the land,” after which her “ancestors will rejoice.” It will be a joy to see her on the court, but true celebration should wait for when the next Democrat-appointed nominee is treated with decency and respect.