Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has struggled during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings to answer some basic questions about the facts of life.
So much for common sense in American public life.
WHAT SHE SAID
While every Supreme Court nominee these days dodges senators’ queries in the name of judicial independence, Jackson took the practice to another level in at least four exchanges this week.
1. What is a woman?
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., asked Jackson Tuesday to “provide a definition for the word ‘woman.'”
Judge Jackson can’t even define what a woman is. pic.twitter.com/G6OKMYR3Iy
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) March 23, 2022
“I can’t — ” Jackson replied. “Not in this context. I’m not a biologist.”
- Jackson subsequently declined to answer Blackburn’s questions about transgender athletes and progressive gender education.
2. What is a baby?
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., sought Jackson’s opinion Tuesday about whether a fetus is a living human.
.@SenJohnKennedy: "When does life begin, in your opinion?"
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: "I don't know…I have a religious view that I set aside when I am ruling on cases." pic.twitter.com/Yt8CBJELZS
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 23, 2022
“Senator, I don’t know,” Jackson said, laughing at the abortion-themed inquiry.
- “I have personal, religious, and otherwise beliefs that have nothing to do with the law in terms of when life begins.”
3. Are babies racist?
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Jackson Tuesday if she agrees with antiracism scholar Ibram X. Kendi that “babies are racist.”
Sen. Cruz pressed Jackson on critical race theory, pointing to children's books used at a school whose board she sits on.
"I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas. They don't come up in my work as a judge, which I'm respectfully here to address," she said. pic.twitter.com/9J5u5St95x
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 22, 2022
“Senator, I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist or though they are not valued or though they are less than their victims, that they are oppressors,” Jackson replied, not directly answering the question.
- Jackson also denied any knowledge of “critical race theory” being taught in schools, including the elite D.C. private school whose board she serves on.
4. Can an Asian man become black?
In another exchange Wednesday, Cruz asked Jackson if she believes a Hispanic man can identify as black and thereby receive associated legal protections.
Sen. Ted Cruz: ‘I’m a Hispanic man, could I decide I was an Asian man?’
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: ‘Senator, I’m not able to answer your question, you’re asking me about hypotheticals’ pic.twitter.com/F2QuNPahjQ
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 24, 2022
“Senator, I’m not able to answer your question,” Jackson said. “You’re asking me about hypotheticals.”
- Jackson was similarly noncommittal about whether Cruz could identify as a woman in order to sue for gender discrimination.
HOW WE GOT HERE
The New York Times’ David Leonhardt was among many mainstream media pundits who criticized Republicans’ questioning of Jackson as empty partisan grandstanding if not racist dog whistling.
- But, Leonhard acknowledged in his Thursday newsletter: “To be fair, Republicans are correct that many of the broader issues are legitimate matters of public debate.”
- And it was progressives who made these types of questions debatable enough to require adjudication by the Supreme Court.