U.S.A — Hypocrisy in full display at Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings – By Mohamed Hamaludin

Ketanji Brown Jackson

By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

The United States Supreme Court was established under Article 3 of the Constitution in 1790, or more than 230 years ago. It was not until 1967, 177 years later, that the first African American, Thurgood Marshall, was appointed to the court. No other African American was so honored until 1991, when Clarence Thomas was named to fill the vacancy created by Marshall’s retirement. Meanwhile, five women were elevated to the court, starting with Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 or 191 years after its creation. She was followed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993, Sonya Sotomayor– the first Latino member in 2009 — Elena Kagan in 2010 and Amy Coney Barrett in 2020.

So this highest court in the nation has so far had only two African American members, both men, and even then at different times. It has not had any African female member, although there are 42 million African Americans or more than 13 percent of the population.     

That in itself is not only intolerable but it affirms the reality that the United States has remained a European American nation, one dominated by European American men – the so-called white men. That is significant because it is this institution that has shaped, and will shape, the courser of events for the nation.

But the absence of an African American on the court in more than 170 years has been especially galling, the consternation being especially acute in recent years when two recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, an African American, did not nominate an African American woman. Republicans had no such qualms about what they wanted for the court and went to any lengths to get it.

Donald Trump had three opportunities and he nominated three European Americans: Neil Gorsuch, 2017; Brett Kavanaugh, 2018; and Amy Coney Barrett, 2020. With the remarkable connivance of then U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, they were all confirmed. It is useful to recall how that happened.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland on March 16, 2016, to succeed Antonin Scalia, who died a month earlier. McConnell refused to hold hearings on the nomination, claiming that it was too near the end of Obama’s presidency. So McConnell held the nomination for eight months, until Trump became president and nominated Gorsuch.

McConnell set aside his rule and rammed through the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump nominated on October 27, 2020, to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18, 2020. Barrett’s confirmation hearings took place while early voting for the presidential election was already taking place.

As for Kavanaugh, his nomination drew widespread criticism after college professor Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault and a number of other women said he had behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner.

The Kavanaugh controversy stirred up memories of the confirmation hearings for Thomas, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman, who was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by a subordinate, Anita Hill. Then Democratic Senator Joe Biden, now president, chaired the hearings and has since expressed regret that he did not give greater credence to Hill’s accusation. Thomas famously played the race card, claiming that the hearings amounted to “high-tech lynching.”

In addition, George W. Bush nominated Thomas to fill the vacancy created by Marshall’s retirement –two men whose judicial philosophy was fundamentally different from each other’s, as Thomas has been proving in the more than 30 years he has been on the bench. And Barrett, a committed conservative, is poles apart from the philosophy which defined Ginsburg.

There is a reason why McConnell and his Republican cohorts wanted to pack the court with conservatives, who now number six, compared with three liberals. The public posturing is that it was to protect the “cultural values” of the nation, including abortion and same-sex marriage. In fact, the reason has been to enshrine a conservative majority, which will remain in place for perhaps 40 years, to protect the interests of corporations and billionaires.

That is why the three Trump nominees were chosen from a list prepared not by experts but by the Federalist Society, a group which is financed by hundreds of millions of dollars from donors who are not obliged to reveal themselves, and do not. Another organization Judicial Watch, whose coffers are also brimming with huge amounts of corporation and billionaire cash, helped pave the way for the Trump trio.

It is in this milieu that Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson, who, incidentally, was nurtured as a youth in a South Miami-Dade County environment, to succeed Stephen Bryer, one of the three liberals, who is retiring. Jackson, whom the senate confirmed three times at various stages of her career and is a Harvard graduate, should be sailing smoothly through this latest one and that Republicans would at least atone for their manipulation of the system by giving a quick nod to her qualifications and experience. Not so.

Republicans had to find something inflammatory against her and they settled on accusing her of being soft on child pornography, of all things, because of some prison sentences she handed down. She was also asked whether she would take a liberal judicial philosophy to the court because liberal organization were supporting her nomination. Even critical race theory was thrown in for good measure.

But that was all to be expected. The Republicans obviously want to maintain their grasp on their supporters by claiming they are the chosen ones to do God’s work. In the polarized politics of the day enhanced by the manipulation of “grievances” among large numbers of Americans, everything on the left side of the divide, they allege, is anything but evil, intent to wreck the Constitution and changed the foundation of the nation.

But this much is certain: At least four of the sitting Justices – two with a question mark over sexual behavior and two beneficiaries of political manipulation – would most likely not be on the court at another, saner, time. Ketanji Brown Jackson decidedly should be.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Guyana Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating in 1984 to the United States, where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a column for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com

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Comments

  • brandli62  On 03/25/2022 at 6:04 am

    The behaviour of Republican Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz was disrespectful and deplorable. Their performance raises more questions about the qualifications and the mind sets of these three men than it raises questions about Ms. Jackson. It was just a shameful show.

  • John Peters  On 03/25/2022 at 12:51 pm

    This is the norm, there is no hypocrisy here. Examine the first line of the American constitution, it starts right there. It was so then, it is so now and for all intents and purposes it will be so in the future until the next revolution.

  • Diana  On 03/25/2022 at 2:37 pm

    Hypocrisy? Did any of you, including the writer of this article, watch Kavanagh and Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing and the questions asked by the Democrats?

    • Dennis Albert  On 03/26/2022 at 3:06 pm

      Who got time to watch an accused rapist confirmation hearing while Jeff Bezos make another billion dollar today from the backs of minimum wage workers in the USA?

      Same divide & conquer used here in Guyana with PPP & PNC while the rich get extremely richer. Heard on the street that a Guyanese elite has a son who wants to order a Pagani Zonda straight from Italy, import it duty free and show off on YouTube.

  • Stanley Francis  On 03/26/2022 at 7:13 pm

    Must be great to have a female Supreme Court judge who does not know the definition of a woman, claiming she is not a biologist.

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