Conservatives can oppose Ketanji Brown Jackson without lying

In recent years, right-wing conspiracy theorists have become obsessed with accusing liberals of involvement in child rape and child trafficking (see Pizzagate, QAnon, and their use of the term “grooming” to describe opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, for a few examples). It was probably only a matter of time before a Republican politician weaponized the issue against an individual political target.

But who would be villainous enough to use it against a Supreme Court nominee, who also happens to be the first black woman appointed to the court?

In a tweetstorm last week, Sen. Josh Hawley denounced an “alarming pattern” regarding Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s “treatment of sex offenders, particularly those who prey on children.” (Hawley also raised concerns at Monday’s confirmation hearing.)

It’s no surprise that the ambitious Mr Hawley – the first Republican senator to announce he would oppose certification of Joe Biden’s election, and who infamously gave a clenched fist salute to protesters of the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then attempted to monetize it — would make such a disrespectful allegation.

The only problem ? As noted National review Andrew McCarthy, former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, the allegations do not hold water.

Hawley smears Judge Jackson and his sentencing record, plan and simple.

As McCarthy explains, “Hawley’s allegation seems baseless to the point of being demagogic.” For example, Hawley does not distinguish between rapists and kidnappers – or providers of illicit content and consumers of it. We might agree that all of these crimes are serious, but the idea that some crimes deserve less punishment than others is not proof that anyone is lenient towards crime.

There are also other distinctions. Drawing on his experience as a prosecutor, McCarthy recalls, “If the offender was within a day of his 18th birthday, we would drop the case; but if it was a day later, and we took the case, he would be considering a mandatory minimum sentence of several years in prison.

Should the same sentence be imposed on an 18-year-old man in possession of nude photos sent to him by his 17-year-old girlfriend and a 50-year-old man in possession of graphic photos of a young child? Should the 18-year-old go to jail with hardened criminals for five years and be stigmatized for eternity? Common sense would seem to suggest that these two scenarios belong to entirely different categories.

Ultimately, writes McCarthy, “the implication that [Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson] has a soft spot for “sex offenders” who “prey on children”, as she argued that a harsh mandatory minimum prison sentence for receiving and distributing pornographic images is defamation.

It should be noted that such dishonest political attacks are unfortunately not uncommon. Democrats routinely and unfairly smear Republican High Court nominees, hence the term “Borking”.

But rather than continue this sad bipartisan tradition, Republicans should instead (barring some truly disqualifying information that somehow escaped his last three Senate confirmation hearings) focus on judicial philosophy. of Jackson.

In my view, that includes resisting the temptation to criticize his tenure as a public defender – where it was literally his job to defend people with no other means of defending themselves.

Both the left and the right can be hypocrites when it comes to attacking lawyers based on the sins of their clients. But whether you represent Enron, Big Tobacco, an accused terrorist, Harvey Weinstein, or (as was the case with John Adams) British soldiers after the Boston massacre, everyone deserves due process and the right to counsel.

That doesn’t mean I’d vote to uphold Judge Jackson. I will not do it. I look forward to watching the hearings, but it seems pretty clear that as a Conservative, our philosophies are at odds. I want judges in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. It is normal for any intellectually honest conservative senator to regard a candidate’s non-textualist methodology as disqualifying. But apart from this categorical approach, I see nothing outrageous about Judge Jackson, so far.

But doesn’t President Joe Biden deserve his nomination?

While there may be some merit in generally relying on a president (who appoints a qualified candidate), this is a lifetime appointment, and the Senate is responsible for giving its advice and consent. Biden, for example, voted against Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito (who then-Senator Barack Obama tried to filibuster). Each of these candidates was highly qualified.

Perhaps Hawley’s decision to smear Judge Jackson as soft on child pornography was a depraved attempt to destroy this candidate while avoiding anything remotely approaching the issue of race. But the abuse and exploitation of children is particularly heinous, and unfairly accusing someone of allowing it could destroy their reputation.

Whatever Hawley’s justification, this latest move links him to politicians and activists across the aisle who have made shameful and desperate attempts to block a qualified candidate.

Republicans can vote against Judge Jackson with their heads held high. That would be completely legitimate. What is not acceptable is to twist his case and attempt to assassinate his character.

Hawley, the Big Lie supporter, might not get better than this. But his fellow GOP senators should be. The “loyal opposition” should not be the “dishonest opposition”.

(Disclosure: My wife worked as a fundraising consultant for Hawley’s 2016 campaign for Missouri Attorney General.)

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