The GOP Is Making Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation All About Brett Kavanaugh

Won’t somebody please think of poor Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh?
ketanji-brown-jackson-gop-kavanaugh
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Almost four years after Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Senate Republican men are still mad about how he was treated, and they’re using this week’s hearings to make sure everyone knows it.

Just hours into the start of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, almost every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee referenced the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in their opening statements. Kavanaugh’s confirmation succeeded despite accusations of sexual assault against him, and he now holds one of the nine lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land.

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Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the first Republican to speak, started off with a relatively brief complaint about the “repeated, choreographed interruptions” at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. But South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who launched into a full-on tirade at the actual Kavanaugh hearings, made the perceived slights to Kavanaugh a focal point of his opening statement. 

“No Republican senator is going to unleash on you an attack about your character when the hearing is virtually over. None of us, I hope, have been sitting on information about you as a person for weeks or months,” Graham said, in a clear reference to Senate Democrats’ disclosure that they had a letter from a woman—later revealed to be Dr. Christine Blasey Ford—accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school. 

“There won’t be this constant attack on you, like Judge Kavanaugh and other conservative judicial appointments,” Graham continued, before pivoting into another frequent bugaboo for Republicans: questions about now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s religious affiliation. “There won’t be any questioning of where you go to church, what kind of groups you’re in in church, how you decide to raise your kids, what you believe, and how you believe in God. Nobody’s gonna do that to you. And that’s a good thing.”

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“So you’re the beneficiary of a lot,” the senator told Jackson, who is poised to become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. “You’re the beneficiary of Republican nominees having their lives be turned upside down.”

After coming forward with her allegations about Kavanaugh, Ford was so inundated with harassment that she had to hire a private security firm and moved houses four times.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, like Graham, also spent quite a bit of time condemning the way Kavanaugh, accused of sexual misconduct by multiple people, was treated. The hearings, Cruz said, were “one of the lowest moments in the history of this committee.”

“No one is going to inquire into your teenage dating habits,” Cruz told Jackson, who has not been accused of sexually assaulting anybody, as a teenager or otherwise. “No one is going to ask you with mock severity, ‘Do you like beer?’”

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, meanwhile, dismissed the allegations against Kavanaugh as “spurious, last-minute, uncorroborated accusations of a personal nature” and indicated that they were “politics of personal destruction.”

The Republican men’s repeated suggestion that it was Democrats who turned the Kavanaugh hearings into a partisan circus represents a blinkered view of history. Kavanaugh cried and yelled during his confirmation hearings, as well as outlined a semi-coherent, quasi-conspiracy theory that the allegations arose out of desire to get revenge for the Clintons. 

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