Not quite, but as the saying goes, it may be close enough for government work. Joe Biden nominated ACLU voting-rights activist Dale Ho to the federal bench for New York’s Southern District, and Ho appeared yesterday for his confirmation hearing. If nothing else, Ho proved that he’s not terribly competent — at recognizing perjury traps, anyway.
Ho must have been the only person who didn’t see this coming from a mile away when Sen. John Kennedy asked this peculiarly specific question (via Duane Patterson):
Dale Ho: “I want to assure you that I understand the role of a judge is to set aside whatever personal views that person may have”@SenJohnKennedy: “Did you say Republicanism is “an anti-democratic virus?” pic.twitter.com/86GO1ASl2u
— Lyndsey Fifield (@lyndseyfifield) December 2, 2021
Did Ho use those words? Not exactly, but he came close a year ago when talking with the New York Times. Angry over the “stop the steal” movement and the election conspiracy-theory nonsense, Ho argued that an “anti-democratic virus” had overtaken the GOP:
Republican state legislators across the country are already contemplating new laws to make voting harder, as they continue to falsely portray the expansion and ease of mail-in voting during the pandemic as nefarious. Many of them view this year’s expanded voting ranks as bad for their party, despite Republican successes further down the ballot. Their consideration of new voting restrictions amounts to an ongoing attack on the integrity of the voting system, involving still more false and debunked claims.
“There is an anti-democratic virus that has spread in mainstream Republicanism, among mainstream Republican elected officials,” said Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the A.C.L.U. “And that loss of faith in the machinery of democracy is a much bigger problem than any individual lawsuit.”
Kennedy botched this a bit in forming the question. Ho didn’t say that “Republicanism is an anti-democratic virus,” but rather than “an anti-democratic virus” had “spread in mainstream Republicanism.” It’s a subtle but still distinct difference. It’s close enough, though, to have allowed Ho to fall into a perjury trap that was so obvious as to call into question his fitness for the federal judiciary all on its own.
That’s not the only rhetorical history for which Ho needs to answer, either. Apparently Ho enthusiastically pursued his activism by issuing personal attacks on social media against those he perceived as his enemies … which include several members of the same US Senate that will vote on his confirmation:
Dale Ho, who Biden has picked to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was at the center of questioning for Republicans in particular, some of whom expressed doubts about his temperament to serve on the federal bench given his past tweets and comments that appeared to criticize conservatives. …
Multiple senators brought up those tweets, and one in which Ho appeared to refer to himself as a “wild-eyed sort of leftist.” Ho explained that he was “referring to a caricature of the way other people may have described me, not how I would describe myself.”
Lee brought up a tweet in which Ho suggested Republicans would rely on a Supreme Court majority to maintain power if the “Electoral College, Senate malapportionment and extreme gerrymandering” were not enough.
Ho asserted the tweet was a reference to reports ahead of the 2020 election that some state legislatures were considering rejecting the popular vote of their states and selecting their own electors instead.
Lee suggested the tweet was damaging enough that Ho should not be confirmed, arguing it showed “open contempt for the Constitution.”
Ho appears to be both radical and none too adept. Ho did, however, express remorse for his social media postings. “I very much regret the tone that I’ve taken on social media from time to time,” Ho responded at one point, “particularly if it’s given anyone the impression that I wouldn’t be impartial.” It sounds more like Ho’s sorry to have been caught at it, an impression amplified by his decision to lock down his Twitter account so that outsiders can no longer peruse his pre-nomination thoughts.
Once again, it appears that the White House didn’t vet a nominee properly, in this instance for a lifetime appointment. (Haven’t they learned yet to check nominees’ social-media records to find those who haven’t issued personal insults to sitting members of the Senate?) We’ll have to see what King Joe thinks, but if Manchin thought Neera Tanden’s rhetorical history disqualified her for the Office of Management and Budget, Ho’s toxicity should be even more apparent to him for the federal bench.