Imagine having to sit through this presentation by Sen. Sheldon “Boof Truther” Whitehouse with a straight face. That would be especially difficult when trying to win confirmation to work with the justices that Whitehouse smeared in this opening statement. While praising Ketanji Brown Jackson, Whitehouse declared yesterday that a third of the court is connected to corrupt practices that his own party uses:
What “secretive selection process”? Donald Trump published a list of potential Supreme Court justice appointees before the 2016 election, hoping (and largely succeeding) to convince conservatives of his commitment to promoting originalism and judicial restraint. Trump openly worked with the Federalist Society, a well-established conservative law activist organization, to develop the list. All three of his nominees came off of those lists, and all three were well-known jurists prior to their appointment.
This was nothing more than a deliberate smear attempt by Whitehouse, whose demagoguery reached its peak during the Brett Kavanaugh hearing and his attempt to pin Kavanaugh down on the true meaning of the teen slang term “boof.” The only thing Whitehouse ended up proving is that he was too big of an idiot to distinguish between “boof” and boff, but not too big of an idiot to provide the most embarrassing line of Senate questioning in memory, if not in our entire history. Whitehouse has firmly established himself as a lobotomized Joe McCarthy, if nothing else.
Besides, that “dark money” process is alive and well among progressives and working in support of Jackson, as Politico pointed out this morning. They just don’t want to talk about it:
After trying for years to match the GOP’s off-the-Hill judicial firepower, Democrats are distancing themselves from a prominent outside group backing Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Senate Republicans want to use Jackson’s confirmation hearing as a forum to slam Demand Justice — a liberal organization that advocates for adding seats to the Supreme Court and pushed for Jackson’s nomination — as a pernicious “dark money” group acting as puppet master to her selection. It’s a playbook Democrats have employed in the past against conservative nominees and the organizations that work to promote them, such as the Federalist Society, but Democrats insist there’s a major difference: they don’t work directly with Demand Justice.
That’s nothing but a lot of boofing, says former Clintonista and now head of Demand Justice Brian Fallon:
For Demand Justice’s executive director, Brian Fallon, the questions about his group are a “badge of honor.” And despite Senate Democrats downplaying its influence, Fallon didn’t hesitate to liken Demand Justice as a counter to conservative groups, including the Judicial Crisis Network.
“It’s obviously hypocritical for [Republicans] to complain about advocacy groups on the left when all we’re trying to do is catch up to the network of groups that have long been active on the right for the last 40 years,” Fallon said in an interview. “But I don’t think it’s successfully done anything to derail or put into question the confirmation prospects for any of the Biden nominees over the last year including Ketanji Brown Jackson.”
On that point, I agree with Fallon, but the hypocrisy isn’t limited to Republicans. Whitehouse’s boofbaggery is every bit as hypocritical, as Democrats worked for years to organize their lobbying on judicial nominations to be as effective as the GOP and conservatives. They have adopted the same structures and play in the same donor-opacity pool.
To her credit, Jackson didn’t take Whitehouse’s argument seriously. Chuck Grassley gave Jackson an opportunity to reject his smear attempt, and she grabbed it quickly and firmly:
GRASSLEY: During his opening statement yesterday, one member of this committee suggested the Supreme Court has been bought by dark money groups. Do you agree the Supreme Court has been bought by dark money groups?
JACKSON: I don’t have any reason to believe that that’s the case. pic.twitter.com/C30ns3QxGk
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) March 22, 2022
What will Whitehouse say in response? My friend and colleague Katie Pavlich thinks he might be wondering the same thing:
Whitehouse staff frantically rushes to rewrite Whitehouse's entire questioning strategy for later today https://t.co/ptDg975h3A
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) March 22, 2022
In fact, Jackson’s comments in this hearing have some Federalist Society-oriented observes cautiously optimistic. Dan McLaughlin notes that Jackson at least feels compelled to pay respect to originalism:
This morning, prompted by Durbin, Jackson gave an answer that pays tribute to the originalist position: “I’m looking at original documents. I am focusing on the original public meaning because I am constrained to interpret the text. Sometimes that’s enough to resolve the issue. . . .” That is not the end of the inquiry, of course; Republicans on the committee can and should probe further into how Jackson thinks through these issues and how her record shows her bending the law, at times, to reach favored outcomes. But it is another measure of the intellectual and political victory of originalism’s argument about the legitimacy of constitutional and statutory text that, rather than stand up for the progressive critique of originalist methodology, a Democratic nominee facing a Democratic senate professes to embrace “original public meaning.”
Don’t get your hopes up too high on that point, but McLaughlin is struck by the retro nature of how Jackson frames her responses to progressive-priority issues:
Jackson now speaking movingly about the job & role of cops & the need for them. This hearing is a rout for progressive rhetorical tropes. It's like a Bill Clinton speech from 1996.
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) March 22, 2022
This is likely a demonstration of a mastery of the political process, not necessarily a keen insight as to how Jackson will eventually rule on constitutional issues. Still, with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House, this could have been worse. It certainly turned out that way for the Boof Truther.