praised President Joe Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, calling it “a Jackie Robinson moment.”
“He clearly found the best person for the job,” said the New Jersey Democrat, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold hearings on the nomination.
“This is a Jackie Robinson moment for our nation,” Booker said, referring to the Brooklyn Dodger who integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. “For generations, America has been blessed with extraordinary legal talent in people of all backgrounds, but for the first time in our history an extraordinarily talented Black woman will serve on the Supreme Court. I’m profoundly moved by this; my heart aches with joy.”
Well, O.K. Maintaining that theme, during the Judiciary Committee hearing on March 23,
Enthusiastically describing his “joy” at Jackson’s nomination, Booker said that, while jogging earlier that day, he was “practically tackled” by an African American woman who enthusiastically told Booker that Jackson’s nomination meant a lot to her.
Booker wasn't flying solo. In introducing Jackson, Judiciary Committee chairperson Dick Durbin proclaimed "In its more than 230 years, the Supreme Court has had 115 justices — 108 have been white men, just two justices have been men of color, only five women have served on the court and just one a woman of color.”
Judge Jackson should have been nominated because of her experience, judicial temperament, and her apparent ideological inclinations (and because Joe Biden promised a black woman). However, your mileage may vary, and Booker, Durbin, and their colleagues are entitled to their own priorities.
For them and others, factors other than experience temperament, ideology, and judicial rulings are important. Race and gender, both inherited characteristics for which no one can claim credit or assume blame, are critical.
It's in that context that we need to consider the exchange between the nominee and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who on the day before Booker's eloquent remarks
drew widespread criticism for opening his questions to US Supreme Court justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by asking about her faith, including whether she can “fairly judge a Catholic” and requesting her to rate the importance of her faith “on a scale of one to 10”.
His remarks, which often cut off Judge Jackson from responding, appeared to suggest that conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated to the high court by Donald Trump, was unfairly treated by his political opponents during her confirmation hearings.
“What faith are you, by the way?” he asked on 22 March. “Could you fairly judge a Catholic? … I’m just asking this question because – how important is your faith to you?”
“Senator, personally, my faith is very important, but as you know, there’s no religious test in the Constitution,” Judge Jackson responded.
He continued to interrupt her responses while the senator asked more probing questions, including whether she attends church regularly and “on a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion...."
A statement from Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline slammed the senator’s line of questioning, stressing “there is no religious test for office in the Constitution – a fact that Judge Jackson rightly pointed out in response to Senator Graham’s questions about her faith.”
Jackson had responded well, accurately and fairly decisively. Nonetheless, in context, it should have been discouraging to read of Rabbi Moline
“While senators can ask how a nominee’s religious beliefs would influence their rulings, using faithfulness as a metric to evaluate a future Supreme Court justice is completely inappropriate,” he said.
Hold on, there. Cory Booker and numerous Democrats set the precedent for consideration of demographic features. For them, it was race and gender. For Lindsey Graham, it is religion, although his primary intent probably was to make a point over the questioning of Amy Coney Barrett.
Race and gender are immutable characteristics, fixed from birth. Religious faith, and even religious affiliation, are not. It behooves Democrats and the left, if they insist on continuing to argue that the measure of a person can be race (gender, less often), to concede the importance of religious belief. If they choose to be offended at the invocation of religious belief, they need to drop their obsession over chromosomes and skin color.
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