Ketanji Brown Jackson deflects Texas Republican senators’ attempts to portray her as ‘disturbingly liberal’

During Senate confirmation hearings, Judge Jackson pivoted during questions from Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

By Rhonda Fanning, Jill Ament & Caroline CovingtonMarch 23, 2022 12:19 pm, ,

Wednesday is the third day of Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both of Texas’ senators are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and have grilled Jackson in previous hearings about her stance on so-called critical race theory, as well as her time defending prisoners at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau Chief Todd Gillman has been following the hearings closely. He tells Texas Standard that some of the more dramatic moments came during questions from Republicans, but that Jackson was adept at deflecting questions that strayed from focusing on her legal career.

Listen to the interview in the audio player above or read the highlights below.

– Gillman says committee members’ questions played out “exactly to script,” with Democrats praising Jackson for her accomplishments and Republicans drilling down on what they perceived as her weaknesses. He says some Republicans showed interest in Jackson’s judicial philosophy, while others were “grandstanding” ahead of likely presidential runs in 2024.

“The Republicans are, almost all of them are not going to vote for her,” Gillman said.

– He says Jackson’s responses to Republicans’ probing questions was “typically slippery” for a first-time nominee.

– Texas Sen. John Cornyn accused Jackson of calling former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “war criminals.” Gillman says that accusation was “startling” and inaccurate. Jackson had represented a Guantanamo detainee who had filed an appeal to be released from prison claiming he had been tortured, which is illegal under U.S. and international law, but had not called Bush or Rumsfeld “war criminals.” After Democrats criticized Cornyn’s claim, he said: “I don’t understand the difference between calling somebody a war criminal and accusing them of war crime.”

– Texas Sen. Ted Cruz asked Jackson about anti-racism books used at Georgetown Day School, where Jackson is on the board of trustees. Gillman says Cruz was trying to portray Jackson as “disturbingly liberal,” and at the same time stir up controversy ahead of a likely presidential run in 2024. Jackson redirected the conversation.

“Senator,” Jackson said to Cruz, “I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas; they don’t come up in my work as a judge, which I’m, respectfully, here to address.”

Gillman called the moment a “slap down” and a “very effective pivot.”

– Jackson faces one more day of hearings on Thursday, then the committee will vote on whether to send her nomination to the Senate floor for a full vote. Gillman expects that vote will also fall along party lines, and that Jackson will likely be confirmed.

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