MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2022
Graham's shocking attack: Last Tuesday, the actual questioning began just after 10:40 A.M.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had been nominated to serve on the United States Supreme Court. A sprawling, 22-member Senate committee was now pretending to engage in the process of trying to decide whether to give its consent.
The actual questioning began with Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Leahy (D-VT) had already lobbed supportive softballs at the nominee. Senator Grassley (R-IA) had methodically read a list of questions his staff had prepared, showing no sign of knowing or caring whether the questions had been answered.
In that sense, the actual questioning started with Graham. Within less than an hour, his first line of questioning would be described as "shocking." For the record, that line of questioning started exactly like this:
GRAHAM (3/22/22): Thank you, Judge. Again, congratulations.
I want to talk to you a little bit about family and faith, because in your opening statement, and the people who introduced you to the committee, there was very glowing praise of you as a person, a good friend.
You have a wonderful family. You should be proud. And your faith matters to you.
Many of Judge Jackson's family members were indeed present that day. Also, Jackson had referred to her faith in God at two separate points in the opening statement she had delivered the day before.
Her lifelong friend, Professor Lisa Fairfax, had also cited Jackson's religious faith as she formally introduced Judge Jackson to the giant, generally unimpressive Senate committee. There's no reason why Fairfax shouldn't have done that, and Graham made no such suggestion.
"You have a wonderful family. You should be proud." So Graham dared to say, right at the start of his shocking line of inquiry.
This initial line of questioning extended for slightly more than three minutes. During that period, Graham added these additional shocking remarks:
He said, at two separate points, that he felt sure that Judge Jackson could set aside her own religious beliefs to judge others fairly.
(Graham: "I couldn't agree with you more, and I believe you can.")
He agreed with Jackson that there is, and should be, no religious test for federal office.
("There will be none with me," Graham said.)
As Graham's shocking conduct continued, so did these shocking accusations. Indeed, a bit later in those first three minutes, he launched such shocking attacks as these:
GRAHAM: I have no doubt that your faith is important to you. And I have zero doubt that you can adjudicate people's cases fairly if they're an atheist.
If I had any doubt, I would say so.
GRAHAM: So Judge, you should be proud of your faith. I am convinced that, whatever faith you have, and how often you go to church, it will not affect your ability to be fair.
In such ways, Graham repeatedly gave voice to his shocking attacks. Along the way, he also revealed the rationale behind his shocking conduct.
The rationale was perfectly clear. Whatever you thought of his rationale, there was nothing shocking about it.
It had nothing to do with anything Judge Jackson had ever done. Quite plainly, Graham wasn't criticizing Ketanji Brown Jackson during this exchange.
He hadn't criticized Jackson at all during this first presentation. But shortly after 11:30 P.M., the Senate committee took its first break of the day, and we in our failing, unimpressive blue tribe received our first bit of messaging.
By now, Graham's questioning was done. So was the questioning of Senator Feinstein (D-CA).
By now, five senators had questioned Judge Jackson. On CNN, Kate Bolduan threw to legal analyst Laura Coates, and Coates quickly offered this:
BOLDUAN (3/22/22): CNN Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates, with us as well. Laura, how do you think the judge has done so far?
COATES: I think she's doing phenomenally well. And I will note, of course, that I am twinning in her outfit inadvertently. But let me tell you, that's really where the comparisons stop because she is phenomenally talented in what she's doing.
Of course, it's her fourth time being before the Judiciary Committee, so she's well aware of the stakes and what needs to be done in order to make sure that she is conveying her intellect in a way that is persuasive, that is compelling, and really showcases what she's all about.
Trust us! Pundit Coates was "twinning" Judge Jackson in more than the outfit she wore.
According to Coates, Jackson had been "phenomenally talented" in what she had offered so far. Among other things, Judge Jackson had been conveying her intellect in a way that was compelling and that really showcased what she's all about.
It would be hard to be more complimentary to the nominee, who is of course highly accomplished. But concerning the fiendish Senator Graham, Coates now offered this:
COATES (continuing directly): I will say the moments for Senator Lindsey Graham were perhaps the most shocking of the day.
The discussions of trying, on the one hand, to educate the first black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States, to try to attempt to educate her on double standards in America, was just too rich for me.
So was the notion of him trying to use the time to think he squandered a great deal, squandering the time pointing out the ideas of other past nominees as opposed to focusing on this particular person.
Discussions about Judge Childs and the idea of so-called conservatives and other rounds as well attacking and asking her about what she knew about these attacks on social media, as opposed to what she knew about the law, was a missed opportunity to elevate the conversation.
According to Coates, Graham had authored "a missed opportunity to elevate the conversation." Whatever you thought of Graham's performance, an ironist might have imagined that legal analyst Coates, outfitted so chicly, was doing that same thing herself!
With apologies, we're using the CNN transcript today. We have no way to proofread the transcript against videotape of what was said.
That said, this transcript has Coates declaring Graham's "moments" as not just shocking, but as "the most shocking [moments] of the day." In truth, nothing especially shocking had actually happened to that point in time, but Coates (and her CNN colleagues) were now starting to lay down our highly unimpressive blue tribe's official narrative line.
It's clear that Coates was referring, in large part, to the three-minute exchange from which we've already drawn excerpts. To appearances, Coates had been offended by the focus of Graham's first set of questions, during which he repeatedly complimented and agreed with the nominee.
To appearances, Coates had been offended by the idea that Graham would have tried to "educate [the first black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States] on double standards in America"—in this case, on alleged double standards concerning the way judicial nominees get treated at Senate hearings.
This had been shocking conduct, the haughty pundit declared. Now, a bit of disclosure:
Here on our sprawling campus, we had watched Graham's round of questioning in real time. Truth to tell, his various lines of questioning hadn't struck us as "shocking" at all.
We didn't necessarily agree with every word he said, but his conduct hadn't seemed shocking. But in this first burst of CNN punditry, we saw the emergence of two different worlds—the world of red tribe political perception as opposed to the childish and silly "Eek a mouse!" world of blue tribe corporate punditry.
In our view, the existence of those two different worlds puts liberal / progressive values and interests in significant peril. In our view, the dumbness of current blue tribe punditry is one of the greatest threats to those liberal / progressive interests.
On the one hand, our nation has a clamoring red tribe which has already elected Donald Trump once, and could do so again. On the other hand, we have a gang of overpaid corporate TV flunkies who perform in the way Coates quite frequently does.
In fairness, Coates was hardly alone this day on CNN's pundit panels. Indeed, all across the liberal world, reaction to last week's hearings revealed the limited quality of the team which scripts the tribal battle cries with which we head off to war.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but a modern nation can't expect to survive or prosper as a yammering Babel inhabited by "one, two, many" landlocked tribes. More to the point, some such nation can't expect to keep Donald J. Trump, or a Trump substitute, out of the White House again.
On the one hand, you have the True Crazy of people like Ginni Thomas, along with the incessant shrieking of "lost boy" Tucker Carlson. On our side, we respond with a hopeless band of "well educated" flunkies who should be thrown overboard.
As we hope you've been able to note, none of this has had a thing to do with the merits of Judge Jackson. All week long, we'll be speaking of Coates and the rest, who help define the mental horizons of one of our two different worlds.
I believe in you, the senator said. It was part of the shocking attack which our tribe quickly spotted!
Tomorrow: Incredibly moving, very compelling—and very, very untrue