DEMOCRATS, JUDGE JACKSON, AND THE ‘WOMAN’ PROBLEM. The important thing to remember about the now-infamous “define ‘woman'” exchange between Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Biden Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is that Blackburn telegraphed her pitch. It wasn’t a gotcha question. It didn’t come out of nowhere. No one should have been surprised.
On the opening day of Jackson’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a day mostly devoted to senators giving their opening statements, the Tennessee Republican told Jackson the topics that she, Blackburn, would question Jackson about the next day. “I’ve got a few areas that I’m going to want to delve a little bit further with you,” Blackburn said. “Right now, when I talk to Tennesseans, one of the most important things that they bring up is the issue of parental rights, and wanting to be able to rear their children as they see fit.”
Blackburn said parents are concerned about a “progressive agenda” in public schools. “Educators are allowing biological males to steal opportunities from female athletes in the name of progressivism,” she said. “Some girls have been forced to share locker rooms with biological males. Rather than defending our girls, those in power are teaching them that their voices don’t matter. They’re being treated like second-class citizens, and Americans need a Supreme Court justice who will protect our children and will defend parents’ constitutional right to decide what is best for their own kids.”
Blackburn’s question was fair, on point, and, given her opening remarks the day before, entirely predictable. But Jackson was not prepared.
“Senator, respectfully, I’m not familiar with that particular quote or case, so it’s hard for me to comment as to whether — “
“Alright,” said Blackburn. “I’d love to get your opinion on that. And you can submit that.” That meant that Jackson, as all nominees do, could submit a written answer for the record later. Blackburn continued, “Do you interpret Justice Ginsburg’s meaning of men and women as male and female?”
“Again, because I don’t know the case, I don’t know how I interpret it,” Jackson answered. “I need to read the whole thing.”
If you just stop there, it was an extraordinary exchange. United States v. Virginia, often known as the VMI case, was a very, very big deal. Some observers could not believe that Jackson, with her years at the highest level of the law, did not know the case. “It’s truly a groundbreaking case, taught in every law school,” said Mike Davis, head of the conservative Article III Project and a former chief counsel for nominations for the Senate Judiciary Committee. “She’s either really not up to the job, or she’s lying.”
“The fact that you can’t give me a straight answer about something so fundamental as what a woman is underscores the danger of the kind of progressive education that we are hearing about,” Blackburn responded. Her point was made.
Mike Davis, who has taken part in a lot of confirmations, wondered why Jackson didn’t say something like this: “Of course I understand what the word ‘woman’ means in everyday life and meaning, but there are legal issues that could come before the court, Title IX or Title VII cases, so I just have to be careful.” Instead, Jackson balked at giving any definition of “woman” and suggested that only academically trained experts could do so.
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