GOP uses Jackson hearing to inflame tensions over race, crime: The Note

The first Black woman nominated to the court will likely be confirmed soon.

March 23, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

What started with a GOP promise of turning the temperature down is becoming a broader effort to dial it up -- and to light new fires in familiar places.

With a second full day of questions coming Wednesday at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Republican senators have so far played to long-running culture wars in sometimes obscure but nonetheless intentional ways.

Searing attacks from GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have centered on her sentencing of child porn offenders and drug kingpins to her defense of terrorist suspects and her knowledge of and familiarity with critical race theory.

"Do you agree with this book that is being taught to kids, that babies are racist?" Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Jackson in one of the most strange and tense exchanges of a long day Tuesday.

PHOTO: Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson answers questions from Sen. Josh Hawley during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2022.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson answers questions from Sen. Josh Hawley during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2022.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Jackson took a long pause after hearing that question. She pushed back on the notion that she adheres to ideas around critical race theory with a refrain she has already used often: "They don't come up with my work as a judge, which I'm respectfully here to address."

Lessons on what judges do and don't do would not be news to lawyers on the committee -- like Cruz and Sens. Josh Hawley, Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton -- who peppered her with questions of criminal-justice policy that they knew she would not answer.

But it was the senators who were delivering lessons in politics. Issues of race and crime are being placed prominently on the table, even though -- if not directly because -- the first Black woman nominated to the high court remains very likely to be confirmed soon.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

President Joe Biden is heading overseas for a series of high-stakes meetings with NATO allies, an effort to affirm the U.S. commitment to military assistance for Ukraine.

"The President is heading to Europe tomorrow to reinforce the incredible unity we build with allies and partners in response to Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine and to consult on next steps," said national security adviser Jake Sullivan Tuesday.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden waves before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., March 11, 2022.
President Joe Biden waves before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., March 11, 2022.
Luis M. Alvarez/AP, FILE

Sullivan told reporters Biden will announce new sanctions coordinated with allies and methods to close loopholes on others. Biden is also slated to discuss European dependence on Russian energy and the humanitarian response to the war.

After meetings in Brussels, Biden will head to Poland, which has become the front lines of the humanitarian crisis caused by the nearly month-old war. Biden will engage with U.S. troops and meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Biden will head to Poland just a couple of weeks after Vice President Kamala Harris visited the nation.

When Biden boards Air Force One, he will do so without White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who tested positive Tuesday for COVID-19 for the second time.

A virtual address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Brussels will up the ante for the Biden administration, which has taken a more cautious approach while the Ukrainian leader calls for more. It's a move that could leave Russia unchecked and could create a greater threat.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Amid the ongoing fallout of abuse allegations stemming from a child custody battle, Republican Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens is challenging calls from sitting lawmakers for him to drop out by lashing out at one of his party's most powerful members.

During an interview with Steve Bannon after the allegations came to light, Greitens was asked why he believes Sen. Josh Hawley "fired shots" at his candidacy. The former Missouri governor who has been angling for former President Donald Trump's endorsement claimed it was because he wouldn't support Sen. Mitch McConnell for majority leader if the GOP takes back the upper chamber.

"The reason why shots are being fired at us is that I was the first guy in the country to come out and say that when I'm elected to the United States Senate as an 'America First' senator, that I'm voting against Mitch McConnell," Greitens said.

PHOTO: Gov. Eric Greitens speaks at the Taney County Lincoln Day event at the Chateau on the Lake in Branson, Mo., April 17, 2021.
Gov. Eric Greitens speaks at the Taney County Lincoln Day event at the Chateau on the Lake in Branson, Mo., April 17, 2021.
Nathan Papes/AP, FILE

ABC News' John Parkinson reports McConnell refrained from calling on the Missouri Republican to end his campaign, instead telling reporters on Tuesday, "I think all of it developments of the last 24 hours are things the people of Missouri are going to take into account both in the primary and I would assume would take into account in the general."

Greitens' fellow 2022 Senate GOP contender, Trump-backed Mo Brooks of Alabama, is also taking shots at the Senate's top Republican by launching a "Fire McConnell Pledge" effort. The move comes after the Washington Examiner reported Trump said Brooks is a "disappointing" endorsement.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that Republicans choose a conservative to be leader. American can't afford a Senate leader who is a weak-kneed, debt-junkie, open-border RINO Republican," Brooks says in an ad outlining his pledge.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

71. That's the share of Black Americans who say they support the Senate confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, according to a recent poll from Navigator Research. This is the highest share of support among the different racial and ethnic groups Navigator Research surveyed. But as FiveThirtyEight's Alex Samuels writes, President Biden has lost the support of Black Americans in recent months, so even though representation in the judiciary is something that matters to a lot to some Black voters, it is unlikely to be enough to turn out Black voters in the midterm elections.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Wednesday morning with ABC's Karen Travers describing the White House stance on potential Russian cyberattacks. Then, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports on the second day of questioning at the Supreme Court confirmation hearing. And, ABC's Aaron Katersky describes a lawsuit over the New York Police Department's DNA collection methods. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

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