If politics were a sport, it would not be amateur boxing, where opponents wear headgear and use 12-ounce gloves. Instead, it’d be more akin to bear-knuckle brawling, which sometimes gets ugly.
Still, there is a difference between ugly and repulsive, and the last several weeks have been a sad example of the latter.
The nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court brought the typical kind of camera-mugging we have come to expect from some Senators on the Judiciary Committee. The ensuing silliness makes for viral clips members can use when sending out fundraising emails or on social media.
The hearings were sometimes contentious, with Republicans questioning Jackson’s judge and defense attorney record. Some, such as Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Marsha Blackburn, claimed without evidence that Jackson went “easy” on child sex abuse defendants. Still, for the most part — and contrary to the hand-wringing by Democrats and a lot of talking heads — the hearings were a low-key affair, and Jackson handled it all with the aplomb one expectations from a potential Supreme Court Justice.
Some, however, weren’t content with to leave it at that, and chose to go all-in on the bizarre idea that anyone supporting Jackson’s confirmation did so as a fig leaf for pedophiles. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted:
When three Republicans — Senators Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins — announced their intention to vote for Jackson’s confirmation, none other than Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene stepped up to the plate to make Trump Jr.’s tweet come off as tame.
MJT is no stranger to controversy, which is a polite way of saying she often says foolish and offensive things. With her from her, it is a feature and not a bug. in to series of vile tweets, Greene said Jackson is “pro-pedophile” and added, for good measure, that any Senator who votes to confirm her is too. She concluded by tweeting: “You are either a Senator that supports child rapists, child pornography, and the most vile child predators. Or you are a Senator who protects children and votes NO to KBJ!”
People often say Green is “crazy,” but that’s inappropriate. She’s not mentally ill; she is a terrible person. It is n’t political to say her of her Congressional colleagues of her support child rapists — it’s as close to libel as it can get.
What’s more infuriating is that while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy openly endorsed Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary opponent, he’ll pretend he had no idea what Greene said and brush off any questions about it. But that’s par for the course, as McCarthy has routinely been tougher on Trump critics than the louts who bring shame to the institution of Congress on a near-daily basis.
Elsewhere, it’s a similar dynamic with the events taking place in Ukraine. To hear it from some people, you’d think Ukraine launched an invasion against Russia and not the other way around. While most Republicans in Congress found their inner Reagan-era Cold War backbone and immediately showed support for Ukraine, others went down the rabbit hole of stupidity.
The aforementioned Greene blamed Ukraine for the invasion, claiming the country “poked the bear” (Russia) too much. She also called Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky “corrupt,” and suggested that NATO supplied weapons to Ukrainian Nazis. Rep. Madison Cawthorn called Zelensky a “thug” and the Ukrainian government “evil,” for reasons that are only clear inside his own head.
Tucker Carlson of Fox News — no stranger to touting cockamamie nonsense — decided to go with one of the most absurd conspiracies about Ukraine: that a private equity firm run by Hunter Biden funded Ukrainian bio-labs. Mere hours after the story ran in a Russian propaganda outlet, Carlson highlighted the story (after conflating bio-labs with bioweapons) and said on his show, “What are the outlines of that story? We’re not sure. We know it’s legitimate to ask what it means — why wouldn’t it be? You’re not a Russian agent repeating discredited Putin talking-points if you ask. You’re a good citizen.”
Oh yes. The “I am only asking questions” canard. It has been the favored tactic of conspiracy theorists since the birth of conspiracy theories. Rather than provide actual evidence, it’s easier to ask a question that could very well have an answer but still sounds if something is “off.” For example, “We have so much better technology than in 1969. If the moon landings weren’t faked, how come we’ve never returned? hmm? I’m just asking the question!”
Supreme Court nominations and war in Europe are issues that demand and deserve rigorous debate — whether it’s in the halls or on the floors of the House and Senate or in the public sphere. But the fever-swamp realm in which some Republican members of Congress choose to go and the hat-tip to Russian propaganda emanating from prime Fox News hosts is a tremendous disservice to the very institutions these people represent.