In his first cross-examination of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) painted the judge as woefully out of touch on American race matters, a jurist who is essentially okay with racial profiling but drags his feet on affirming educational equality and criminal justice reform.
“The Supreme Court plays a vital role in that work, just like it did with Brown [V. Board of Education],” Booker told Kavanaugh.
The Senator – hovering at the edge of a 2020 presidential run – used a half an hour to make President Donald J. Trump’s nominee – who mostly glided through a full day of cross-examination before the U.S. Senate hearing until he met Booker – appear flummoxed on race.
“I’m not asking about the five black clerks that you have,” said Booker, who wanted to know what Kavanaugh was thinking in 1999 when he said that in 20 years the court could view “us all as one race.”
“Hope,” said the nominee.
“Ok, this is the period where the prison population exploded, when there were drug wars, and [resulting]massive disparities in prison populations,” said Booker, who attempted to extract the judge’s rejection of the view that it is never permissible to use race to remediate past discrimination.
He could not.
Kavanaugh invoked Supreme Court precedent but Booker pursued him for his own personal opinion.
The judge stayed away.
“You seem to invoke justice [Anton] Scalia’s one-race theory,” the senator said. “Are you saying you do not share justice Scalia’s belief that they are seeking racial entitlement? Is it never permissible for the government to use race to remediate past discrimination?
“Your opinions matter,” he added.
He referred to an email he said was part of a Kavanaugh file unreleased to the public, but did not readily supply it to the nominee, citing a rigged system, he said, that prevented senators from having adequate files on the nominee.
Kavanaugh’s silence prompted the usually optimistic Booker to end on a disconsolate tone.
“We are at a time where states are enacting laws designed to disenfranchise voters – targeting them with surgical precision,” he said. “Your answers do not provide me with comfort.”
Kavanaugh hit back at the tail end of Booker’s time.
“I have done my best to at least understand the real world,” said the nominee, referring in part to his personal history of helping African-American law clerks.
Booker’s cross-examination occurred late in the day. Republicans (with U.S. Senator Ben Sasse [R-NE] a possible notable exception) mostly defended Trump’s nominee, while Booker’s Democratic colleagues U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) zeroed in on the nominee’s opinions concerning executive power. Like Booker, Senator Mazie Horono (D-HI) broached the issue of race while cross-examining Kavanaugh.