In the U.S. Senate, silence is not always golden

Greg Markley



In Moonstruck (1987), Cher’s character is at the opera and dating her fiance’s brother. She sees her father Cosmo with his mistress. Cosmo tells Johnny, “I have my eyes open.” Cosmo: “Oh yeah? Well, stick around.” Johnny: “I don’t know what you mean.” Cosmo: “That’s the point. I’ll say no more.” Johnny. “You haven’t said anything!” Cosmo. “That’s all I’m saying.”

During Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearing as Supreme Court nominee and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s recent testimony, neither answered certain questions from U.S. senators. Jackson and Marshall became “stars” in viral videos. They were as uncomfortable as Cher’s dad in Moonstruck’s opera scene.

Jackson, 51, was appointed a U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. in 2021. A native of Washington, D.C., she earned a law degree from Harvard University and was an editor at the Harvard Law Review. She had clerkships with Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and two others. Jackson was once vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. When sworn in at SCOTUS, she will be the first black woman to serve on the highest court.

The confirmation hearings were peppered by attention-getting questions by senators, to include U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Blackburn asked the nominee, “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?” Jackson, surprised, said: “No, not in this context. I’m not a biologist.” Conservatives on Twitter, who likely skipped the rest of the video, were shocked. They might have sought something such as “a woman is an adult female human being.”

Jackson was not clear on the definition because she would have to be partial as a justice for such a case. My grand uncle, a policeman in the 1930s and 1940s, often testified in court, and a lawyer would ask him his occupation. That was for the stenographer’s record. Still, he was dressed in beat cop regalia and held a billy club!

On April 7, 2022, Jackson was confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 53-47. This included three Republican senators making a courageous stand of bipartisanship for a well-qualified nominee. The GOP senators are Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.

Steve Marshall, 57, easily won the Republican primary last week as he seeks a second term as attorney general. He is a relatively new convert to the GOP. He spent his first ten years as Marshall County district attorney as a Democrat, switching allegiances just in December 2011.

Marshall’s big victory in the primary will be followed by a somewhat smaller win in November, as his reelection campaign will be one of his greatest hours. Unfortunately, the viral video I referred to shows a grown man afraid of stating the obvious — that the man he calls president is “duly elected.” Marshall wants to say voting fraud was committed but he has no evidence that hasn’t already been litigated and debunked.

If he knows about a fraud, Marshall must give evidence. But he does not. So the Republican recruit that he was in December 2011 has become the most important lawyer in Alabama who is too timid to say “duly elected” and will remain hush-hush on this. I am glad he finally acknowledged  the president is Biden, but how did Joe get there, Steve, from divine intervention or a SWAT team operation?

Marshall agreed with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D.-RI) over and over that Joseph R. Biden of Delaware is president. Yet when asked why he would not say “duly elected,” Marshall never said those two words. Finally, Whitehouse asked: “Are you skipping the language ‘duly elected,’ are you answering that way purposely?” Marshall again said only that Biden is U.S. president.

It’s obvious that in the Senate hearing, Marshall was concerned about 2024, when associates of former President Trump will scour videotapes to make sure that ambitious state officials are loyal to the disloyal “Stop the Steal” campaign. That will likely be tied to Trump’s expected campaign for reelection.

Marshall did not use “duly elected” because of 2026, when he will be term-limited. He doesn’t want MAGA conspiracy theorists to mess up his march to the Governor’s Mansion. Also waiting for a move in June or July, is Ketanji Brown Jackson. She is delayed because Breyer has not moved out. Maybe in her first session there will be a gender case in which justices debate terms such as “man” and “woman.” We can only count the days.

 Greg Markley first moved to Lee County in 1996. He has master’s degrees’ in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer for 11 years. .


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