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Judge Jackson faced nearly 24 hours of questions over the last 2 days


The White House asked former U.S. Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, to help Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson prepare for the confirmation process, and he is with us this morning. Senator, thanks for being here.

DOUG JONES: Thank you, Rachel. It's good to be with you.

MARTIN: There is, as you know, the universal preparation that any Supreme Court nominee needs to undergo what can be a really grueling process. What specific challenges, though, did you need to prepare Judge Jackson for?

JONES: Well, I think that the main thing that we needed to do was to just go back and just, like, replay her entire life for her. This is from start to finish. We now see that these hearings go back to college days, to high school days. They touch on everyone's personal life, their professional life. She's 51 years old, and you got to figure that she's forgot a little bit. So, you know, we - you know, the White House really did an amazing job of getting her record together - going back to the Sentencing Commission, going back to her time as a public defender, making sure that she was - you know, kind of got everything back into the forefront so that she could be ready for whatever was thrown at her.

MARTIN: So was she ready then? Was she prepared, then, to tackle questions about her rulings in this handful of child pornography cases?

JONES: You know, she was absolutely - I think you saw that in the way that she handled herself with grace. I think she - her brilliance came through. You're not always prepared to handle misleading questions, gotcha-type questions that are - seem to be designed more to throw red meat to a political base as opposed to just delve into your background and your experience.

MARTIN: Which is how you saw these questions.

JONES: Which is how I saw many of the questions that were there. Those were a lot of political speeches. They were there for soundbites. So many of those questions that you saw later came out in tweets. You know, but for the questions of substance - and there were a lot of them. I don't want anybody to think that the majority of the Republicans did that. They were respectful. There were very good questions. There were probing questions, and that's what you want in a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee.

MARTIN: Just probing those other lines of question a bit, I mean, at some points, we saw Republican senators try to provoke her with questions about, I mean, culture war questions, really - critical race theory or trying to litigate how previous confirmation hearings went down. How do you think she handled those?

JONES: I think she handled them outstanding. I mean, she was prepared as best you can for questions like that. We knew that there were people on that committee that are looking to run for higher office and that this was a chance for them to shine in front of their base. So I think she handled those questions, you know, that - a nominee can't always answer questions, especially if those questions are designed to try to get an answer about either a pending case or one that is likely to come before the Supreme Court. So she was able to, I think, talk about her philosophy, her - how she approaches judging, how she approaches constitutional questions, legislative history questions - and one of judicial restraint and adherence to precedent as best they can. So I think she did a very, very good job.

MARTIN: As you know - you were there - there were a lot of emotions at play yesterday in the hearing. Republican senators were repeatedly talking over Judge Jackson, and that provoked Democratic senators to raise their voices at their Republican colleagues. And there was also a different kind of emotional tenor set when Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, spoke and reminded everyone of the historic nature of Judge Jackson's nomination, as the first Black woman to be nominated. How did that change the room?

JONES: Well, Rachel, I think it not only changed the room, but I think it all just energized America. What they have seen - America has seen for the last week is a brilliant jurist who is both compassionate in her approach to people and judging. She has got incredible credentials. But Cory Booker reminded everyone that she will be the first Black woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court and how much that means to so many people. Millions of people across this country - millions have been tuning in and watching, and now they're seeing - Cory brought it back. We got into the gutter, to some extent, and emotions ran high. Cory brought it back home and really showed America how significant this nomination is to so, so many millions and millions of people out there and all those young men and women across the country who are able to see this nomination and say, I can do this, too. This is America, and this is what we're all about.

MARTIN: Former Alabama Senator Doug Jones, thanks for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.