U.S. Senator John Kennedy (no relation to JFK) of Louisiana is a rare gem. His southern drawl, folksy demeanor, and keen wit — he’s said that judicial nominees don’t belong on the bench just because they watched “My Cousin Vinny” — are disarming, but he’s no rube. Kennedy is sharp as a tack and well educated with a law degree from Oxford, and can be “tough as a boiled owl” (an expression he once used to describe Sen. John McCain).
You can see him at work in a pointed exchange, on YouTube, with Nusrat Jahan Choudhury during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Choudhury is Biden’s nominee for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for New York. She’s a radical, woke, activist lawyer in the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. Her performance is a new twist on the evasive tactics of judicial nominees who repeatedly refuse to answer relevant, direct questions. Kennedy would have none of it. Here’s the transcript:
Kennedy: In 2015, you were on a panel at Princeton University. You said that the killing of unarmed black men by police happens every day in America. Did you say that?
Choudhury: Senator, I don’t recall the statement, but it is something I may have said in that context.
Kennedy: You think it happens every single day?
Choudhury: Senator, I believe in that — in that statement, I was making a comment in my role as an advocate and I was engaging in rhetorical advocacy which —
Kennedy: Do you believe that police officers kill unarmed black men every day in America?
Choudhury: Senator, I believe the killing of unarmed citizens by law enforcement is tragic and I believe that —
Kennedy: I think it’s tragic, too, but do you believe that — this was a really simple question, counselor — do you believe that cops kill unarmed black men in America every single day? You said that at Princeton.
Choudhury: Senator, I said that in my role as an advocate —
Kennedy: You didn’t mean it?
Choudhury: Senator, I said it in my role as an advocate to make a rhetorical point —
Kennedy: So, when you say something that’s incorrect, it’s okay to excuse it by saying, “Oh, I was being an advocate?” What do you believe? Do you personally believe that cops kill unarmed Black men every single day in America?
Choudhury: Senator, I believe law enforcement have an important and challenging job in this country —
Kennedy: That’s not what you said though, counselor —
Choudhury: Senator, I say before you here today that I do believe law enforcement has a difficult and challenging job and I also understand the difference between —
Kennedy: I just think that’s an extraordinary statement to make with no data to back it up. No, none whatsoever. There’s no basis for you saying that. And you knew it then and you know it now. How could someone possibly believe that you’re going to be unbiased on the federal bench? Your record shows that you believe cops are guilty until proven innocent, that if a cop shoots a criminal, it’s the cop’s fault and if a criminal shoots a cop it’s the gun’s fault. I’ve read your record and I don’t appreciate your not answering the question straight up. I would respect you more if you just told us what you believe and not try to hide it.
Point of information: As reported in the Washington Post’s data base, six unarmed black men were killed by police in 2021 (including offenders who attacked cops). That’s substantially fewer than 365, which would be the count if it happened every day.
When pressed by Kennedy, Choudhury was in a box. She knew her claim was false (hence her term, “rhetorical”) and had no factual rebuttal. If she took Kennedy’s bait and stood by the false claim, she’d appear to be either mistaken, ignorant, or a liar. Neither did she want to apologize. That would concede his point that her claim was a gross exaggeration. Refusing to disclose her biased belief, she stubbornly evaded the question with pre-prepared diversions and unresponsive, boilerplate generalities. When pressed, she justified her unsupportable claim as “rhetorical advocacy,” which has become a common gimmick employed by others of her ilk.
In essence, she asserted it’s okay to lie or grossly exaggerate because she’s advocating for her cause. Do you imagine she’d approve of those who lie for a cause she opposes? In court, lawyers are known as advocates. But they’re also designated as “officers of the court,” prohibited from lying. Choudhury confuses activists with advocates.
In the immortal words of Sir Walter Scott: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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