What the hell kind of cheap stunt was that at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Janice Rogers Brown yesterday? As Byron York reports at National Review Online, Orrin Hatch made an opening statement defending the ultraconservative state judge, then dived headfirst into the gutter:
Hatch then did something that put Democrats on the defensive for much of the day. Brown is opposed by a number of old-line civil-rights groups, and her nomination has been greeted with sometimes-vicious criticism in the black community. To illustrate that, Hatch unveiled a blow-up of a cartoon that had appeared on a website called BlackCommentator.com. The cartoon portrayed Brown as a fat black woman with huge lips, an unruly Afro, and an enormous backside. In the cartoon, President Bush is introducing her to other blacks in government. "Welcome to the federal bench, Ms. Clarence...I mean, Ms. Rogers Brown," the president says. "You'll fit right in." To the side, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice stand applauding.
..."Now I want to make clear that I am not referring to any of my colleagues here on the committee," Hatch said as he revealed the cartoon. "But let me show you what I am talking about — an example of how low Justice Brown's attackers will sink to smear a qualified African-American jurist who doesn't parrot their views. I hope that everyone here considers this cartoon offensive and despicable."
OK -- do you want to see the cartoon? Here it is.
Reasonable people can differ, but I think York's description of the caricature of Janice Rogers Brown says a lot more about York than it does about the cartoon. She's no Hottentot Venus in this cartoon. She's built like a typical cartoonist's version of a paunchy middle-aged man in drag -- and she's built like the depiction of Thomas himself in the same cartoon. (Thomas is not a slender man.) And as for the lips -- well, the source is Black Commentator. I'm going to leap into the void and assume the cartoonist is black. Do I have the right to tell a black cartoonist how to draw the lips of another black person? Does Byron York? (If York wants to see grotesquely caricatured lips, he should check out the way cartoonists draw this guy.)
But I'm getting away from the main pont. Even if this cartoon is offensive, what on earth was it doing on display in the hearing room? Did anyone in the room draw the cartoon? Is there any reason to believe that any of the Democrats on the committee had even seen it, or heard of Black Commentator, before the cartoon was unveiled? And so if no one in the room knew about it, why try to hang it around Democrats' necks? (That "I am not referring to any of my colleagues" was utterly disingenuous.)
The Democrats did recognize that they were being required to have the politically correct response to the cartoon, and they complied -- but that wasn't enough for Hatch. Here's York again:
For the rest of the hearing, Democrats repeatedly condemned the cartoon and asked Hatch to remove it from display. He declined, and it remained on an easel beside the dais.
So let's sum up: A cartoon drawn (presumably) by a black cartoonist for a publication aimed at a black audience is being used to implicitly depict white Democratic senators who presumably had never seen the cartoon as bigoted against blacks -- to depict them, in essence, as guilty of racism until proven innocent (and, apparently, not even then).
(Thanks to BuzzFlash for the link to the cartoon.)
By the way, I realize that months ago I wrote something about Janice Rogers Brown. She was rumored at the time to be a possible future Bush judicial nominee, and I noticed that she'd been the only dissenter in a California ruling affirming that a man can be found guilty of rape if he persists in intercourse after a woman says she doesn't want to continue. Reasonable people such as TalkLeft's Jeralyn Merritt can disagree with the principle that consent can be withdrawn in the middle of the act, but the case in question involved a man who persisted in intercourse for more than four minutes after the woman said she wanted to go home (as noted here). I really need to read more about Janice Rogers Brown -- though I'll note that Jeralyn Merritt opposes her confirmation.