Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told President Joe Biden’s judicial nominee Dale Ho that he won’t support his nomination because he thinks he’s too angry to be a judge.
“Mr. Ho, you’re a smart man. I can tell. But I think you’re an angry man,” Kennedy said during Ho’s Wednesday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We don’t need federal judges who are angry. We need federal judges who are fair and can see both points of view.”
It was a bizarre attack on Ho, who is one of the nation’s preeminent voting rights lawyers. But Kennedy’s criticism comes as conservatives are trying to sink Ho’s nomination over past tweets and his advocacy work for organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union.
Biden nominated Ho, 44, for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He is the director of the ACLU’s voting rights project and was previously a staff attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He argued two cases against the Trump administration at the Supreme Court, one of which successfully challenged Trump’s plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Kennedy said Ho seemed angry because of tweets he’d previously sent that criticized Republican senators. He didn’t say what the tweets said, but Ho said he regretted the tone he’d taken on Twitter at times in his role as an advocate.
The Louisiana Republican pressed Ho to say if he meant what he had said about the GOP senators he criticized on Twitter.
“When you crossed the line, did you mean it?” asked Kennedy.
“Without knowing the specific context or the specific tweet that you’re referring to, Sen. Kennedy, it’s kind of hard for me to say,” said Ho.
“Do you generally tweet things you don’t mean?” asked Kennedy.
“Sen. Kennedy, I would agree with you that Twitter has become a very coarse place ―” Ho began.
“I don’t want to debate Twitter,” interrupted Kennedy. “Do you generally tweet things you don’t mean?”
This went back and forth a few times, but nothing came of it.
Kennedy also pointed to past comments that Ho made as evidence that he was partisan, except that he misrepresented what Ho had said.
“You’ve described yourself as a, quote, wild-eyed sort of leftist,” said Kennedy. “Do I have that right?”
“Senator, I think I was referring to a caricature of the way that I think other people may have described me, not how I would describe myself,” Ho said. “I want to assure you that I understand that the role of a judge is to set aside whatever personal views ―.”
“Right,” interrupted Kennedy. “I heard your testimony. ... Did you say, quote, Republicanism is an anti-democratic virus?”
“No senator, I don’t believe I’ve used those words,” replied Ho.
“You’re under oath now,” said Kennedy.
“Yes, Senator, I don’t believe I’ve used those words,” Ho continued. “I do remember saying last year that there was a loss of confidence in our elections that has spread kind of like a virus.”
Ultimately, Kennedy said his time was up and that Ho ― who politely answered questions throughout the hearing ― was too angry for him to support.
“I really have grave concerns about voting for you,” said the GOP senator.
The irony wasn’t lost on one Democratic senator who pointed out that Kennedy previously voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who screamed and sneered at senators during his confirmation hearing. He was a very angry man.
“When we talk about judicial temperament … with regard to now-Justice Kavanaugh, there were over 1,000 law professors and deans of law schools who wrote to this committee saying that he did not have the judicial temperament to be on the Supreme Court, and yet, there he sits,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
Hirono read aloud excerpts from letters submitted to the committee in support of Ho’s nomination from former Republican and Democratic colleagues. One of them was from 25 scholars and professors of election law.
“Dale also has the right temperament for the bench,” she read from a Nov. 26 letter. “Many of us have had the pleasure of engaging with Dale in a variety of professional settings and we know him to be a fair-minded interlocutor, even where we disagree with his views. Despite all his success, Dale is down-to-earth, humble, and approachable. Our experiences with Dale suggest to us that he will treat litigants with the respect and humility his position demands.”