It’s routine for Republican judicial and Justice Department nominees to dodge questions about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision striking down state abortion bans. And that’s what Deputy Attorney General nominee Jeffrey Rosen did today in his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, as the Daily Beast reports:
“Would you agree that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided?” [Democratic Senator Richard] Blumenthal asked.
“What I would agree with is that it’s the precedent of the Supreme Court for better than 40 years now and unless and until that changes, it’s the law,” he replied.
Blumenthal then pressed him on whether it was decided correctly, and Rosen said he didn’t have anything more to say.
Since everyone knows the Trump administration is committed to the reversal of Roe but wants to avoid mobilizing supporters of reproductive rights, that response was no surprise. But the same answer to a different question from Blumenthal was another matter:
“Was Brown v. Board of Education correctly decided?” Blumenthal asked.
“Senator, I don’t think that it would be a productive exercise for me to go through the most — thousands of Supreme Court opinions and say which ones are right and which ones are wrong,” he said …
“I, um, I have views about lots of Supreme Court cases,” Rosen said, “but I’m not being nominated for this position to be the Solicitor General nor a judge and I think in this context the point I’m trying to make is that, whatever the law is, whether it’s a decision I would favor or disfavor, I see it as the role of the Department of Justice to uphold the law such as it is, unless Congress or the courts change it.”
Brown, of course, was the decision that finally outlawed Jim Crow law in public education. You can watch the exchange here:
Rosen’s not the first Trump appointee to take this tack: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and several lower-court nominees also refused to specifically endorse Brown, generally regarded as one of SCOTUS’ greatest decisions, as a correctly decided precedent.
But still, even Trumpites should understand how outrageous it is for the prospective number-two person in the agency responsible for enforcing civil rights laws to take the Fifth on a landmark decision that even open bigots now accept as inevitable and even right. Judges can at least claim they never second-guess each other in informal settings. Rosen has no such excuse.