Politics

Kamala Harris, Brett Kavanaugh and ‘Racial Dog Whistles’

Potential 2020 presidential candidate found nominee’s answer ‘very troubling’

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., attends the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She has accused the nominee of using racial “dog whistles.” (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Kamala Harris, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Friday she was not satisfied with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s answers this week when she asked him about his use of a term she dubbed a racial “dog whistle.”

During a Senate Judiciary confirmation session Friday with legal experts and other witnesses, the California Democrat returned to a line of questioning she had with the federal appellate judge on Wednesday. During the first full day of questioning Kavanaugh, she asked him to explain why he, in an op-ed, once used the term “racial spoils system.”

On Friday, she said that term is one among many “racial dog whistles.”

[Kavanaugh Would Not Be Trump’s Justice, Experts Testify]

“And I’ll tell you, the racial spoils system, that term stood out to me, so I actually decided to look it up in the dictionary, the term spoils. And in the dictionary, spoils is defined as, quote, ‘Goods stolen or taken forcibly from a person or a place,’” Harris told Kavanaugh on Wednesday evening.

His eventual reply: “I'm not sure what I was referring to then, to be … entirely frank. So I would have to see the context of it.”

That was not good enough for the freshman senator, who credited Kavanaugh with being “very thoughtful about the use of your words and your knowledge that words matter, especially words coming from someone like you or any one of us.” She also asked if he knew “the term is commonly used by white supremacists?”

Kavanaugh noted he wrote the opinion piece two decades ago on behalf of a client, adding: “And the answer to your question is no.”

[3 Takeaways From Brett Kavanaugh’s Testimony]

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric L. Richmond, who was testifying on one panel Friday, said the term has been used to mean minorities are taking up too many resources in society.

“Just the use of that term is, what we see far too often,” the Louisiana Democrat told the committee. “It’s not even a dog whistle any more, it’s just basic pandering.”

Harris’ bottom line Friday: “The fact he used such a loaded term and said he didn’t know what it means was troubling to me.”

Watch: Booker, Grassley, Cornyn Battle Over Release of Bush-Era Kavanaugh Emails

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