Commentary

What Republicans should know about Laxalt’s sudden obsession with child porn

April 6, 2022 7:49 am

Laxalt didn’t start using the disgusting phrase “pedophile apologist” because he thinks Ketanji Brown Jackson is one. He knows she’s not. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

Judges, attorneys, and legal analysts with expertise in the court proceedings may disagree over what the appropriate sentence should be for someone convicted of possessing or distributing child pornography.

But there isn’t much disagreement among those people about one thing: There has been nothing notably unique or unconventional about the  punishments handed down in such cases by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Her sentences have been in the mainstream of judicial sentencing nationwide.

If Adam Laxalt knows anything at all about those judicial sentencing practices in child porn cases, he’s pretending he doesn’t, because he’s having too much fun going on Steve Bannon’s Internet House of Conspiracies and Lies show and calling the Supreme Court nominee a “pedophile apologist.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who Laxalt hopes to unseat later this year, will vote to confirm Jackson when her nomination goes to the Senate floor. Laxalt declares that by doing so, Cortez Masto “ignores” Jackson’s “record of leniency for the worst offenders in our society.”

By making that declaration, Laxalt ignores the facts.

The charitable view is that Laxalt simply hasn’t bothered to learn them, because he doesn’t really care about them one way or the other. He’s not acting like he’s appalled because he’s appalled. He’s acting like he’s appalled because he thinks he’s found a powerful talking point sure to stoke more outrage in the perpetually outraged Republican base.

The less charitable view is that Laxalt knows full well there is nothing out of sorts about Jackson’s sentencing record, and Laxalt is just lying. As is his custom.

The latter seems most likely. After all, the facts have been well-documented and readily accessible for weeks.

“Federal appeals court Judges Joseph Bianco of the Second Circuit and Andrew Brasher of the Eleventh Circuit, both Trump appointees, had each previously sentenced defendants convicted of possessing child pornography to prison terms well below federal guidelines at the time they were confirmed,” according to a review of court records reported by ABC News last month.

Both Bianco and Brasher were confirmed with overwhelming support from the Senate Republicans Laxalt so passionately hopes to refer to as colleagues one day. That includes confirmation votes cast by Sens. Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, the three senators named as Laxalt endorsers in a pinned tweet atop Laxalt’s Twitter page.

Since his “pedophile apologist” angst is just another political schtick and not, for him, a sincerely troubling concern, Laxalt would never, ever suggest that Cotton, Cruz and Hawley ignored those judges’ “record of leniency for the worst offenders in our society.”

The ABC News report reviewed federal judges appointed and confirmed under Trump and “found nearly a dozen had handed down below-guideline sentences in cases of defendants viewing, possessing, transporting or distributing child pornography.”

Multiple other news organizations, even including some that Laxalt will talk to, have fact-checked the allegations made against Jackson by the likes of Cruz and Hawley during her confirmation hearing, allegations now parroted by Laxalt. Each of those explorations reach the same conclusion: Republican assertions that Jackson is somehow out of the mainstream on sentencing are bogus.

Even National Review, the magazine founded by William F. Buckley in 1955 and still regarded as an iconic publication of the American right, dismissed the GOP’s accusations against Jackson as “meritless to the point of demagoguery.” And an article in Reason, perhaps the most prominent U.S. publication of the libertarian right, characterized the claims as “political vacuity” on the part of Senate Republicans.

So why would Laxalt so willingly ignore the truth and deploy the vile tactic of whipping up GOP voters by trafficking in the politics of child porn?

Because manufacturing pedophilia panic is a proven potent tactic – and not just in the United States, as explained earlier this year by Voice of America

“Pedophilia … is a charged word in Russia, say disinformation analysts. They argue that the government has a long propaganda history of linking homosexuality with pedophilia” which “has to be understood within a larger state project of defining Russia’s identity in terms of traditional values, delineating Russia from a Western world often portrayed by the Kremlin as dissolute and decadent.”

Huh. Replace “Russia” with “Nevada” and “Western world” with “California,” and you’re describing a 2018 Laxalt for Governor ad.

Whipping up pedophilia hysteria is a dastardly, calculating act of cold cynicism. It’s also good politics. As UC-Davis history professor and student of conspiracies Kathryn Olmsted succinctly explained to Mother Jones, “hurting children is one of the worst things you can say someone is doing. It’s an easy way to demonize your enemy.”

Easy and demonizing? What could be more Laxaltian?

Although an unpopular opinion in some quarters, it needs being said: Laxalt is not an idiot. He didn’t start using the disgusting phrase “pedophile apologist” because he thinks Ketanji Brown Jackson is one. He knows she’s not.  

By deliberately misleading Republican voters, Laxalt is demonstrating that he believes – with good reason, judging from the last few years – that they are easily manipulated if Republican politicians push the right buttons. Even though Laxalt knows better, he’s exploiting their passions, and them, for the sole purpose of advancing his life-long ambition to be a celebrity career politician.

It’s a craven act of blunt political opportunism, deployed not to protect children, but to serve Laxalt’s goals by driving Americans even further down the hellhole of divisiveness and hate. An exceptionally self-centered individual even by politicians’ standards, Laxalt views Republican voters the same way he views everything else about the United States and its people: with contempt.

Note: This column was updated to clarify the nominee’s sentencing record.

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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