Meet Neomi Rao, Your New Brett Kavanaugh. No, Not That Way.
While all the usual terribleness rolls on, so does the greatest single project of Donald Trump and the Republicans: filling the federal courts with so many rightwing judges that even if the country elects Democrats for the next 30 years, there'll be at least an even chance that progressive legislation may be declared null and void in the name of "individual freedom." Forget that they're no good at passing laws; the Republicans are confirming virtually every last incompetent stooge the Federalist Society can dredge up.
Consider Neomi Rao, Trump's nominee to fill the seat on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit left vacant when Brett Kavanaugh boofed his way onto the Supreme Court. Rao has never been a judge, so let's put her on the most important stopping points before the Supremes. And hey, she even has a history of problematic writings in college, not unlike another Trump appointee, Ryan Bounds, whose nomination failed when Tim Scott and Marco Rubio withdrew their support. Not this time: All the Republicans in the Senate voted to move Rao's nomination forward yesterday, and she's expected to win final confirmation today.
Rao was a columnist for one of those "alternative" rightwing campus papers that were all the inchoate rage when she attended Yale in the '90s, The paper, the Yale Free Press, likes to say it's "somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun," haha. And like any college kid who has tasted the power of trolling, Rao, in her early 20s, was absolutely certain about all sorts of things, like the evil of affirmative action, the truth that racial discrimination was a thing of the past, and the obvious fact that rape victims were asking for it, at least partially. Some samples!
In a 1994 piece in the Yale Herald -- another campus paper that may be more agnostic on Attila the Hun -- Rao explained,
It has always seemed self-evident to me that even if I drank a lot, I would still be responsible for my actions. A man who rapes a drunk girl should be prosecuted. At the same time, a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober [...]
And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice.
Implying that a drunk woman has no control of her actions, but that a drunk man does strips women of all moral responsibility.
In a piece for the Free Press, Rao insisted that feminism has "contemporary associations with radicalism and lesbianism." In another, she said that in the process of tearing down the patriarchy, those naughty feminists had also destroyed institutions that "also provided greater protection from horrors such as rape." Elsewhere in that column, Rao complained that women just wanted to be sluts without taking any responsibility for their role in leading men to rape them, not that she'd ever blame the victim, mind you:
Although I am certainly not arguing that date rape victims ask for it, when playing the modern dating game women have to understand and accept the consequences of their sexuality. Some feminists chant that women should be free to wear short skirts or bright lipstick, but true sexual signals lie beyond these blatant signs.
Misunderstandings occur from subtle glances, ambiguous words. Sexuality has a power largely misunderstood in modern interaction.
There's plenty more like that, and ew.
During Rao's confirmation hearings in February, a number of senators had focused on Rao's college writings; Sen. Joni Ernst, who recently said she'd been sexually assaulted in college, said the comments on date rape "do give me pause," and that she was worried about the message Rao had sent about "about who is to blame." Fortunately, we can all stop worrying about that, since Rao admitted at the hearing that she cringed "at some of the language I used," and that she is MUCH BETTER now:
"I like to think I've matured as a thinker, writer and a person," she said. And Rao emphasized that "nobody should blame the victim."
Rao followed up her testimony with a letter to the Judiciary Committee, in which she apologized further and explained that in her early twenties, she didn't know beans about the world, you see.
Sexual assault in all forms, including date rape, is abhorrent. Responsibility for the rape is with the rapist. I believed that as a college student and continue to believe that today. No woman or man should be subject to sexual violence, regardless of the clothes they wear or how much alcohol they consumed. Non-consensual sexual activity is never appropriate or excusable. Victims should not be blamed for the terrible things that have happened to them. As a society we should create an environment where survivors feel empowered and comfortable coming forward. I am sorry for anything in my college writings to the contrary.
Rao went on to explain that in college, she'd been "sheltered," and that she's become much more sensitive as a mother and an adult to "the silent victims of assault and rape." Everything's good now, right?
Of course, since the only Republican gripes centered around the date rape stuff, there was no need for Rao to apologize for some of her other writings on how crazy liberals have ruined the world through political correctness and their silly notion that racism and discrimination need to be remedied. At Yale, Rao fretted that good old elitism had become a dirty word, when in fact we shouldn't water down our standards in the name of egalitarianism, oh noes!
In this age of affirmative action, women's rights, special rights for the handicapped and welfare for the indigent and lazy, elitism is a forgotten and embarrassing concept. Elitist ideals and social hierarchies are something from an unenlightened past. In our new feel-good era, everybody is okay, and political and academic standards can adjust to accommodate anyone.
In another piece, subtly titled "Submission, Silence, Mediocracy," Rao poo-poohed the very idea that we need to worry too much about discrimination in Our Modern Age:
Myths of sexual and racial oppression propogate [sic] themselves, create hysteria and finally lead to the formation of some whining new group. One can only hope to scream, "Perspective, just a little perspective, dahling!"
Seriously, sweetie darling, slavery and Jim Crow are so over, and they vanished without a trace. Get over yourselves.
As Mother Jonesnotes, Rao's deep thoughts on color-blind "equality" that happens to favor white privilege have continued well into her adulthood:
After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, she clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, who also has a dim view of affirmative action. In 2009, Rao testified at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and questioned the nominee's ability to be objective as a judge because of Sotomayor's suggestion that a "wise Latina" may come to better decisions from the bench than a white man.
As head of Trump's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Rao has been busy overseeing the dismantling of regulations aimed at bringing about equality, most notably killing an Obama administration regulation that required companies to track pay by race and gender. There is no gender or race gap, because the free market puts people in the jobs they earn, so why should businesses have to give the government data that makes gender and racial distinctions?
Oh yeah, and then there's the dwarf-tossing. Rao has written, MoJo notes, "at least two lawreview articles and a blog post in which she defended dwarf-tossing." You see, libertarian nutballs object to laws prohibiting the bar spectacle because it's demeaning (and sometimes physically injurious) to little people. Such laws are actually the worst sort of discrimination, because in the name of protecting a group's dignity, they bar some little people from choosing to make a living as projectiles. Rao wrote that a French ban on the "sport"
was an example of "dignity as coercion" and that it "demonstrates how concepts of dignity can be used to coerce individuals by forcing upon them a particular understanding of dignity."
Dwarf-tossing is an odd cause for a federal judicial nominee to champion. Even weirder, Rao has invoked it repeatedly in her writing to make the case that a misguided focus on human dignity is leading US courts to run afoul of the Constitution in decisions that advance LGBT rights and racial equality. These are areas of the law where, she argues, judges are letting the pernicious influence of international human rights law creep into their jurisprudence at the expense of American exceptionalism and personal freedom.
This isn't merely an academic discussion, either, since if she's confirmed, Rao will sit on the federal court where "virtually every major new federal regulation eventually gets litigated." That seems worrisome, huh? Worse, as Politico reported, Rao is also one of the jurists being floated as a possible replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg should the Supreme Court justice die or resign during the remainder of Trump's term. Wouldn't that make a lovely parallel to replacing Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas?
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.