Former Sen. Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, is warning of bleak prospects for Democrats on the ballot this November and says the leader of his party isn't doing enough to promote the administration's economic record.
"Democrats are gonna struggle, I think, in the midterms right now. We're struggling to find messaging," Jones told "The Takeout," hosted by chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett.
Jones said he is hopeful his party can hold the Senate, but admits Democrats have "dug ourselves a hole."
He said Democrats should be touting their handling of the economy and record job creation. "I'm not sure the president is getting that message out as strong as he should."
Jones served three years in the Senate and lost his bid for reelection in 2020. Most recently, Jones was the White House's pick to navigate Supreme Court nomineethrough the Senate confirmation process.
Jackson was confirmed with Republican support, 53-47, in early April, though she won't be sworn in until the end of the Supreme Court's current term, when Justice Stephen Breyer retires.
During her confirmation hearings, GOP senators drilled into the judge's sentencing record for defendants convicted on child pornography charges. Senators like Missouri Republican Josh Hawley; Tom Cotton, of Arkansas and Ted Cruz, of Texas, all thought to be considering presidential bids in 2024, alleged Jackson imposed insufficiently harsh sentences such offenders.
Jones told "The Takeout" Jackson's sentencing record was in line with her peers on the bench, and suggested the attacks leveled at her were aimed at catering to a "fringe base."
"I think it was playing to a Qanon base because the whole Qanon is based in part on this worldwide conspiracy of pedophiles. And so I think it was just playing to a base because if they had done their homework, they would have seen that this was not outside the norm," he said.
The line of questioning, Jones argued, was "designed to raise money" and provide fodder for social media.
Jones declined to say whether he harbored any ambitions of serving the Biden administration further, but he noted that he has known the president for 40 years. For now, Jones is back working at his law firm, supporting the administration from the outside.
On the war in Ukraine, Jones fears Russia is going to continue to escalate to the point the U.S. can no long sit by. "I fear that that's going to draw America into a military conflict" greater than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
Democrats' prospects in the 2022 Midterms: "Democrats are gonna struggle, I think, in the midterms right now. We're struggling to find messaging. But quite frankly I think it's bad for America when we see the polarization we have right now where people are only listening to - they're in their silos for newsfeeds. They're getting information. They're getting fed what they want to hear as opposed to sitting down and talking to people across the political spectrum. So yeah, I think Democrats are struggling. I think it's still a long way to go. And all politics is local. I'm still hopeful, at least in terms of the senate. Democrats have very, very strong incumbents. They've also got very strong challengers for a number of open seats. So I don't think all is lost for Democrats, but we're looking to climb up right now because we've clearly kind of dug ourselves a hole - a lot of which is not our own making. But I think if people clearly look at what is going on in the world today and understand how this economy has improved, the jobs that have been created, how things in our global standing in the world right now - I think those are all real positives. I'm not sure the president is getting that message out as strong as he should.
Breyer retiring / Jackson's confirmation hearings: "I just felt like all along that he would retire this spring, given the political dynamics in the world. What I didn't really think about was what a role might be for someone like me who's out of government, been out there for a long time. So I'm literally just sitting in my actually my doctor's office waiting for my annual physical when I get an email from a reporter saying my name had been battered around for this. Well, I didn't I didn't respond, but just sent something to Ron Klain, the chief of staff, said, look, I'm not going to respond to this, but, you know, I'm here to help however I can… The role is to do more than just simply help escort… Between the White House staff and the judge herself, she can find her way in and out of the offices. But what I think I provided to her was an insight as to each senator. I served with almost all of the ones that are up there, not all of them, but kept up enough with the ones I didn't that I kind of had an idea where they would be. I kind of knew where they would go politically….So it was providing a little bit of that background and a little bit of comfort, I believe, to the judge going in that so much of this was going to be political, not personal, but I thought they would treat her right. And so there was an element of just working with her and counseling her, but also helping try to understand how she was going to be answering questions about her- her 570 opinions, about her judicial philosophy, all of those issues."
GOP senators questioning Jackson's child pornography sentencing record: "I think it was playing to a Qanon base because the whole Qanon is based in part on this worldwide conspiracy of pedophiles. And so I think it was just playing to a base because if they had done their homework, they would have seen that this was not outside the norm. This was exactly - she sentenced exactly the way Congress had intended for a judge to exercise some discretion and what they completely missed was the talks that she gave to each of these defendants at the time, talking about the harm to society that they had created in the crimes that they had committed… This was playing to a radical right base that is needed by certain members in the Republican party who want to run for president. They've got to solidify that base."
Purpose of questions relating to Jackson's child pornography sentencing: "I don't think anybody that watched those hearings could say that those questions were designed to get an in-depth answer. Those questions were designed to raise money. Those questions were designed to tweet out things and to build up and the shore up what I think is a fringe base."
Ramifications of Russia's invasion of Ukraine: "I think the world as we knew it- have known it since World War Two has now changed dramatically. And it's not going to go back to anything like we saw earlier probably for the rest of at least our lifetimes. But from my standpoint, I think they need to ratchet up as much as they can with regard to whatever sanctions that they can get. And that is going to have to include figuring out a way to wean Europe away from our dependence on Russian energy, whether oil, gas, we've got to wean Europe away from that. And that means U.S. is, I believe, going to have to step up. We are an energy independent country right now. A lot of people forget that right now on the terms of high gas prices and inflation that we're seeing. But the fact of the matter is, we are energy independent and we should be doing those kind of things to help get our European friends and allies their energy independence for friends and neighbors instead of depending on Russia."
How the Russia-Ukraine conflict will end: "I think the more we're seeing with- with the way Putin, who has now backed himself in a corner, I don't know if there's a way out for him except to fight. And what I fear is that the only way he sees a way out of this is to escalate and escalate and escalate. And at some point, I fear that that's going to draw America into a military conflict. And if that happens, it is a far cry from the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is going to be a major, major piece of war, conflict, whatever you want to call it. And it's pretty frightening with what's going on right now… I think the United States and our allies have to say enough is enough with regard to the war crimes and the crimes against humanity and the atrocities we see going on against innocent people in Ukraine."
Consequences for Vladimir Putin for war crimes: "The fact of the matter is, you are not going to be able to get Putin into a courtroom."
Jake Rosen contributed to this report.
Executive producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
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