If Susan Margaret Collins, sixty-five, of Caribou, Maine, the senior U.S. Senator for the Pine Tree State, was ever really a “Rockefeller Republican”, she isn’t anymore.
In a carefully choreographed, meticulously planned, lengthy floor speech, Collins made it abundantly clear that she fiercely supports Donald Trump’s extremist pick to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
And although she did not say so, it is evident from her remarks that she has supported Brett Kavanaugh all along, despite pretending to be undecided and uncommitted. The only reason she concealed her fervent support for this nomination was so that she could ride in at the eleventh hour and deliver the biggest shot in the arm possible to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.
Like the head of her party, Collins is a con artist.
The speech Collins gave was not the kind of speech given by a senator who was ever conflicted about their vote. It was a speech of a true believer — someone who wants to see decades of precedent upended to advance right wing causes.
And yet, instead of coming clean and admitting that she fully supports the right wing’s decades-long initiative to seize control of America’s judiciary and radically reshape case law, Collins lamely attempted to argue that Brett Kavanaugh poses no threat to women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, or checks and balances.
In essence, Collins tried to accomplish two conflicting objectives with her speech: mount a full-throated defense of Brett Kavanaugh, a man who isn’t qualified to sit on any bench anywhere, let alone the Supreme Court, and square that position with her prized image as an independent-minded “Rockfeller Republican”.
Actions speak louder than words, though, and most of the words that Collins spoke today were empty and not defensible. For example, she said:
Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our Judiciary and our highest court is restored.
No reasonable observer of American politics, whatever their ideological leanings, could possibly say with a straight face that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation will mean less divisions on the United States Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh is arguably the most partisan, unstable nominee the Senate has considered in decades. His disturbing testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week is proof enough of that.
Justice John Paul Stevens cited that testimony when he spoke to a group of retirees in Boca Raton, Florida, saying that Kavanuagh shouldn’t be confirmed. (It is extremely unusual for a retired Supreme Court justice to express a viewpoint on whether a nominee ought to be confirmed or not.)
“They suggest that he has demonstrated a potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities,” said Stevens. “And I think there is merit in that criticism and that the senators should really pay attention to it. For the good of the court… it’s not healthy to get a new justice that can only do a part-time job.”
Collins also preposterously tried to have it both ways with respect to the allegations against Kavanaugh: on the one hand, she said she believed Dr. Ford, but on the other hand, she said she took Kavanaugh’s denials at face value.
The facts presented do not mean that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night – or at some other time – but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the “more likely than not” standard. Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the Court.
Collins cited due process, presumption of innocence, and fairness as her grounds for giving the incredibly entitled and very arrogant Brett Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt. But if she really believes in those principles, why did she call for Al Franken to quit the Senate before the allegations against him had even been investigated?
Susan Collins had the opportunity to be a hero, but as it turns out, she was never interested in pursuing that path. Unlike Lisa Murkowski, who listened to her conscience and voted accordingly, Collins parachuted in at the very end not to save the day, but to become the chief apologist for a man that thousands of law professors urged her not to put on the United States Supreme Court.
Susan Collins would like everyone to believe she’s not like every Republican: that she doesn’t blindly follow Donald Trump, that she thinks for herself, that she parts ways with her party on a host of issues. But in reality, she is a willing enabler of Donald Trump’s administration and a willing collaborator of Mitch McConnell’s.
There will be consequences. Collins may, as many people have suspected, may have a deal with Mitch McConnell to support Trump’s judicial nominees. She may think that she can get reelected with McConnell’s help in spite of her vote for Kavanaugh.
If she does think that, progressive groups say she’s sorely mistaken.
“Susan Collins has betrayed the people, and especially the women and survivors, of Maine,” said the organizers of Be A Hero Team, Maine People’s Alliance and Mainers for Accountable Leadership in a statement. “Thousands of Mainers wrote, called, visited, protested, begged and pleaded with Susan Collins to do the right thing – to be a hero – and vote no. She ignored them.”
“Maine deserves a Senator who would recoil at the idea of confirming a proven liar, an emotionally unstable partisan, to the Supreme Court,” they added. “Maine deserves a Senator who will believe survivors, who will listen to their stories, and who will represent them with honor. Susan Collins is no longer capable of that.”
The three groups have for the last several weeks been collecting pledges for a fund that is to be turned over to whoever the Maine Democratic Party nominates to run against Collins in 2020. The fund was only to be activated in the event that Collins voted for Kavanaugh. Now that she has committed to do so, she is guaranteed to have a Democratic opponent who receives a multi-million dollar war chest upon the commencement of their general election campaign.
Collins is aware of the fund and has disdainfully characterized it as a bribe.
Once again, she is wrong. The fund is a threat, not a bribe. The groups behind it could have simply secured pledges for Collins’ 2020 opponent as a show of force without any conditions, but they made the pledges conditional on Collins’ vote to give her the benefit of the doubt, because they truly wanted her to “be a hero”.
Collins has chosen to be an enabler rather than a hero. As far as we’re concerned, in the words of Senator Maria Cantwell, she just made a career-ending move.