Sen. Susan Collins has made her decision. She will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Not only are we extremely disappointed to learn this, but we also object in the strongest terms to her rationale in favoring him. We found her judgment to be as one-sided and tone-deaf as her assessment of the opposition to Judge Kavanaugh, omitting essential facts and information that would have led her to an entirely different conclusion—one supported by the majority of her constituents.
While Sen. Collins decried a nomination process that has lost all sense of decorum and solemnity, citing examples of dark money spent on opposition ads, she neglected to take responsibility for her own party’s role in changing the rules for judicial nominations to eliminate the need for bipartisanship. Or to note that millions of dark money dollars and NRA funds had been used to promote Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. Or to recognize that her party irrevocably poisoned the process when it disgracefully refused to perform its advise and consent duty for Merrick Garland. Or to condemn a nomination process that rushed through a candidate before 90% of his relevant documents were released.
Sen. Collins’ review of relevant cases and judgments cherry-picked a narrow path of affirmation while conveniently ignoring a collection of concerning dissents. Those dissents and closed-door comments to like-minded peers show a judge ready to deny fair treatment to immigrants, women, and minorities. They show a judge ready to rule in favor of corporations over individuals, and ready to use religious liberty as a tool to discriminate. Sen. Collins took a dangerous and intentionally myopic view of Judge Kavanaugh’s claim that Roe v. Wade is settled law, neglecting to show any understanding that the current strategy, favored by all Federalist Society members, is one of “death by a thousand cuts,” chipping away around its edges and gradually reducing access, restricting rights, and over-regulating providers until Roe is rendered meaningless. This is happening now. Sen. Collins’ vote green-lights the strategy’s escalation.
Judge Kavanaugh’s views on executive powers should be viewed with great concern, especially by those who serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Collins appeared to read the vast trove of Judge Kavanaugh’s writings on this issue through rose-colored glasses, showing little concern for several looming constitutional crises that could come before the court within months, and even highlighting his recommendation for more expansive laws to increase presidential powers as a sign of how protected we already are from despots who commit, in his description, “dastardly deeds.” We consider this view both naive and dangerous, especially when combined with the blatant display of partisanship shown by Judge Kavanaugh during his recent testimony.
Perhaps most upsetting about our senator’s statement, however, was her shameful disregard of the credible claims of sexual assault made by Christine Blasey Ford. She examined the report of the FBI’s limited and hamstrung investigation with an eye toward exonerating a nominee she clearly wanted to confirm, implying in her speech today that the report cleared him of all charges, when it did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, just as the report made no claim of Judge Kavanaugh’s guilt, it also made no claim of his innocence. Nowhere in her speech was recognition of the preponderance of evidence that Judge Kavanaugh lied multiple times during his testimony under oath. It is simply unacceptable for Sen. Collins to assert that she believes Dr. Ford is being truthful when she says she was assaulted, but does not believe her when she says she is 100% certain that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant. It is equally unacceptable for Sen. Collins to assert that she believes Judge Kavanaugh is being truthful when he says he did not assault Dr. Ford, while ignoring statements submitted in recent days to the Senate Judiciary committee under threat of perjury that demonstrate he lied about his behaviour during that time period.
Shockingly absent from Sen. Collins’ assessment of Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on our nation’s highest court was any mention of the outrageous belligerence, spite, and partisan venom he displayed during his testimony. From the senator’s account, you wouldn’t even know that any unprofessional conduct had occurred. She even touted his stellar rating by the American Bar Association while neglecting to mention that the ABA today reopened their evaluation of Kavanaugh because of their concerns about judicial temperament raised during his testimony, concerns echoed by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and many others.
When our group started meeting with Sen. Collins’ staff about this nominee during the summer, they spoke of the issues she would keep top-of-mind during her deliberations: his ABA rating, his views on Roe v. Wade, his judicial temperament, and his character. Sadly, Sen. Collins ultimately dismissed all of those issues, just as she dismissed the concerns of her constituents. Mainers feel angry and betrayed. Our senator calls herself a moderate and a defender of women. She claims to be a bridge over a partisan divide. With this decision, she showed Mainers and the nation that she is no moderate and certainly no champion of women. She abandoned us to stand by a nominee favored more by her party’s leadership than by her constituents.
Mainers will not forget, and in the end, will abandon her just as quickly.