Sen. Susan Collins, who voted Saturday to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is performing some extensive mental gymnastics to justify that decision. In the best case, her arguments are extraordinarily weak. In the worst, the entire thing is a charade.
Equally maddening, Collins claimed that her intentions were simply to abide by the principle of “fairness.”
In an interview taped Saturday with CNN’s Dana Bash and aired Sunday, Collins said she initially was undecided about whether to confirm Kavanaugh. Then, she decided to support his nomination after meeting with him. But she became skeptical after Kavanaugh’s first sexual assault accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Finally, Collins said Kavanaugh’s wrathful denial led her to believe Ford’s account was false.
At its core, Collins’ argument seems to be that Ford was “just confused.” Or she is misremembering. Or something. And that’s all very convenient—for Senator Collins.
In the same interview, Collins acknowledged that part of her 45-minute speech before the Senate on Friday to push for Kavanaugh’s nomination was prepared before Ford came forward with the allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the 1980s.
In the end, Collins claimed that “there was no corroboration” of Ford’s testimony under oath.
“I was certainly undecided, and after hearing Christine Ford’s very compelling and painful testimony, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, uh, he perhaps needs to withdraw.’ But then when he came back with such a forceful denial, and the anger and anguish that he showed, and then the lack of corroboration, led me back to the fundamental issues that are fundamental to our legal system of presumption of innocence and fairness,” Collins said.
Bash reminded the Republican senator from Maine that Ford testified—under penalty of perjury—that she was “100%” certain Kavanaugh was her attacker.
“Let me say this,” Collins responded. “First of all, I found Dr. Ford’s testimony to be heart-wrenching, painful, compelling, and I believe that she believes what she testified to. I don’t think she was coming forth with a political motive, although I do not think that she was treated well by those who breached her confidence.
“But we also had a case where Judge Kavanaugh came forward and said, ‘I’m 100% certain that this did not happen.’ So, here you have two people who are each 100% certain of what they’re saying under pain of perjury. So, then I had to look at the other evidence and was there corroborating evidence. And that’s why I pushed hard for the FBI to do a supplemental background investigation,” she added.
The senator was blunt: “I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant. So, I do believe that she was assaulted. I don’t know by whom, and I’m not certain when, but I do not believe that he was the assailant.”
This is how she justified that statement: “In this country, we have a presumption of innocence. And as a matter of fairness, what I decided to use as a standard was the question of is it more likely than not that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Ford. And there was no corroborating evidence that he did so. Each of the people that professor Ford said was present that night have testified under oath…that they have no memory of this happening. And that includes Dr. Ford’s best friend.”
After spending some time second-guessing Ford, Collins repeated that she doesn’t believe her testimony.
“I’m not saying that she was not sexually assaulted. I believe that she was, and that that horrible experience has upended her life. But it does not mean that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant,” Collins said.
Asked about Kavanaugh’s temperament, Collins chose to be empathetic. “Well, I put myself in his shoes,” she said. (Did she ever put herself in Ford’s shoes?) “He is coming forth and answering an allegation that includes that he was involved in gang rape and doping girls. I mean, that is so devastating.”
Collins’ vote and her statements in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination have left women across the nation feeling betrayed. Does this bother Collins?
“I have met with so many groups of survivors,” she said. “I’ve talked to friends that, with one exception who confided in me years ago, I had no idea that they had been sexually assaulted. So, I have learned how pervasive this terrible problem is in our society. And clearly, we need to step up and do something about it. And every survivor deserves to be heard and respected.”
If only there was something Collins could actually do about it.
In related news, a crowdfunding effort to back Collins’ eventual opponent in 2020 has raised $3.4 million as of Sunday morning.