The battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court has often been as “partisan” — but the people of Maine should look beyond that.
A Quinnipiac poll released Monday showed that a startling 57 percent of white men “believed” Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony (the poll asked respondents to choose one or the other — removing the mutual credibility option deployed by the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, who said they found Dr. Ford's testimony "credible” — just that she was mixing up her assailant).
This in itself is disturbing — white men, what is your actual problem? — but reducing the clash to a partisan political battle is besides the point. Indeed, it’s squarely in the conservative playbook. The same might also be said for oversaturation — tons of journalists, reporters, pundits, ghouls, trolls, memelords, and anyone else with an internet connection have weighed in.
It’s great that people are paying attention, but Kavanaugh fatigue could exhaust the public from hearing necessary reports. Like, say, the story that emerged from the New York Times Tuesday night that consisted of an incriminating letter Kavanaugh wrote to his friends in 1983.
The point is, the stories emerging now are icing on an already-baked cake. Kavanaugh already showed us what we needed to see. During his testimony last Thursday, after an opening salvo that wavered between histrionic displays of anger and indignation and oddly chosen moments of tearful memory recall, it has become demonstrably evident that Kavanaugh lied under oath. Yes, many of his statements cannily evaded incrimination — Kavanaugh himself was never legal to drink in high school, yet he tiptoed around this fact in his testimony, saying: “the drinking age, as I noted, was 18, so the seniors were legal, senior year in high school, people were legal to drink.”
But he lied about little things, and he did so often. He misdirected, evaded, and filibustered senators’ questions. His spurious explanation of the definition of the term “Devil’s Triangle,” taken from his yearbook, is one of the most obvious lies captured on television (non-Trump edition). So is his gagworthy defense of Renate Schroeder Dolphin (the famed “Renate Alumnius,” the joke on whom another classmate helpfully stripped of all nuance in his yearbook “poem”).
So was his claim that he had first heard about the Deborah Ramirez allegations upon the publication of the New Yorker article four days prior, a development that became Tuesday’s subject of national scrutiny. Several former classmates have come forward saying that Kavanaugh had asked them via text message to come forward to refute Ramirez as early as July. They have the texts as proof.
Purportedly, there’s an FBI investigation underway, though it’s unclear to even White House reporters how rigorous it is, or how sincere or serious. And predictably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying his best to ram through the nomination as forcibly as possible. “We’ll have the opportunity to vote ‘no’ on the politics of personal destruction,” McConnell said Tuesday.
IT’S STILL ABOUT COLLINS (AND HER CONSTITUENTS)
But in Maine, we’re left asking a pretty simple question. Put aside the (very real, very un-put aside-able) substance of the Ford allegations for a moment — if Kavanaugh can be so nakedly deceitful under oath on a national stage, so unwilling to answer even the most basic questions about the allegations against him, then how is Susan Collins to trust his word that he believes Roe v. Wade is settled law? Especially, as reported, he told her in closed quarters?
When Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) appeared alongside Chris Coons (D-DE) on “60 Minutes” this week, the two of them were asked by Scott Pelley, “If Brett Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination’s over?”
“Oh, yes,” said Flake.
This is the exact question Mainers should pose Collins.
Among the performatively partisan hacks that make up the other senior members of the GOP, the comparatively moderate senator has staked out a position along the fulcrum of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. While at times it has seemed she was a lock to confirm him (citing, as always, the virtues of precedent and process), there seems to be a sense of true indeterminacy in the Flake/Murkowski/Collins bloc. On Friday, Collins backed Senator Flake’s (admittedly punchless) call for an FBI investigation before the Kavanaugh vote was to be moved to the Senate floor. Collins stated a wish for the FBI probe to be limited to witnesses that Ford named in her testimony. (There have been reports that informants have "can't reach the FBI" since Friday, and it’s unclear how seriously the Bureau is taking Deborah Ramirez’s or Julie Swetnick’s charges.)
Such a shrouded investigation naturally gives rise to credulous analyses. This shroud, and the far-flung theories that emerge from it, gives Collins more cover to justify a possible vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
But the simple fact that he lied under oath does not. Typically, Collins performs a sort of political agency that maintains her position — or her illusion – of moderateness. She is often able to set those terms. But in a political proceeding as widely watched and closely scrutinized event as last week’s testimonies, it’s not easy for her to set terms here. The more verifiably true and widely acknowledged it is that Kavanaugh lied under oath and is unfit for office, the more absurd it is for Collins to be swept along in a politically motivated GOP directive to push Kavanaugh through at all costs.
The Phoenix has posed this very simple question — if Brett Kavanaugh is shown to have lied under oath to the Senate committee, will Senator Collins vote to approve his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court? — to Collins’ office. We have not, as of yet, received a reply (though it’s resoundingly true that the senator is busy, and besides, there's always the chance, in this climate, that the Phoenix is considered by the office to be ”the liberal media,“ seeing how we openly believe that returning to a dangerous era of pro-life principles where women’s bodies are further controlled by speciously faithful white men is actually bad).
Tuesday evening, the president viciously mocked Christine Blasey Ford in a speech in a rally in Mississippi ("indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," Ford had said). With no moral ground left to stand on, Republicans’ only gambit seems to be to frame the conversation in purely partisan terms — as if the presence of a moral code were enough to affirm a discreditable bias.
We, cautiously, want to believe that the Senator wants to do the right thing. This is admittedly sometimes a strained position, but we’re left with little choice. It has been both sensible and politically expedient for Collins to wait to see what emerges from an FBI probe, but there is enough information presently, publicly available for her to assess Kavanaugh’s character today, and they’re colored by increasingly appalling behaviors — like Trump’s Tuesday night — by the political operatives in his party.
If Collins doesn’t believe that Maine citizens are paying attention, she has no reason to act on it herself. The time is now to contact her. 202-224-2523.
This article has been corrected from an earlier version to reflect that the FBI investigation began Friday, not Thursday.