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For Shame

How Do You Feel Now, Susan Collins?

She allegedly voted for Brett Kavanaugh because he convinced her that he wouldn’t overturn Roe v. Wade. That makes her either a liar or the most gullible person in the Senate.

Senator Susan Collins and Brett Kavanaugh
Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Senator Susan Collins and Brett Kavanaugh during a meeting on August 21, 2018

Well, Senator Susan Collins, whaddya think?

Remember 2018, when Brett Kavanaugh came to call on you? Remember what you said?

“We talked about whether he considered Roe to be settled law,” Collins told reporters. “He said that he agreed with what [Chief] Justice [John] Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said that it was settled law.”

Remember your big floor speech defending your vote for Kavanaugh? I bet you do. Let’s remind people of some of what you said:

“As Judge Kavanaugh asserted to me, a long-established precedent is not something to be trimmed, narrowed, discarded, or overlooked. Its roots in the Constitution give the concept of stare decisis greater weight such that precedent can’t be trimmed or narrowed simply because a judge might want to on a whim. In short, his views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly.”

And: “Noting that Roe v. Wade was decided 45 years ago, and reaffirmed 19 years later in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, I asked Judge Kavanaugh whether the passage of time is relevant to following precedent. He said decisions become part of our legal framework with the passage of time and that honoring precedent is essential to maintaining public confidence.”

And: “Judge Kavanaugh has received rave reviews for his 12-year track record as a judge, including for his judicial temperament. The American Bar Association (ABA) gave him its highest possible rating. Its Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary conducted an extraordinarily thorough assessment, soliciting input from almost 500 people, including his judicial colleagues.”

Oh, just one more: “That Judge Kavanaugh is more of a centrist than some of his critics maintain is reflected in the fact that he and Chief Judge Merrick Garland voted the same way in 93 percent of the cases that they heard together. Indeed, Chief Judge Garland joined in more than 96 percent of the majority opinions authored by Judge Kavanaugh, dissenting only once.”

What a tragic farce this woman is. As I write these words on Friday morning, 90 minutes or so after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization dropped, we have yet to hear from her. I suppose when she does speak, she’ll express her “disappointment,” sure; but she’ll also try to defend herself, noting that she secured Kavanaugh’s “word” (as if anyone else in the universe believed that word) and pointing out that she voted against Amy Coney Barrett. But the vote against Barrett doesn’t matter for three reasons: Kavanaugh was the fifth and decisive vote against Roe, and Coney Barrett was just gravy; it was weeks before Collins was up for a reelection in a then-tight race; and she knew Coney Barrett had the votes anyway. The last two render her “no” a deeply cynical vote.

We are confronted with the age-old question about cowards like Collins: Did she know and wink and go along, or did she honestly believe Kavanaugh’s lies? Opinions will differ. I think the latter.

As I wrote here back in early May, when the Politico leak of the Dobbs decision landed, I felt that she was 25 percent lying (even if also to herself) but 75 percent gullible:

Collins comes from a very different time, now a long-dead world. She was first elected to the Senate in 1996, but going back to the mid-1970s, she worked as an aide to then–Maine GOP Representative and later Senator William Cohen, the fellow who went on to become Bill Clinton’s last Pentagon chief. Cohen was a genuine moderate at a time when there were loads of moderates in both parties, even a sprinkling of actual liberals in the Republican Party.

A person who has been functioning in that ecosystem for almost 50 years, years during which it has corroded from being a place of relative good faith to being the place it is today, where nearly every norm and custom is broken, is going to keep pretending that everything still works. That her own party, and the senator from Kentucky for whom she has repeatedly voted to make majority leader, are responsible for most of the breakage is a reality someone like Collins can’t possibly confront squarely.

That still sounds right to me. She’s probably sitting up in Bangor right now, or wherever else she hangs out, calling friends to express her shock and disappointment. If so, she’s the only one in America who is shocked and disappointed.

I hope she’s something else beyond shocked and disappointed: ashamed. Ashamed for her gullibility and, frankly, her bullheaded stupidity in insisting to herself that it was still 1978 and the Federalist Society didn’t exist and hadn’t radically reshaped right-wing jurisprudential belief. Ashamed that women are going to die. Ashamed that the right-wing assault on women’s bodily autonomy is hardly going to end here, as Republicans push for federal fetal personhood laws and other severe measures once they retake Congress. Ashamed of her collusion in the Supreme Court taking away a right for the first time in its history.

I see that just three days ago, she put her Bangor house up for sale. I wish I had a spare $727,000 sitting around. I’d buy it and burn it to the ground. And I’d name the resulting ash heap the Susan Collins Memorial to Women’s Rights.