Collins seems to have invented a version of Brett Kavanaugh that doesn't exist.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) appears to be getting pretty desperate to find a way to justify a potential vote in favor of Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, even as his confirmation to the court becomes more imperiled.
But rather than, say, not voting for him, Collins seems to have invented a fictional version of Kavanaugh to give herself permission to support him without admitting that she's betraying her own promise to defend women's rights.
For one thing, despite her insistence that she has an open mind when it comes to Kavanaugh's accusers, and despite reportedly expressing concern in private about the accusations, Collins has been shockingly dismissive in the face of evidence that corroborates the allegations against Kavanaugh.
"There are rumors — there are so many rumors — that there are issues with Christine Ford’s yearbook as well," Collins said.
What "issues" or "rumors" could she possibly be referring to? Disturbingly, it's possible Collins is thinking of a conspiracy theory peddled by Alex Jones, who baselessly claimed Ford was "captain of the sluts" based on a photo of a young woman in Ford's yearbook (who is probably not Ford) wearing a miniskirt.
In multiple interviews this week, Collins has also doubled down on the idea that she just doesn't believe Kavanaugh would try to roll back abortion rights by overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Collins, who presents herself as a moderate Republican, is considered a key swing vote who could determine the fate of Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. After Justice Anthony Kennedy announced this summer that he was retiring, Collins said she could not support a nominee who expressed "hostility to Roe v. Wade."
But before Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings even began, Collins ignored Kavanaugh's clear record of hostility to reproductive rights in his tenure as an appeals judge, and the very hostile public comments he's made about Roe.
Collins told reporters last month that during a one-on-one conversation with Kavanaugh, he reassured her that he believes legalized abortion is a matter of "settled law." Collins appeared to uncritically take Kavanaugh's word for it.
And she still seems to be taking Kavanaugh at his word when it comes to women's rights — despite a week of confirmation hearings that included some deeply troubling comments about reproductive freedom, and even despite multiple credible allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
"First of all, I do not believe he’s going to repeal Roe v. Wade," Collins said in an interview on Showtime's "The Circus," in response to a question about how she would feel if her vote puts Kavanaugh on the court and ultimately leads to the repeal of Roe.
When asked about the disturbing allegations of sexual assault facing Kavanaugh, Collins appeared eager to shed her gender identity and only wanted to discuss the matter in her role as a senator, rather than as one of only five women Republicans in the entire U.S. Senate.
"What about your own internal deliberations on a question like this, as a woman?" host Alex Wagner asked.
"I'm a senator," Collins countered.
"But you're also a woman!" Wagner said.
"I am," Collins conceded. "But it is a very critical moment. But I've had a lot of critical moments in my career." Then, bizarrely, Collins changed the subject to how she voted on Bill Clinton's impeachment.
After that, Collins admitted that she hadn't made up her mind yet on whether to vote for Kavanaugh. "I'm close, I'm very close, but I'm not all the way there yet," she said.
Collins said she wanted to hear from Kavanaugh's accusers before making her final decision — suggesting that his regressive positions on women's rights and reproductive health wouldn't necessarily get in the way of her voting for him.
.@AlexWagner and @JHeil met with @SenatorCollins from Maine to discuss the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and the role of gender amid the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford. #SHOCircus #TheCircus #Showtime pic.twitter.com/C3PFkqJZAb
— The Circus (@SHO_TheCircus) September 24, 2018
On Tuesday, a day after the Showtime interview was posted online, Collins spoke to reporters and once again reaffirmed her belief that Kavanaugh would not try to reverse Roe v. Wade.
Citing her discussions with the Supreme Court nominee, Collins said she had become convinced that Kavanaugh would not try to undo Roe v. Wade given his supposed respect for established precedent.
"[T]he concept of precedent is rooted in Article III of the Constitution, and he clearly reveres our Constitution," she said, according to Bloomberg.
She also claimed she didn't think Kavanaugh would touch Roe because it's been a precedent for so long, although he has never made this argument himself.
"Roe was decided in 1973, and it was reaffirmed 26 years ago in Planned Parenthood v. Casey," Collins said. "So there’s been a reliance on Roe for 45 years, and he says that that matters."
It's true that Kavanaugh has said precedent matters on Roe. He also said as much during his confirmation hearings.
But that doesn't mean it matters enough to stop him from overturning Roe.
In a series of leaked emails published earlier this month, Kavanaugh indicated that he doesn't always view "settled law" as quite so settled, writing that that the Supreme Court "can always overrule" the precedent set by Roe and that the conservative justices on the court "would do so."
"I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” he wrote.
He only added to the suspicion by refusing to say during his confirmation hearings if he believed Roe was correctly decided or if he’d vote to uphold it if he is confirmed as a justice, though at one point he seemed to quietly admit he would overturn it.
Even if Kavanaugh gets confirmed and never goes directly after Roe itself, he could still severely roll back women's access to safe and legal abortion by ruling in favor of harsh state-level restrictions, and letting Republican lawmakers pass so many regulations and bans that the procedure becomes inaccessible to most women.
Collins almost certainly knows this, which may be why she is limiting her own discussion of reproductive rights to Roe. After all, if she pretends these other issues don't exist, then she doesn't have to explain why she would break her own promise by voting for Kavanaugh.
With each passing day, Collins is faced with more evidence of Kavanaugh's hostility to women that she must either accept or find a new way to dismiss. And while she has reportedly "privately" raised concerns about Kavanaugh, her public position has not changed.
Collins admittedly has a difficult tightrope to walk.
On the other, she is part of a Republican Party that would fund a primary challenger in a heartbeat if she votes against Kavanaugh.
But based on her most recent statements, it seems that Collins' answer to her precarious situation is to look out for her own interests first — even if she has to lie to herself in the process.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.