Amid Outpouring Of Rage, Collins Explains Why She Said 'Yes' To Kavanaugh

Oct 9, 2018
Originally published on October 10, 2018 5:31 pm

Maine Sen. Susan Collins has taken a lot of criticism for her vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

While she delivered a 45-minute floor speech last week explaining her decision, it didn't answer all the questions people have had about her vote and its ramifications. Irwin Gratz asked the senator - who's back in Washington - some of those lingering questions.

Gratz: A few questions remain after the Kavanaugh hearings last week. Your 45-minute explanation of your vote Friday for Justice Kavanaugh didn't explicitly discuss his judicial temperament. Now, retired Justice John Paul Stevens said in Kavanagh's second appearance before the Judiciary Committee he did demonstrate some bias and not a very good judicial temperament. Did that second appearance trouble you at all?

Collins: I reacted this way to judge Kavanaugh's second hearing: This was a human being who has been accused of heinous crimes, including doping and gang raping girls. I believe that he reacted as an individual who was pushed to the breaking point as a husband and father of a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old. And he reacted with great anger and anguish. I felt he crossed the line in taking the shot at the Clintons and also in his response to some of the questions. And I'm glad that he apologized to Amy Klobuchar and that he apologized in a column in The Wall Street Journal. But the fact remains that 500 people were interviewed by the American Bar Association about his temperament and they gave him rave reviews. And this was after he had contentious hearings on his first appointment to the Circuit Court in 2004, in 2006 — the Democrats held him up for two years, and he did not take it out on the litigants, lawyers or anyone else in his courtroom. So I think you have to look at that 12 years of actual experience of how he treated everyone from his clerks, to the litigants, to the attorneys practicing before him, and no one had anything negative to say about his temperment.

You've said you hope a silver lining in all of this is further encouragement for women to tell their stories of abuse. President Donald Trump last night said the allegations against Justice Kavanaugh were a hoax. You yourself last week suggested Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at least perhaps got the wrong man. Is all of this really going to encourage women to speak out?

I think the #metoo movement and these hearings have been an awakening in our country of how prevalent sexual assault is. Sexual harassment I think we knew existed. And many have experienced it. But the pervasiveness of sexual assault is truly shocking and demands action. It's one of the most underreported crimes in this country, and many women have not been coming forward as they need to at the time of the assault. And that's what we need to have happen. So I think it's raised public awareness of just how pervasive this crime is in our country. I have never criticized Dr. Ford. I respect her. I think she was brave. And my regret is that the allegations that she raised were not treated as she wanted them to be treated, and that is in confidence, but rather that someone from the committee who had access to her full letter with her name disregarded her expressed wishes and gave the letter to the press. And I think that was truly disgraceful. And I can see how that action could be discouraging. But my hope is that there's been a new level of realization in this country.

There's been some harsh criticism for you over the weekend as well, both in the media and online from people who say that, based on the fact that you laid out such a detailed case in support of Justice Kavanaugh on Friday, it didn't appear that you were ever undecided about his confirmation, or didn't sound like you really had struggled over it. Did you? At what point did you make up your mind?

That's the most ridiculous of the many allegations that have been levied against me. Keep in mind that the hearings on Judge Kavanagh and his nomination occurred in — he was nominated on July 8 or 9 and I immediately started working on this. I assembled a team of 19 attorneys, and many from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. I started reading his opinions, his speeches, his law review articles, because I was very concerned about what his views were on precedent because of Roe v. Wade. And I spent two hours — more than two hours — interviewing him in August. After I had done extensive preparation and gone through a longer interview with him than any other senator, I then listened to his first hearing, which was right after Labor Day, and at that point I felt comfortable in deciding that I would likely vote for him. We started to put together the speech and I started working on it. Then the allegations from Christine Blasey Ford came forth and put the whole confirmation process in a tailspin. So this was two parts. As you look or listen to my speech, I spent a tremendous amount of time talking about the questions that I asked Judge Kavanaugh, ranging from: Did he make any commitments to the White House or to the Federalist Society, or anyone else? Something he answered in the negative. 

Have you made any decision yet about seeking re-election in 2020?

No I have not. I don't make decisions way in advance on re-election. So I'll deal with that at the appropriate time.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

Originally published Oct. 9. 2018 at 9:58 a.m. ET.

Copyright 2018 Maine Public. To see more, visit Maine Public.