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The GOP’s Kavanaugh Victory Tour Is Live and Kickin’

Republican leaders are (still) doing all they can to rationalize Justice Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh Sworn in to US Supreme Court, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh is in to the US.. Supreme Court, 2018.

Fred Schilling/US SUPREME COURT/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

President Trump will host a ceremony on Monday to swear in Brett Kavanaugh as the newest Supreme Court justice, but his status on the court was actually made official on Saturday, hours after the Senate voted 50-48 to confirm him. The battle to get those 50 votes was among the most bitter in the history of the legislative body, and Republican leaders embarked on a full-fledged victory tour as soon as their party was able to install Trump’s second nominee onto the nation’s highest court. The honeymoon has been filled with plenty of gloating, bad-faith rationalizing and a slew of TV appearances aimed at throwing dirt on the notion that anything untoward took place as the Republican majority rushed to confirm an alleged sexual abuser as a Supreme Court justice. Standard procedure. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said regarding the anger stirred up by his party’s ruthless drive to confirm Kavanaugh, “These things always blow over.”

It was Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) who seemed to log the most post-confirmation air time, which isn’t surprising considering how she positioned herself as the hero of the movement to put Kavanaugh on the court. In her speech on Friday announcing her vote, Collins said that though she believes Christine Blasey Ford “is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life,” her allegations fail to meet the “more likely than not” standard. Following the vote, Collins went on CNN’s State of the Union to explain that she believed Dr. Ford’s testimony, except for the inconvenient part about Kavanaugh’s involvement. “I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant,” she said. “I do believe that she was assaulted. I don’t know by whom, and I’m not certain when, but I do not believe he was the assailant.”

Though Collins wants to appear sympathetic to sexual assault survivors, saying she believes Ford but doesn’t believe Kavanaugh assaulted her is just another way of saying she doesn’t believe Ford. The crux of Ford’s testimony was that she was “100 percent” sure that Kavanaugh assaulted her. It was this certainty that propelled her to uproot her entire life to testify, and while Collins is pond-hopping from TV appearance to TV appearance, Ford is still suffering from her decision to come forward. In an interview with MSNBC, one of Ford’s attorneys, Debra Katz, said that it is going to be “quite some time” before her client is able to live at home again, and that the death threats are “unending.”

On Face the Nation, Collins argued that the Senate’s Herculean effort to discredit Ford and throw her life into ruin may have actually been a good thing for sexual assault survivors. “The one silver lining that I hope will come from this is that more women will press charges now, when they are assaulted,” she said. This makes no sense, of course, and when host John Dickerson pointed out that the treatment of Ford is likely to disuade survivors from coming forward, Collins saw it differently. “I certainly don’t believe that’s the case because I think that this has been an awakening for this country,” she said. “I don’t think most of us had any idea how pervasive the problem of sexual assault is. Sexual harassment, yes, we knew that. But sexual assault. And that’s why the #MeToo movement has been important. That’s why it’s been important that so many of these women for the first time ever have come forward. And it is important that we treat people fairly. And that’s what we need to do.” This is essentially like saying shooting someone in the face can be a good thing because is raises awareness that shooting someone in the face is bad. This is how twisted the GOP’s logic has grown.

Though she was reportedly torn over the decision, it became evident during her speech on Friday that there was likely never much doubt that Collins would vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Not only did she discredit Ford’s allegation, she breathlessly praised the nominee’s judicial record, even going so far as to argue that he “will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court.” Along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Collins had been viewed as a potential roadblock to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, as she is pro-choice and evidence abounds that Kavanaugh could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Nevertheless, Collins wants people to believe she is convinced Kavanaugh will uphold the decision. Most Republicans aren’t so naive. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has no qualms celebrating what he sees as the death blow to the landmark women’s rights decision.

While Collins made the rounds defending Kavanaugh’s credentials, McConnell defended the controversial process by which he was confirmed. When challenged by John Dickerson on Face the Nation about whether the Senate’s nearly year-long stonewalling of Obama nominee Merrick Garland “kicked off a new stage in the partisanship associated with Supreme Court nominees,” McConnell reached back into history for examples to prove his actions held with precedent. Unfortunately, his facts weren’t quite airtight, as Dickerson was quick to point out in detail. McConnell grew flustered.

“You are not listening to me, John, the history is exactly as I told you,” the majority leader insisted. They ultimately agreed to disagree.

Surely McConnell’s inability to counter Dickerson will soon “blow over.” He and Collins have done their piece, providing the base the necessary ammunition to defend Kavanaugh’s confirmation in perpetuity. It doesn’t matter if it can’t stand up to criticism like that which was offered by Dickerson; it just needs to sound plausible to anyone willing to ignore the facts, including Republican senators. The same was true of the FBI investigation, which was by almost every account a flawed inquiry.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page, which the previous night had published an op-ed by Kavanaugh, dropped all pretense after Collins announced her decision on Friday.

A day later, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who argued that Kavanaugh’s old friend Mark Judge shouldn’t be forced to testify because it would have been insensitive to his struggles with alcohol, made light of the role alcohol played in the sexual assault allegations. Republicans never seemed to take these allegations seriously. They were only obstacles that required a little more mental gymnastics than usual to rationalize their way around. With the help of Ed Whalen, an operative who pushed a conspiracy theory that Ford was confusing Kavanaugh with an innocent man; Fox News, who pushed this very theory and a host of others regarding Ford’s credibility; and President Trump, who openly mocked Ford at a rally in Mississippi, the GOP was able to accomplish this evasion successfully enough. It was time to drop the facade and celebrate.

After all, what good is owning the libs if you can’t rub it in their faces.

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