Profiles in Courage: Susan Collins
Senator Susan Collins of Maine is one of the prime targets for Democrats, who want to take control of the Senate in 2020. Their prospects of doing so are increased by the fact that 22 of the 33 seats scheduled as up for election are held by Republicans.
Richard Baehr, who spends part of the year in Maine, writes:
We are in Maine, and basically the media are all fully locked-in already, working for her likely Democrat opponent. She is still popular and I think will win, but it will be close and nasty.
One thing Senator Collins has in her favor is her dignified and courageous response to the outrageous pressure that was brought on her during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. The story of the outrageous series of stunts by his fanatical and ruthless opponents finally is being told in an important new book, due out tomorrow, authored by Mollie Hemmingway, the Federalist columnist who is a familiar voice on the Special Report with Bret Baier panel discussions on Fox News, with co-author Carrie Severino, a former law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas and currently with the Judicial Crisis Network. Excerpts of that book appeared in the New York Post and reflect very well indeed on Senator Collins:
Protesters had been harassing Collins for months. Hundreds of coat hangers, the favored symbol of the abortion-rights movement, had been sent to her field offices in Maine to dramatize the threat to Roe v. Wade posed by Kavanaugh's appointment. In a clever gesture, she donated the hangers to a local thrift store. She also received a torrent of obscene and threatening voicemails.
One rainy night, after working late, Collins was accosted outside her Capitol Hill townhouse by a man who shined a flashlight in her eyes and filmed her as he asked her questions, implying he was from CNN. How long he had been waiting for her in the pouring rain she didn't know, but she got past him and into her house, where she called the police. The man returned later and left a basket containing four potatoes on her doorstep, the significance of which she never determined.
As protesters besieged her Capitol Hill and Maine offices, Collins was particularly troubled by the abuse that her staff had to endure. A 25-year-old in her Maine office, who helped constituents with Social Security, veterans' affairs and immigration questions, answered a call from a man who told her that if Collins voted for Kavanaugh's confirmation then he hoped the young staffer would be raped and impregnated. The senator tried to assure her that the harassment would taper off after the vote, but she quit — a young woman driven out of public service, Collins ruefully noted, in the name of women's rights.
Protesters occupying Collins' office would take turns telling their stories of sexual harassment or assault, emphasizing that victims must be listened to. Annabelle Rutledge, a staffer for Concerned Women for America who was in the room with a group of women supportive of Kavanaugh, decided to tell her own story. Protesters rolled their eyes but listened as Annabelle spoke of having been sexually assaulted. She explained why it was unfair to blame Kavanaugh for what her assailant did: "We can't take the pain we have from each of these experiences and put it on one man. You said that a vote for Kavanaugh is a vote for everyone who has sexually assaulted us collectively, and that's just not true. You can't take the face of the people who have hurt you and have hurt other people in this room and put it on one man," she said. "I'm a woman but I'm also a sister, I'm a daughter, I am a niece. I'm a sister to four brothers. I'm an aunt to three nephews."
The room erupted into angry shouts as women who insisted on "believing all women" challenged Rutledge's story. A couple of women approached Rutledge later to apologize for the rudeness of the crowd. Her powerful message was shared by many women supporting Kavanaugh.
Liberal activist groups tried to strong-arm Collins by raising $1 million to confer on an opponent's campaign if she voted for Kavanaugh, a tactic that some election law experts considered dangerously close to a bribe. But the senator was unmoved. "In all my years of public service, I've never seen a debate as ugly as this one,'' she had observed several weeks earlier. "These attempts to pressure me are not going to be a factor in my decision."
On the day she revealed her decision, several protesters started shouting and were removed from the room. Collins began by lamenting that special-interest groups and Democratic senators had announced their opposition to Kavanaugh from the moment of his nomination. One colleague even opposed the nomination before it was announced and had misrepresented his judicial record.
"Our Supreme Court confirmation process has been in steady decline for more than 30 years," she said. "One can only hope that the Kavanaugh nomination is where the process has finally hit rock bottom."
After speaking for 43 minutes, she finished by saying, "Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh." With that, Kavanaugh's confirmation was virtually assured, even though the vote wouldn't take place until the next day.
As Richard Baehr notes:
Her speech announcing for Kavanaugh was carefully prepared, well delivered and very comprehensive. She is a first class senator and a good match for her state at the moment, which has become socially liberal, but is traditionally fiscally conservative.
Those of you looking for an important competitive race to make a contribution should have Collins near the top of the list. Collins is likely to be outspent in her race.