This afternoon, Jeff Flake appeared to throw a wrench into the gears of the confirmation fight being waged over Brett Kavanaugh, joining the Democrats in calling for an FBI investigation of Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual-assault allegations against the judge.
The Washington Examiner reported that the Arizona Republican said of his decision, “I just wanted to get some Democrats to agree and willing to come out and publicly say, ‘We would accept this’ and we would say that the process is fair at least, even if they’re not going to vote for it.”
Unfortunately for Flake, Senate Democrats are never going to accept anything short of tarnishing Kavanaugh’s name forever and blocking him from the Supreme Court. That was obviously the case long before there was any whiff of allegations against him, and it will remain true regardless of what the FBI does or doesn’t turn up.
Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh deserved to be taken seriously, and her charges clearly required further investigation. But for Senate Democrats, Ford’s claims have been most useful as a political cudgel and a delaying tactic for a nomination that the vast majority of them had already publicly sworn to oppose — a weapon to wield against a man whom they have labeled “evil,” a threat to the planet, and a danger to the lives of American women.
In fact, several Democrats promised earlier this summer to tank anyone President Trump nominated. “Americans should make it clear that they will not tolerate a nominee chosen from President Trump’s pre-ordained list,” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on the Senate floor in late June. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut swore the Democrats would “use every tool available” to stop any Supreme Court nominee. Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey Jr., meanwhile, said right before Trump’s announcement that he would “oppose the nomination the President will make tonight because it represents a corrupt bargain with the far Right, big corporations, and Washington special interests.”
As Trump introduced Brett Kavanaugh to the country on July 9 in a 9 p.m. press conference, Senate Democrats immediately began tripping over one another to find the most vehement way to express their revilement, hastily issuing statements crafted long before they even knew the name of the nominee. All they had to do was fill in the blank.
Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono was the first out of the gate, tweeting at 9:06 p.m., “Judge Brett Kavanaugh has not earned the benefit of the doubt. He has the burden of proof to demonstrate his ability to be independent of @realDonaldTrump and exercise unbiased and independent judgment.” (Hirono should at least be praised for her consistency: She told Jake Tapper last weekend that Kavanaugh hasn’t earned the same presumption of innocence as every other American because of the content of his judicial rulings.)
Ten minutes after Trump’s announcement, Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy attacked Kavanaugh as “a true Second Amendment radical,” “an anti-consumer zealot,” and “a critic of abortion rights.” “Not a close call,” he added, promising to vote no on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
For her part, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) managed to hold out a whole hour before tweeting: “Brett Kavanaugh’s record as a judge and lawyer is clear: hostile to health care for millions, opposed to the CFPB & corporate accountability, thinks Presidents like Trump are above the law — and conservatives are confident that he would overturn Roe v. Wade. I’ll be voting no.”
New York’s Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand participated in a rally the same evening as Trump’s conference, proclaiming, “Stopping this will take all of us, fighting as hard as we can.” Meanwhile, less than half an hour after the conference began, eternal showman Cory Booker tweeted, “The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is alarming & I’m strongly opposed to his confirmation.”
But California senator Kamala Harris — perhaps Booker’s foremost competitor for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — had him beat by 18 minutes. “Brett Kavanaugh represents a fundamental threat to that promise of equality. I will oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court,” she tweeted at 9:18 p.m.
In the hours after the press conference, the following Democratic senators also either promised to oppose Kavanaugh or expressed grave doubts about how his rulings might affect certain Democratic-favored groups: Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Ben Cardin (Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, promised to mobilize the American people to defeat Kavanaugh. A few days after the announcement, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan also said they’d vote no.
The very next day, the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to publicly criticize Kavanaugh, focusing especially on the possibility that he might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. These were the very same senators who in this week’s hearing insisted that only an FBI investigation will make them feel comfortable allowing Kavanaugh’s nomination to proceed.
But they never intended to vote for Brett Kavanaugh. They never intended even to listen to him — not in his confirmation hearings and not in his impassioned rebuttal to unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault. It was never any secret: Senate Democrats have always wanted to destroy him. Unless new evidence comes to light, their latest effort to do so cannot be allowed to succeed.