Rescuing Susan Collins – Make Judicial Nominees Speak the Truth

We all have blind spots; some of ours are greater than others. If you happen to be someone in the public eye, it’s more likely that other people will happen to see yours.

Each of us needs one or several people who can help us identify our blind spots and warn us when they seem to be leading us into a danger zone.

There may be no one in the world of politics who consistently gets duped more often than Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins. She seems to be about as well-intentioned as any Republican can be. She hopes for the best, so much so, that there are many times when she thinks that the better angels will visit upon the shoulders of someone who clearly has no intention of taking a compassionate or reasonable path. While often being naïve in judging the intentions of judicial nominees, she can be a savvy politician when dealing with the likes of Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia on possible bi-partisan agreements (this plays into his blind spot on bi-partisanship). She also knows well the playing field of her home state of Maine and consistently wins reelection by substantial margins in a fairly progressive state.

But nowhere has her blind spot been more apparent than in her assessment of Supreme Court nominees. A backdrop to this is that Collins is clearly pro-choice on the abortion issue, and she has wanted Supreme Court nominees to be committed to preserving the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

She was completely duped by Trump nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Collins is quoted in Rolling Stone as saying the following about the leak of the Roberts Courts decision in the Dobbs case that overturned Roe, “If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office.” Perhaps it would be, but clearly the two of them would not be the first individuals to walk into the office of a senator and fudge the truth. Like most others who come to visit Collins and other legislators, visitors generally say what they think will give them the greatest advantage.

Gorsuch told Collins that Roe was “the law of the land.”  Regarding Kavanaugh, Collins asserted that he “said under oath many times, as well as to me personally many times, that he considers Roe to be ‘precedent upon precedent’ because it had been reaffirmed in the Casey v. Planned Parenthood case.”

According to Rolling Stone magazine, “Collins expressed shock and deep concern when a draft of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Services decision indicated the justice would likely vote to overturn Roe was leaked to the public.” She felt that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh had misled her.

One of the most important assets that a politician can have is a strong BS detector. Not telling the truth, embellishing the truth, misleading others are all essentially components of the currency of politics. Why should nominees for the Supreme Court be any different? They want to both advance their own careers as well as the beliefs they have on issues that are likely to come before the Court.

This summer our non-profit worked with an outstanding group of high school interns. One of them, Corvin Haake, suggested that a president withdraw a judicial nominee if that nominee refuses to directly and honestly answer questions when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Clearly, a nominee must be told in advance by the president that they must answer questions directly or their nomination will be yanked. It would thoroughly change the way in which Supreme Court justices are selected and could be a major first step in elevating the level of honesty in politics.

Maybe Susan Collins could lead the movement, by acknowledging that she has a blind spot when it comes to assessing nominees. She needs ones who would be honest, and so do the American people. She can make lemonade out of a personal lemon she has.

The nomination process is a bullshit-a-rama. We need to find a way to changed it. Senator Collins, please lead the charge!