For much of last week, the fate of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination rested in the hands of four Senators–Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. All four reserved their judgment pending the results of an FBI investigation into numerous allegations of improper conduct in Kavanaugh’s youth, principally claims that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in high school.
In the end, even though the FBI probe was limited to the point that it was barely credible, Collins, Flake and Manchin all voted aye. Murkowski was the lone holdout. Watch her floor speech announcing her vote here.
Murkowski referred to Rule 1.2 of the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which calls for judges to “in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” After watching Thursday’s marathon hearing, she believed that “appearance of impropriety has become unavoidable.”
The message was obvious. Murkowski was not pleased with Kavanaugh’s angry and borderline unhinged performance at that hearing, in which he claimed the allegations against him were the product of “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
Ultimately, Murkowski voted against cutting off debate. However, she asked to be allowed to vote “present” during the final vote. This was out of respect for fellow Republican Steve Daines of Montana, who was walking his daughter down the aisle to be married. Nonetheless, she made it clear that she did not believe Kavanaugh was “the right person for the court at this time.”
On the face of it, it was hard to argue with Murkowski’s reasoning. No one could have watched Kavanaugh’s behavior after Blasey Ford’s testimony and failed to wonder if this man had the temperament to serve on our highest court. That should have been true regardless of whether you believed Blasey Ford was credible or not. Under the circumstances, it was hard not to agree with Murkowski that his behavior carried an “appearance of impropriety” that should have disqualified him.
Now who could have had a problem with that? Donald Trump, apparently. After spending Saturday afternoon taking a victory lap, he called into one of his favorite shows, Fox News’ “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” to chat with one of his best friends, Jeanine Pirro. Watch here.
When asked what he thought about Murkowski’s vote, Trump reacted in typical fashion.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to her. I thought it was a very sad vote. I thought it was very, frankly, disgraceful.
Listening to this is a reminder of why this writer will not accord Trump the dignity of being called “Mr. President.” If anything was “disgraceful,” it was Kavanaugh’s speech. No matter how raw he may have been with these allegations rolling out, there was no excuse for him to behave in the manner that he behaved. It raised questions that no one should ever have to ask about a judge in any society that follows the rule of law.
Moreover, just days earlier, Kavanaugh could not have been more composed in an interview with Fox News. Imagine if a liberal judge facing serious allegations of misconduct had appeared composed in an interview with MSNBC, only to go unhinged before the committee while railing about those attacks being the product of the revenge of the religious right. It would have been no less outrageous than Kavanaugh’s rant. And it would have been no less disqualifying.
We already knew that your moral compass is fundamentally warped, Mr. Trump–assuming that said compass even exists. But if believe that Murkowski was “disgraceful” to call Kavanaugh’s performance for what it was–evidence of “an appearance of impropriety”–then it says a lot about you. And it isn’t good.
Apparently the Alaska Republican Party took Trump’s statement as a command. State party officials are weighing whether to formally reprimand Murkowski for opposing Kavanaugh. So standing for basic standards of behavior from our judges could get Murkowski slapped on the wrists by her own party? Lovely.
Even before Trump weighed in, former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin dropped a loud hint that she’s thinking about primarying Murkowski in 2022.
So we could potentially be trading a Senator who puts basic decency before party for one who had no qualms about allowing her son to use the family dog as a footstool. The fact that this is even on the radar says a lot about what the Republican Party has become. Also.
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