Ms. Collins did not derail him.
Instead, she took to the Senate floor Friday afternoon and delivered a reasoned, carefully researched, 45-minute point-by-point defense of her support for Judge Kavanaugh.
.. As for the accusations against him, she said, “In evaluating any given claim of misconduct, we will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be.”
.. “Protecting this right is important to me,” said Ms. Collins, who said a two-hour, face-to-face session with Judge Kavanaugh and an hourlong follow-up call, as well as an exhaustive review of his opinions, had persuaded her that he would not overturn Roe v. Wade. “His views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly.”
In addition to Roe, Ms. Collins said that a close look at Judge Kavanaugh’s decisions indicated that he would not overturn the Affordable Care Act and its protections for pre-existing conditions. Nor, she said, would he be afraid to be a check on the president.
“Judge Kavanaugh has been unequivocal in his belief that no president is above the law,” Ms. Collins said.
.. The one thing you wouldn’t do is destroy Judge Kavanaugh’s life for no good reason.
.. I doubt if I’ll ever hear anybody more courageous in my political life,” said Mr. Graham, adding that if Mr. McCain were present, “he would be your greatest cheerleader.”
.. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, who was eager to avoid an embarrassing defeat on the nomination, compared Ms. Collins to Margaret Chase Smith, the first female senator from Maine and a figure idolized by Ms. Collins.
.. Ms. Collins had been inclined to support Judge Kavanaugh throughout the process, saying early on — before the accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced — that he seemed highly qualified. Those who know Ms. Collins say she was also worried that if his nomination failed, the next person selected by President Trump could be more conservative and pose an evident danger to abortion rights.
.. said that she believed Dr. Blasey had been the victim of a traumatic attack. However, Ms. Collins said the accusations against the judge could not be corroborated.
.. “Fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of more likely than not as our standard,” she said. “The facts presented do not mean that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night or some other time, but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the more likely than not standard. Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.”
.. Ms. Collins said she saw confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh as a way to help rebuild the image of the court.
“Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination,” she said, “my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-to-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored.”
Four months earlier, McCarthy had rocketed to national attention. In a well-publicized speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, he claimed to possess the names of 205 card-carrying communists in the State Department. Smith, like many of her colleagues, shared McCarthy’s concerns about communist subversion, but she grew skeptical when he repeatedly ignored her requests for evidence to back-up his accusations. “It was then,” she recalled, “that I began to wonder about the validity… and fairness of Joseph McCarthy’s charges.”
At first, Smith hesitated to speak. “I was a freshman Senator,” she explained, “and in those days, freshman Senators were to be seen and not heard.” She hoped a senior member would take the lead. “This great psychological fear…spread to the Senate,” she noted, “where a considerable amount of mental paralysis and muteness set in for fear of offending McCarthy.” As the weeks passed, Smith grew increasingly angry with McCarthy’s attacks and his defamation of individuals she considered above suspicion. Bowing to Senate rules on comity, Smith chose not to attack McCarthy, but to denounce the tactics that were becoming known as “McCarthyism.”
“Mr. President,” she began, “I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition…. The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body…. But recently that deliberative character has…been debased to…a forum of hate and character assassination.” In her 15-minute address, delivered as McCarthy looked on, Smith endorsed every American’s right to criticize, to protest, and to hold unpopular beliefs. “Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America,” she complained. “It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.” She asked her fellow Republicans not to ride to political victory on the “Four Horsemen of Calumny–Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.” As she concluded, Smith introduced a statement signed by herself and six other Republican senators–her “Declaration of Conscience.”
Her speech triggered a public explosion of support and criticism. “This cool breeze of honesty from Maine can blow the whole miasma out of the nation’s soul,” commented the Hartford Courant. “By one act of political courage, [Smith has] justified a lifetime in politics,” commented another. Newsweek magazine ran a cover story entitled “Senator Smith: A Woman Vice President?” Critics called her “Moscow-loving,” and much worse. McCarthy dismissed her and her supporters as “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs.”
Smith’s Declaration of Conscience did not end McCarthy’s reign of power, but she was one of the first senators to take such a stand. She continued to oppose him, at great personal cost, for the next four years. Finally, in December of 1954, the Senate belatedly concurred with the “lady from Maine” and censured McCarthy for conduct “contrary to senatorial traditions.” McCarthy’s career was over. Margaret Chase Smith’s career was just beginning.