The recent, highly dramatic and sometimes ugly, circus that surrounded the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to be a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States seemed in the event to be largely settled by a single speech from the Senate Floor on Friday October 5.
Susan Collins, senior United States Senator for Maine, delivered a forty minute speech which concluded with the declaration that she would vote ‘Yes’. Almost immediately the usual suspects began screaming that she had condoned rape. Anyone claiming to conclude that from this speech has not heard it.
This is long, measured, sober and well-argued. So much so that it would be impertinent for me – not even an American – to judge it.
Nevertheless I am conscious that you may not be able easily to spare forty minutes to watch the whole thing, so I will restrict myself to supplying some guidance – a map, if you will – as to what she discusses, and when.
- The first four minutes are devoted to condemnation of some of the behaviour surrounding this particular nomination. Targets for her ire include not just activists and journalists, but even a few members of the Senate itself.
- She then moves into the necessity for looking beyond supposed party affiliations of a nominee like Kavanaugh, citing her own votes for past nominees. This leads into an extended description of her detailed examination of Kavanaugh’s Judgements, Opinions, Speeches and Legal Writings over a great number of years. This includes many examples of when his legal conclusions have run contrary to what might have been expected considering his supposed political persuasion. It also includes long, frank and penetrating conversations she held with him after his nomination. Crucially it reveals the strength of his regard for precedent.
- At 21:40 she addresses the wealth of glowing testimonials from all who have worked with him. These are not only technical legal commendations but also those dealing with his demeanour and character.
- At 24:00 she turns to the accusation from Professor Ford. Her main thrust is that though she believes Prof. Ford is sincere and was assaulted by someone, somewhere, sometime, the principle of the presumption of innocence is of such fundamental importance that in the absence of any corroborating evidence it fails the ‘more-likely-than-not’ standard and must therefore be dismissed. On the other hand she is withering in her condemnation of the me-too allegations against Kavanaugh that emerged from the woodwork.
- At 32:25 she launches into expressing the hope that some good might come out of this if it raises public awareness of sexual assault.
- The final section begins at 36:10. She talks of Ford’s reluctance to come forward, and how she feels she was a victim of political manoeuvring, though she completely absolves Senator Feinstein of that. She praises Chairman Grassley for the way he handled the proceedings, but she expresses contempt for whoever leaked Professor Ford’s letter.
The speech is structured and delivered beautifully. It is very impressive indeed.