Oct. 6, 2018, was a proud day for the U.S. Senate. We fulfilled one of our most critical constitutional duties and confirmed Brett M. Kavanaugh, a stunning legal mind and an exemplary federal judge, as the newest associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The stakes are always high when the Senate considers a Supreme Court nomination. But the shameful spectacle that unfolded in recent weeks raised the stakes higher still. By the end, senators were not merely deciding whether to confirm an impressive nominee; we were also deciding what kind of institution the Senate is and what kind of politics we would enable.
Senate Democrats and far-left special interests made their goal perfectly clear from the beginning. The same night the nomination was announced, as protesters who had made up their minds beforehand filled in the blanks on their signs, Democrats attacked then-Judge Kavanaugh in absurd and irresponsible terms. He would ‘pave the path to tyranny.’ His supporters were ‘complicit in the evil.’ And these are just the quotations from sitting senators.
Sadly, this wasn’t surprising. Shameless distortions have greeted every one of the Supreme Court nominees of Republican presidents since the left took down Robert H. Bork in 1987. But the far left faced a problem: The scare tactics weren’t working anymore.
Kavanaugh was one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees in history. He built a 12-year record as a respected appellate judge who painstakingly considered both sides of a case. Senators reviewed more than 300 of his opinions, along with the highest number of pages of documents ever produced for a Supreme Court nomination. And we heard high praise from peers across the political spectrum.
Members of the so-called resistance were running out of options. That’s when they reached a shameful new low.
Senate Democrats mishandled a confidential letter and helped ignite a nationwide feeding frenzy. A parade of uncorroborated allegations and outlandish rumors poured forth. Kavanaugh and his family were dragged through the mud. And the whole spectacle was eagerly cheered on by an irresponsible media and by many of my Democratic colleagues, some of whom read even the wildest personal smears into the Senate record and amplified even the most outlandish accusations.
Sexual assault is abhorrent. Victims deserve to be heard. These are not partisan positions, and little could be more cynical than pretending otherwise. But that is exactly how the far left sought to divide our nation. Factual questions and a lack of corroborating evidence were brushed aside in the rush to destroy a man’s good name as some kind of political catharsis.
The intimidation wasn’t aimed only at Kavanaugh. The Senate itself also came under attack. While many Americans on both sides made their voices heard respectfully, many others on the far left chose the darker road of mob tactics.
Far-left activists drove one member and his wife out of a restaurant. They blocked another senator’s car door. They hurled death threats at Senate staff members and vandalized offices. Members were harassed on their own front steps, chased through airports and accosted in Senate hallways. Protesters even screamed down from the galleries as senators were voting.
The mob and the media wanted senators to dispense with inconvenient things such as the presumption of innocence and arrive at the outcome they wanted. If we didn’t, the message was clear: We should be personally afraid.
That is why our vote was not just about Kavanaugh, nor just about the Supreme Court.
Senators had to make a choice. Would we let this partisan fever overwhelm the basic principles of fairness that have sustained our country for centuries? Would we declare that uncorroborated and vigorously denied allegations of nearly 40-year-old events are enough to dynamite a citizen’s career and reputation? Would we signal that naked intimidation could shape the Senate?
Nobody described the stakes better than my distinguished colleague from Maine, Sen. Susan Collins (R). Her remarks from Oct. 5 will echo through Senate history: ‘We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy.’
The Senate listened. We took a stand. We stood up to the media and the mob. We voted to set the right precedent and reaffirm American justice. We voted to shrug off the intimidation tactics and honor our body’s history of reasoned deliberation. We voted to slam shut this dark and disgraceful chapter and turn toward a brighter tomorrow.
We voted to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law is exactly what the American people deserve on their Supreme Court.
The courts guard Americans’ freedoms. The Senate guards the courts. If our nation wants judges who are thoughtful, independent and unintimidated, we need senators who display the same qualities. I could not be prouder that my colleagues rose to the occasion.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader.
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