Decisions Count, Patterns are Illustrative, and Values are Revealed.
To say that a lot of people are disappointed in Senators Flake and Collins would be a mild understatement. That is a fair call. People on one side of the Kavanaugh nomination got their hopes up and felt let down. But it should not have been a surprise. There are also issues here well beyond one supreme court nomination battle.
These two individuals have had their shining moments (Collins, for example was a key vote on the future of the Affordable Care Act). But both have chosen two patterns of conduct that hurt the country. One pattern is irritating and disappointing. The other is downright destructive.
There is a pattern is of thoughtful words about how things could better. That a better approach and a better outcome was possible. They criticize their colleagues on language and process. But when it came time to vote, they fall in line. They have done so with what could charitably be called feeble protests of their innocence.
We saw this on the fiscally irresponsible responsible tax legislation. We saw it again on the Kavanaugh nomination. Senators watched Kavanaugh’s personal conduct in the hearings. They observed how absurdly limited the FBI follow-up was in the end. It is not possible to know all that and still take these two senators seriously. They correctly stated what was wrong, then said, in effect, never mind. Their thoughtful words and furrowed brows ran out of gas a bit early.
There is a still more worrisome pattern. These two have loudly protested the president’s words and personal conduct. They have both spoken of the lack of regular order and professional collegiality within the Congress. But they do so only in the most meaningless manner. Both have the power to extract a price for such conduct. They can withhold their critical votes as a declaration of “No more. Your agenda and candidates, even those I agree with, will not have my vote riding on the rails of your conduct.”
Yeah, right. Don’t hold your breath. Flake is quitting. There are rumors Collins will not run again. If she does, she has a high probability of losing. I will be glad to see them both leave the national scene. Collins in particular had the prospect of leaving an impressive legacy, but she chose to waste it.
In the sexually charged context of the Kavanaugh hearings, one is tempted to label these two as policy teases. They hint at big things, show a little moral rumination, but cut and run at the critical moment. Enough, already. We know who you are and what you actually are willing to stand for. Not much, as it turns out.
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