Opinion | Muftic: When the conscience of a conservative prevailed
At about 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, listening to the satellite radio as I drove to a dentist appointment, there was jaw dropping breaking news. When I left the house, the final votes of the all-male GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had fallen into place with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announcing he would vote in favor of confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
That action cleared the way for vote of the full Senate and the outcome, given the GOP majority, was certain Kavanaugh would be confirmed.
All that was left was the committee’s formal vote.
In my mind, I was already writing my first sentence for next week’s column: The credible testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford about the attempted rape by Brett Kavanaugh in high school was just blown off by the all-male GOP panel members.
Those 11 men were not about to let an event 36 years ago derail the confirmation of Kavanaugh. At stake were not only keeping campaign promises, but it was also the timeline they had set to beat the Nov. 6 midterm deadline. Their fear was the Senate could turn blue.
All that was left was for the senators to explain their votes and in a fiery rant, Sen. Lindsey Graham attacked the Democrats for their manipulation of Dr. Ford’s timing of the testimony and made it clear this was a partisan matter. In contrast, soft spoken Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., gave his opinion that the Democrat’s position was fair and reasonable: requesting an FBI investigation would help provide the missing facts left by the “he said, she said” in Thursday’s testimonies of two credible witnesses and that it could be done to meet the GOP timeline. There just needed to be a week’s pause in the full Senate vote to allow that to happen.
Sen. Flake sat listening, his face tortured in knowing only he who was not running for re-election had the freedom from party discipline to swing his vote. Torn between his devotion to the ideological approval of Kavanaugh and his belief in the fair treatment of Dr. Ford, the moral conscience of a conservative prevailed and Coons and he quietly left the room to finalize the compromise.
Flake would stand by his pledge to vote for Kavanaugh, but he attached the condition that he would reserve his final floor vote if all would agree to one week’ s delay to allow the FBI to reopen their vetting process and to interview critical witnesses with the threat of jail time if they lied.
By the time my dentist appointment was finished, other GOP moderates and red state Democrats had jumped on the Flake bandwagon. It was obvious to President Trump, Judiciary Chair Grassley, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that, if they ever had a chance to get Kavanaugh confirmed considering their slim majority, they had to go along with the compromise.
What is the fallout? By his actions that resulted in the FBI investigation, Flake advanced the rights of millions of women: A woman victim of sexual violence was more than simply to be heard with respect, she was to be treated fairly and her accusations taken seriously without prejudice by authorities to which she reported.
In case there were any doubts before the hearings, the GOP was dramatically unmasked as the male privileged political party they have become because of their stubborn willingness to ignore the credible testimony of Dr. Ford as if she never had uttered a word. Their voting records on Kavanaugh’s confirmation will become campaign fodder the next time they are on the ballot. For some, that may be Nov. 6, 2018.
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