Kavanaugh secures key support ahead of Senate vote

This is a rush transcript from “Special Report with Bret Baier,” October 5, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Their rage-fueled resistance is starting to backfire at a level that nobody has ever seen before.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you plan to vote yes tomorrow?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-ARIZ.: Unless something changes.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-MAINE: My fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court.

I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Just some of the dramatic build-up to Senator Susan Collins speech this afternoon that all but assures that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed tomorrow as a Supreme Court justice.

Let’s bring in our panel: Jonah Goldberg, of National Review; national security analyst Morgan Ortagus, and Charles Lane from The Washington Post. Jonah, let’s start with Senator Collins’ speech. Back in 1950, there was a female Maine senator. You can see her right up there, Margaret Chase Smith who became the first member of Congress to take on Joe McCarthy. Now for this Maine senator, Susan Collins, the stakes were not quite as high, but it was quite a speech.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: It was. And I actually think the analogy bears itself out in a bunch of other ways, because we really were going through what I think was a witch hunt like climate where allegations, unsubstantiated rumors were considered as corroboration of other allegations and unsubstantiated rumors. You had Dr. Ford saying she had, it wasn’t quite Joe McCarthy and I don’t want say that Dr. Ford was like Joe McCarthy, but there was this element at least from her lawyers, where Joe McCarthy used to say I have in my hand this list of names and he would never give it over, the actual evidence. They were saying we’re not going to hand over the evidence that we invoked in her own testimony. There was a lot of gamesmanship going on there.

And I think Senator Collins really did a masterful job of punching through a lot of the hysteria and making recently, fact-filled case for why she was voting for Brett Kavanaugh.

WALLACE: Chuck, what did you think of Collins on the issue of sexual assault? She made it very clear that she has great support and great sympathy for victims, but she said in this particular case, where you’re deciding as the Senate, advise and consent, on confirmation or not of a Supreme Court justice, you have to fall back on principles like fairness, like the presumption of innocence, and as sympathetic as she thought Christine Blasey Ford was, and she said she believed something happened to her, she said she didn’t have any backup evidence.

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: That was the most I think pivotal moment in the speech is when she invoked the presumption of innocence as a kind of bedrock principle that has to be preserved even as we go through the Me Too movement. That’s a controversial point right now. There’s a whole argument that women should be believed. And of course, they should be believed, they should be respected and heard, and the big debate is our society now is how far do you take that?

And Susan Collins very strikingly held out for a pretty strong version of the presumption of innocence, one that doesn’t just apply in criminal trials, and she was clear about that, even when you are just, as it were, going through your job interview for a high level position in the government. Susan Collins is often described as a moderate, a centrist, fence sitter, or whatever. And she certainly is that in style and perhaps even in substance, but what she is not is indecisive. And what was striking today was how decisive this statement was. There was no ambivalence, no handwringing, no equivocation. She was very emphatic in her support for Kavanaugh.

WALLACE: It was perhaps the most persuasive case for Brett Kavanaugh we heard during this entire process. Morgan, we talk about this question of presumption of innocence. There were hundreds or, I don’t know, perhaps thousands of protestors on Capitol Hill, across Washington today, most of them women, who were outraged. There was an interesting moment after Susan Collins’ statement when the senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, came out and said he was also going to vote, and as he was talking to reporters it was drowned out by women protestors saying shame, shame, shame. What do you say to them. They clearly don’t believe in the presumption of innocence here.

MORGAN ORTAGUS, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think the most insulting thing that has happened in this process is that the media has had this narrative that all women because of our gender are therefore with Ford and against Kavanaugh. And in fact I think there’s a lot of women who felt like Senator Collins spoke for us today, which is you believe and I believe that the Me Too movement is incredibly important and has a place in society where women feel like they have not had the ability until now to speak out against powerful men.

But there is a difference, and I think that she contrasted it well, that we can take the Me Too movement seriously while also believing, as you said, in the presumption of innocence. So listen, there is polling actually to back this up. A Marist poll and a Quinnipiac poll that both recently surveyed a generic ballot of white woman and suburban women. Both of them and the Democrats have lost double digits leads that they with those two women. The Democrats still have at least 10 to 20 points up on the Republicans, but they are losing in those polls.

WALLACE: Let’s step back and take a bigger look at this, Jonah, because we keep saying our politics can’t get any more poisonous.

GOLDBERG: Wrong.

WALLACE: And it keeps getting more poisonous. What do you think the impact from this really poisonous set of weeks, certainly since the first hearing with the allegations, what do you think the impact is on the Senate and on the Supreme Court?

GOLDBERG: Well, as someone who took a very hard stance against what I really did think was a witch hunt atmosphere, I am very happy that the forces that were pushing the witch hunt stuff lost. I am much less ebullient about the Republicans winning on this, because I think that we were in an impossible situation where all our options were bad, and this is the least bad option.

But there are going to be millions of Americans who think Kavanaugh is tainted. They’re going to think the decisions where he is the decisive vote are tainted. I think they’re wrong, but does it matter? And this is in the air. We have a primary season coming up on the Democratic side where everyone is going to have to take the position that the Supreme Court is now more illegitimate than ever because of Kavanaugh. That is poisonous for society, it’s bad for everybody. But it’s a better precedent than the alternative, which his basically that you can hurl, uncorroborated, unverified accusations at people and destroy their character just to win a political battle.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on part of what you said with Chuck because you’re our Supreme Court watcher. What impact does this have on the court when you see a blatantly rough and tumble political process? And the sense in the whole argument that these justices are just political actors, and if you get a conservative on the court they’re going to all rule conservatively, and conversely if you got a liberal they would rule the other way.

LANE: Judge Kavanaugh indeed, almost by his own admission, didn’t make things any better by saying some of the things he did in the tone that he said them during that admittedly emotional moment.

WALLACE: When he called it an organized political hit.

LANE: Yes, he used terms like the left, very partisan rhetoric. So he has got some repair work to do. I think there are going to be some people who regard this court as illegitimate just on a partisan basis. It will depend a lot on how quickly they move through their agenda and, frankly, what the results of the cases are going to be.

It was interesting, one of the people who spoke out against Judge Kavanaugh was retired Justice John Paul Stevens, 98 years old. He was appointed by a Republican, Gerald Ford, but was petty liberal on the court, especially toward the end of his career. And now we have a situation where all the Republicans nominees are conservative and all the Democratic nominees are liberal. That’s probably not healthy.

WALLACE: Thank you, panel, have a great weekend.

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