October 15, 2018, 11:09

12 senators on what kind of message Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation sends to America’s women

12 senators on what kind of message Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation sends to America’s women

It was a sharp contrast in moods at the US Senate following Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote on Saturday.

Democrats, by and large, were somber, withdrawn, and almost tearful, while Republicans appeared positively ebullient. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) quipped to reporters that the divisiveness of this fight is just something to put up with: “What’s our choice? I mean, we can’t get a divorce.”

Republicans — alongside lone Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — elevated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court after he had been accused of sexual misconduct and assault, prompting painful echoes of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings in 1991. Kavanaugh has unequivocally denied the allegations.

Kavanaugh is expected to reshape the Court for decades to come, but to millions, his confirmation also says that women — at the end of the day — still shouldn’t be believed.

Here’s what 12 senators had to say about the message Kavanaugh’s confirmation sends to women in America.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): “This is the ‘sit down and shut up’ message. But I got news for them: That’s not going to happen.”
Li Zhou

What message does Kavanaugh’s confirmation send to women in America?

Elizabeth Warren

This is the “sit down and shut up” message. But I got news for them: That’s not going to happen. One of the things that’s come out of this fight is that millions of survivors of sexual assault have lifted their voices, and millions of women have said, “I’m not sitting down and shutting up for nobody.”

Li Zhou

Do you feel like things have changed since Anita Hill?

Elizabeth Warren

Not nearly enough. Just not nearly enough.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO): “There’s a lot of research and writing on this, but memory is a very complicated thing”
Li Zhou

I was wondering what message you think this vote sends to the women in America?

Roy Blunt

I would think: One, in the last three weeks, that millions of conversations have been had that have not been had before about sexual assault. Two, I believe that Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford was treated with respect and listened to with respect, and I hope the message is that these things need to be talked about, these things should be talked about. But the message should also be that you’re not guilty just because somebody says you’re guilty.

There needs to be some understanding of memory and how complicated memory is, and I’m hopeful that the question of assault and women coming forward is a discussion we continue to have.

Li Zhou

Did you believe Dr. Ford’s testimony?

Roy Blunt

I did, I did.

Li Zhou

Do you think that the fact that —

Roy Blunt

I just … I believed that she had a traumatic event and that her memory of it was genuine. And like I said, there’s a lot of research and writing on this, but memory is a very complicated thing. And I think you can believe she had a traumatic event that has impacted her life and also believe Judge Kavanaugh when he says he was not involved in that event.

Li Zhou

Do you find the two to be somewhat incompatible? In that, if you believe her, you believe that she has the right guy. She remembered things correctly, she testified that she was 100 percent sure, all of that.

Roy Blunt

Well, like I said. There’s been a lot of research on this and memory is a tricky thing. He was very unequivocal in his categorical denial of this or anything like it. He went a lot further than he would have needed to go if he had ever been involved in anything like this, because anybody could have come forward. But that doesn’t belittle her trauma, I don’t think, in any way.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT): “This day is the angriest and saddest time for me in the United States Senate”
Ella Nilsen

Hi, Senator. I just wanted to get your thoughts on what this vote today means for women in America?

Richard Blumenthal

This day is the angriest and saddest time for me in the United States Senate.

Ella Nilsen

In your entire tenure here?

Richard Blumenthal

Exactly. The Republicans have confirmed this dangerous and deeply flawed nominee only by breaking all the rules and norms, demeaning courageous survivors of sexual assault, and confirming a justice who poses an extraordinary threat to women’s reproductive rights, and health care, and other essential equal rights.

Ella Nilsen

What stakes does this set up for 2018 and 2020, in terms of the Supreme Court?

Richard Blumenthal

Well, for folks that are anguished or angry at this day, my urging is vote. Vote, and take three people to the polls.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC): “To make this about ‘one party cares about sexual assault and the other one doesn’t’ is disingenuous”
Ella Nilsen

What message does today’s vote send to women in America?

Thom Tillis

Well, hopefully, if they paid no attention in any detail to anything that’s occurred over the last six weeks, I hope they’ll pay attention to what Sen. [Susan] Collins said yesterday. As somebody on the Personnel Subcommittee, I’m moving with Sen. [Kirsten] Gillibrand sexual assault legislation in every single year that I’ve been on that committee. All of us know that it’s a concern.

I think this has heightened awareness, but I believe if people really listen to what Sen. Collins said yesterday, she really framed it better than anybody.

To make this about “one party cares about sexual assault and the other one doesn’t” is disingenuous, and they know it — based on the work that we do, in terms of moving legislation to this end.

Ella Nilsen

What did you make of the protesters in the Senate today?

Thom Tillis

Well, it was fully expected; if anything I thought it would be more disruptive. As somebody who sits on the Judiciary Committee, we’ve seen it on the front row, and it’s a lot of frustration. But if you see the information that many people are working on, I think they’re generally protesting because they believe what they’ve been lead to believe, whether by the way the press has covered it, or by the way various interest groups have covered it.

My heart really breaks for them, because I think they genuinely mean it, and I don’t think that it’s a fair representation of any of the priorities of the fathers of daughters and granddaughters. … I mean, it couldn’t be further away from the truth.

Ella Nilsen

What special interest groups are you referring to?

Thom Tillis

Well, I think MoveOn was advising people on how and where to protest, some of the various other groups. And I’m sure there were some pro-Kavanaugh groups that were doing the same. But I think they’ve chosen to have a very limited view of the issue. It’s really just to drive their agenda.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): “This place is stuck in another era, and it’s time to get it to the place where the rest of America is”
Li Zhou

Could you talk a bit about what kind of message this vote sends to women in America?

Amy Klobuchar

Well, it’s just — I’m just — it’s just so sad to talk about it. I think that women and men have, now they have to speak. The Senate spoke. This was their view. They didn’t do a thorough investigation, they’re putting someone on the Court who has extremely conservative views even outside of his whole hearings last week. And so now the people are going to have to decide.

And as I looked over at them, at all of them hanging out, practically celebrating, I thought, Well, let’s see how you feel the day after the election.

Reporter

Do you think this is going to encourage Democratic voters to turn out?

Amy Klobuchar

I think it is, and I think they were already pretty incentivized. I mostly think that when you looked at that chamber and you combine it with Sen. Grassley — well, he corrected his remarks very quickly — about there not having enough women on the committee because they didn’t want to work that hard.

I think it’s been a hard week to explain to people, and I think you just explain it by: This place is stuck in another era, and it’s time to get it to the place where the rest of America is.

Reporter

Sen. McConnell thinks that this energized his side.

Amy Klobuchar

I’m not going to be a pundit. I just know that this was wrong.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA): “I think it also shows that anyone, whether it’s a woman or a man, can hopefully trust that their reputation will not be destroyed by one, uncorroborated allegation”
Ella Nilsen

What is the message that today’s vote sends to women in America?

Bill Cassidy

If there’s something positive that came out of this, it’s that there is an awareness that there are wounds we as a society have to look at, not only to help heal, but also to avoid future [wounds]. I think it also shows that anyone, whether it’s a woman or a man, can hopefully trust that their reputation will not be destroyed by one, uncorroborated allegation. Because that of course, is a threat to anyone, whether male or female.

Ella Nilsen

That’s what you think this process demonstrated?

Bill Cassidy

I think clearly Dr. Ford’s allegations were taken quite seriously. But that fact that all four people whom she named as being there, including her best friend, said it didn’t happen, at some point there has to be the fairness for all parties concerned. And I think it was powerful that her best friend — again — said it didn’t happen. [Ed: A friend of Ford’s, Leland Keyser, said she had no recollection of an event that could corroborate Ford’s accusation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, but said she believes Ford’s account.]

But on the other hand, again, those allegations were received with great respect by Republicans. I will point out Democrats exploited them, exploited her desire for confidentiality.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI): “This is a historic vote — not in a good way”
Ella Nilsen

Senator, on today’s vote, what message does this send to women in America?

Mazie Hirono

Not a good one. This is a historic vote — not in a good way, because we’re sending yet another justice to the Supreme Court with this huge cloud over him, not to mention his very partisan screed. He really ripped away the veil of nonpartisanship, which by the way, he wrote about as being really important for a judge to be nonpartisan. So that’s all out the window in his desire to get onto the Supreme Court. Of course, before Dr. Ford came forward with her report, I was very much against him for so many other reasons.

Ella Nilsen

Were you in the chamber today when protesters were being led out?

Mazie Hirono

Yes.

Ella Nilsen

What was your reaction to that?

Mazie Hirono

What’s happening all across the country is that people are paying attention, especially women. And all the victims — mainly women — the survivors that came forward by the thousands, this whole experience brought out their own painful experiences, which they hid from everybody, practically. They’re not going to forget this. There are lots of angry women out there, and I’m encouraging them to stay angry, but determined, and focus like a laser beam on the elections.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC): “We can send you our statement”
Ella Nilsen

Senator, I’m curious what message you think today’s vote sends to women in America?

Tim Scott

I think, ah — well, I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Ella Nilsen

Well, how do you see it?

Tim Scott

Well, I mean —

Senator’s staffer

We released a statement earlier on it.

Tim Scott

Yeah, we can send you our statement.

Ella Nilsen

Sure. I’m curious what you made of all of the protests today in the Senate [during the vote], it seemed unusual.

Tim Scott

Not really, we’ve had this before. People are actively involved and engaged in the country, and they want their voices to be heard. Sometimes they do it constructively, and sometimes they don’t. I get the passion and the energy around the issue, and I think it’s important for people who have the right to engage fully to engage. That’s part of our democracy.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM): “I think it sends the message that if you come forward, you’re not going to be taken seriously”
Ella Nilsen

What message do you think this vote sends to women in America?

Martin Heinrich

Unfortunately, I think it sends the message that if you come forward, you’re not going to be taken seriously. And I think that’s an absolutely horrible message to send.

Ella Nilsen

Were you in the Senate when protesters were being led out today?

Martin Heinrich

I was not. I think this will have implications for many, many years to come, and will really define both parties well into the future.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI): “I’ve never seen so much pain in any political situation, and I believe that pain is going to manifest itself in electoral fury”
Ella Nilsen

What message does today’s vote send to women in America?

Brian Schatz

I don’t want to speak for the other side. I don’t want to send the women of America a message on behalf of Republicans. But I’ve never seen so much pain in any political situation, and I believe that pain is going to manifest itself in electoral fury.

Ella Nilsen

What are the stakes you see for 2018, and even beyond to 2020, when it comes to the Supreme Court?

Brian Schatz

Well, this is the most important midterm election in many, many generations. And if you don’t like what just happened, at this point there’s only one remedy, and that is to win on November 6.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): “They have to pretend to believe women, and then turn around and without saying so, totally disbelieve them”
Li Zhou

What message does the outcome of this vote send to women in America?

Sheldon Whitehouse

I don’t have a short answer.

Li Zhou

Do you have a long one?

Sheldon Whitehouse

Probably. But I’m not ready to deliver it yet.

Li Zhou

Do you feel like things have changed since Anita Hill?

Sheldon Whitehouse

I wasn’t here then, so I don’t have a point of comparison.

Li Zhou

Just when it comes to believing women and believing their allegations and taking those into account in a nomination like this.

Sheldon Whitehouse

Like I said, I wasn’t there then, so I don’t have a point of comparison.

What I do see is that at least they feel like they have to pretend to believe women, and then turn around and without saying so, totally disbelieve them.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT): “Not enough has changed [since Anita Hill]”
Li Zhou

What kind of message does this vote send to women in America?

Patrick Leahy

The other side would disagree, but I think it sends a terrible, terrible message, amplified by what Donald Trump — in his statements deriding women, trying to shame women. Have we learned nothing?

Li Zhou

Do you think anything’s changed since the Anita Hill hearings?

Patrick Leahy

Obviously not enough. I was there for both hearings, and I was one of the ones who said, “I believed Anita Hill.” But no, not enough has changed.

Sourse: vox.com

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