A TALE OF TWO IRISH AMERICANS: US Sen. Susan Collins has faith that Kavanaugh will keep his word

“Trust” them. If you have a preexisting condition, your fate may literally rest in the hands of an Irish American judge whom an Irish-American senator sent to the US Supreme Court with her pivotal confirmation vote. That senator, Susan Collins, of Maine, trusts that Judge Kavanaugh will keep his word. After all, he “assured” her face to face that he would never, ever vote to strike down mandated coverage for preexisting conditions nor to chip away at Roe v. Wade. His word is his bond, Collins snarled in her oh-so-righteous indignation that anyone could have any doubts about Judge Kavanaugh’s honesty. For the sake of her own political career and for the sake of millions of Americans who grapple with preexisting conditions and agonize over the threat to life-preserving healthcare, Collins had better be right.

In 2017, Collins stood up for healthcare protections with fellow GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski and, most notably, the late Sen. John McCain to thwart their president’s and their party’s obsession with eradicating the Affordable Care Act—without offering any semblance of a real replacement.
According to Collins, Kavanaugh—despite his evasions and outright refusal to answer any questions about his past views of Obamacare and its protections of preexisting conditions—Collins is convinced that the jurist will safeguard them.

Here’s the thing: What did Kavanaugh say in private to the Republican Collins that was 180 degrees removed from what he asserted to Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, in their closed-door meet and greet? Whitehouse told Politico reporter Dan Diamond that Kavanaugh “had told him privately—that he [Kavanaugh] could not commit to upholding the pre-existing conditions protection.” In his confirmation hearings, Judge Kavanaugh bobbed, weaved, and slithered away from any and all questions about the issue, hiding behind what he called “nominee precedent.”

Don’t worry, Collins contends. He gave her his word. One can either believe what he told her or what he told Senator Whitehouse. Both politicians can’t be telling the truth unless Kavanaugh told a different story to both.

If a case titled Texas v. Azar barges its way before the Supreme Court, Collins’s trust in Kavanaugh will be put to the test. Filed by 20 Republican attorneys general, the argument is that since Congress eviscerated the ACA’s individual mandate, it follows that what’s left of “Obamacare” must also be tossed out as unconstitutional. That includes protections for preexisting condition.

Perhaps Collins believes legal experts who assert that the case is shaky; however, if it comes to an actual vote before Kavanaugh and his new colleagues, she might discover that his word was as vague, even fraudulent, as when he was pressed in the confirmation hearings about his alleged high-school nickname—“Bart.” Even though a letter he wrote as a teen was signed “Bart,” he still refused to acknowledge the nickname was his.

Of course, the seemingly innocent question came against the larger and heated backdrop of Dr. Ford’s allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge. Wherever one comes down on – did Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh told the truth? – Kavanaugh stubbornly refrained from admitting he was—by his own youthful handwriting—“Bart” Kavanaugh. Someone so willing to “bend” the truth about something that obvious now sits on the nation’s highest court. Democrats’ fantasy that they can impeach him is lunacy. Collins does not deserve the death threats from those enraged by her vote. No senator does. All of them, though, deserve the judgment of their voters. In 2020, Collins might well discover that her supreme confidence in Kavanaugh’s veracity was delusional. If so, her constituents will remember her guarantees.

Collins and a great many other Republican senators have been delusional or duplicitous about one other key aspect of the Kavanaugh hearings. It defies all reason for anyone to profess that they believe both Kavanaugh and Ford. Anyone who supported the judge should man up or woman up and declare that they believe Dr. Ford either lied or was and is crazy. Also, don’t believe Senator Leader Mitch McConnell’s viscous praise of Collins as some latter-day version of her self-professed Maine role model, the late Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Smith took on Joe McCarthy by castigating her own political party; Collins merely fell in lock step with McConnell’s party line. McConnell blurted out recently just what that blueprint includes: slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare to pay for the president’s and the GOP’s trillion-plus tax giveaway to the wealthiest among us.

Don’t hold your breath for any genuine profile in courage to magically emerge in the US Senate. The jaw-dropping parade of profiles in cowardice by both parties in the Trump Era trudges on.

Carping over the Man Booker Prize Winner

Born and raised in Belfast, Anna Burns has become the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the prestigious Man Booker Award for Fiction. Earning her the honor was her third novel, “Milkman.”

Burns grew up in the working-class Catholic district of Ardoyne and now resides in East Sussex, in England. Her work has drawn deeply from her coming of age in Belfast amid The Troubles, her first novel, “No Bones,” capturing the strife in ways that garnered comparisons to James Joyce. “Milkman” has drawn similar comments from reviewers. It is an experimental work that challenges the readers, and for those who favor fiction that rips along, Burns’s lyrical prose compels one to consider every word. She pulls the reader into the complex emotional and physical world of her narrator, a nameless 18-year-old depicted simply as “middle sister.” An ominous, much older man relentlessly pursues her. A dreaded para-miltary figure, he is known as “the Milkman.”

A number of critics have derided “Milkman” as a wrong-headed choice for the Booker, complaining that it is everything from ponderous and unfocused to pretentious. It is none of these. Challenging, yes, but well worth the time spent in the author’s and “middle sister’s” world.
(“Milkman,” Anna Burns, Graywolf Press, paperback reprint edition, Dec. 11, 2018, ISBN-10: 1644450003; ISBN-13: 978-1644450000, 360 pp.)