Just when you think he’s finished making useless gestures, Jeff Flake does it again.
Flake shocked fellow Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee by calling for a delay on the vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If the vote were to move forward without further FBI investigation, Flake said Friday, he would vote “no” on the Senate floor, casting Kavanaugh’s confirmation in doubt.
Flake’s statement seems wholesome and courageous, until you realize it isn’t.
Flake only called to delay the vote because it was politically salient and, in his own words, because he isn’t running for reelection. Flake was ready to cast his vote confirming Kavanaugh, as multiple outlets reported Friday morning.
But Flake’s potential “no” vote depends only on giving the FBI more time to investigate. What the investigation uncovers is secondary. So it won’t matter to Flake that the continued investigation has to be wrapped by Friday no matter what. Or that it won’t delve into Kavanaugh’s drinking history, a subject some observers suspect the judge repeatedly lied about during his testimony last Thursday. The FBI’s extended investigation can be as blatantly partisan as the rest of the confirmation process, just as long as it’s allowed to continue for a few more days.
The vote was delayed to give Republicans the cover they need to move forward. They’ll now be able to say the matter was fully investigated even if it wasn’t. And they’ll go right on ahead to confirm Kavanaugh like they would have on Friday if two women hadn’t loudly shamed Flake in an elevator.
This isn’t Flake’s first meaningless rebuke of Republican sliminess. He’s become the face of #Resistance Republicans since his “riveting” speech criticizing Trump a year ago. Meanwhile, he’s voted for the Obamacare repeal, stripping consumer’s rights and other Republican dreck while positioning himself for an anti-Trump MSNBC contributor role when he leaves office in January.
On the surface, it appears Flake acted nobly, cutting through partisan biases to fully vet a weak Supreme Court nominee. Delaying the Kavanaugh vote is the right thing to do. In theory it gives the FBI more time to look into credible allegations, as well as the judge’s potential perjury. But it feels increasingly clear that won’t happen. And when the good behind a noble act is almost entirely hypothetical, it’s probably not noble at all.