Trump has never paid a price for his misogyny. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins could change that.
Let's not mince words: President Trump is aggressively, gleefully sexist. He demonstrates his disrespect and contempt for women — especially minority women — on a regular basis. And he's not going to stop, or even slow down, unless he's made to pay a price.
But there's good news.
Now that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled votes on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, women — two Republican women in particular — have in their grasp the power to make Trump finally pay.
Let's set the scene first: Even by his usual misogynistic shock-jock standards, Trump was in rare form Tuesday night at a rally in Mississippi. He stunned even the usually supportive souls at Fox & Friends by taunting Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school.
As the crowd of supporters applauded and laughed, Trump made fun of Ford's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"How did you get home? 'I don't remember.' How'd you get there? 'I don't remember.' Where is the place? 'I don't remember,'" he said, parodying Ford's responses. "How many years ago was it? 'I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.' What neighborhood was it in? 'I don't know.' Where's the house? 'I don't know.' Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? 'I don't know. But I had one beer. That's the only thing I remember.'"
It was a new low. On Wednesday, White House officials said Trump was "just stating facts" without mockery, but no one — even the president's Republican allies — was buying it. Even Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the judiciary committee, washed his hands of it.
"I wonder about the wisdom, tactically, of him doing that," Fox's Brian Kilmeade said, ever-so-gently.
Here's where the Republican women come in. Two of them — Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — hold Kavanaugh's fate in their hands. And they were upset by Trump's mocking of Ford.
"Just plain wrong," Collins said.
Murkowski went further: "I am taking everything into account. The president's comments yesterday mocking Dr. Ford were wholly inappropriate and in my view unacceptable."
That phrase — "taking everything into account" — opens up an interesting possibility.
What would happen if Murkowski and Collins announced that they will vote against Kavanaugh's nomination — and do so not because they've drawn conclusions about Kavanaugh's guilt or innocence, but because of the president's ugly behavior in promoting his nominee?
"For too long, President Trump has shown that his concern and respect for women is, at best, an afterthought," the duo might say in a joint announcement. "Women are half the citizens of this country. They are half the voters. They do not deserve this contempt. But we believe the president does respect shows of power. So we will show ours: We will vote against his nominee. And we will watch both the next nominee and the president closely for improvement."
Trump would lose a high-profile battle. Women would deliver the defeat. Can you imagine?
Admittedly, this proposal is unlikely to come to fruition. Murkowski and Collins still belong to the same party whose members lauded Trump's Tuesday night comments, and neither seems interested in being a profile in courage.
The reason the idea is worth advocating anyway is because Trump has never truly had to pay a cost for his awful behavior.
He insulted Megyn Kelly, yet Fox News ended up his greatest advocate. He was caught confessing sexual assault on the Access Hollywood tape, but he still became president. He treated women, including his wives and daughter, like trophies and pieces of meat, and was celebrated in the New York Post and by Howard Stern. Given that history, it's entirely possible that Trump sees poor treatment of women as one of the keys to his success.
That attitude has infected his presidency from day one. Michael Lewis reports that Trump initially nominated Andrew Puzder, the head of CKE Restaurants, to be secretary of labor even though his transition team knew Puzder's ex-wife had accused him of abuse. She later retracted the allegation, but transition team members thought the allegation — among other factors — made Puzder unconfirmable. They were right.
Did Trump learn a lesson here? Maybe not. Senate Democrats said Wednesday that early FBI checks on Kavanaugh may have turned up evidence of inappropriate behavior.
Whether that's true or not, Murkowski and Collins are best positioned to rebuke Trump's behavior, either during a scheduled procedural vote on Friday or in an expected final confirmation vote on Saturday. The Republican majority in the Senate is narrow enough that Trump may not realize he needs the women he so casually insults — he may, in fact, feel entitled to their support. Murkowski and Collins should instead offer him a demonstration of their power. They'd be doing us all a favor.