Sunday, July 29, 2007

Allen: Collins Will Pivot on Iraq

Via Senate Guru, we learn that MyDD has an interview with Rep. Allen.

And it's a douzy.

Among the choice tidbits:

Jonathan Singer: With Susan Collins being such a moderate and being right down the middle and being so popular, how do you have the audacity to go up against her?

Tom Allen: Well, because it isn't true. The story just isn't true. I explain to people up in Maine that Susan and Olympia have had very soft press coverage for the last decade. I just run through my differences with her, with Susan.

Basically she's been for the President's policy in Iraq from the beginning. She voted for the war. I voted against it. I've been a steady critic trying to change the policy for four and a half years.

She voted for every single one of the President's tax cuts for the rich, including the '03 tax cut, which Olympia did not vote for. She voted for the energy bill, which moved $14 billion to oil companies. [She voted] for the Medicare Part D, which moved tens of billions in excess profits to pharma.

She voted for the military commissions bill, the torture bill and Sam Alito. Doesn't sound like someone who's independent or moderate or down the middle to me.
Allen: An election year conversion after almost five years of war is going to help me more than her. Because it indicates once again that she is essentially admitting that she is wrong. I've already told many people in Maine, including the press, that she will change her position.

I know I'm right on that. She's going to change her position. She's going to be for a deadline at some point in the fall after General Petraeus makes this report, whatever that report is. And we just portray it for what it is. It's a political calculation on her part that frankly doesn't change her record.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The "Pretty Please, Mr. President" Act of 2007

Nowhere in Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-NE) Bangor Daily News column does he defend, explore or even mention the fact that the legislation he's proposed with Sen. Collins amounts to a series of waivable recommendations--that the bill has been crafted to give the President wide latitude to ignore its provisions.

It's hard to understand why a senior Democratic pol would pen an op-Ed to give political cover to a member of the opposition party. But since Nelson was going to all the trouble, he could at least have made sure that the final result was something other than an exercise in disingenuousness.

Missed opportunity, I guess.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Seriousness Watch

Via Congress Daily:

House and Senate lawmakers and their aides will continue behind-the-scenes negotiations this week on legislation implementing unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, after failing to wrap up work last week...

Another wrinkle to completing the legislation emerged late last week because conferees approved an amendment to the bill that would require the Homeland Security Department to ensure, within five years, that most cargo is scanned before it is shipped to the United States. The amendment only makes an exception for shipments of cargo and equipment for the U.S. military.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would not sign a final conference report if the provision remains, indicating that she will try this week to alter or delete the cargo-scanning language from the bill.

What does Sen. Collins have against cargo scanning? Anyone?

Is the idea that the war in Iraq has made us so much safer that defensive measures to protect the homeland aren't even necessary?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Muddle Watch

The Collins camp's efforts at obfuscation are bearing fruit: Maine's Channel 8 News mislabelled the junior senator as an Iraq timeline supporter on this morning's telecast.

A retraction is allegedly forthcoming.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The "Partisanship" Pander

Kevin Wack has an illuminating article in the Portland Press Herald about the junior senator's predicament on Iraq.

A key passage:

When Sen. Susan Collins rose to address the Capitol chamber shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, she urged her Senate colleagues to find a middle ground between President Bush's Iraq policy and a Democratic-sponsored plan for withdrawal.

"We have got to put aside such a fractious political approach to such a grave crisis," the Maine Republican said. "We need to work together in a bipartisan way."

Such conciliatory rhetoric has served Collins well in the past...But today's polarizing war debate--along with President Bush's unpopularity and Collins' upcoming campaign against Democratic Rep. Tom Allen--is testing the limits of the approach's effectiveness...

"The problem for Collins is that most voters tend to see this issue in black and white," said Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report in Washington. "And she's trying to highlight the shades of gray. And so that is problematic."
A couple of points are in order.

First, the notion that partisanship is at the core of our Iraq problem--or has anything to do with our Iraq problem--is dead wrong. And frankly, it's obscene.

The mess in Iraq was caused by incompetence, arrogance, stubbornness and poor judgment. Any discussion that doesn't start with this premise isn't worth having, because it isn't based in reality.

Further, the idea that there exists some middle-of-the-road, bipartisan consensus that would go anywhere near solving our Iraq problem is laughable.

Because we're not talking about reforming social security here. We're not talking about tweaking the tax rates.

We're talking about a major shift in our defense policy and, more broadly, foreign policy--and in an area of the world where we face serious problems and bad options.

In a nutshell: Some people fervently believe we can still "win" in Iraq--whatever that means. Others believe, just as passionately, that we've become part of the problem in the country.

Now, if there exists a bipartisan middle ground between these views, I wish Sen. Collins would tell us what it is.

Which leads to a second, related issue.

I think Jennifer Duffy is right when she says, "The problem for Collins is that most voters tend to see this issue in black and white."

But I'd put it a bit differently.

The problem isn't that voters see the issue in black and white. The problem, for Collins, is that the issue is black and white--at least in one important sense--and that voters have recognized this, despite the junior senator's efforts at obfuscation.

Which is to say: Either you think the President should have a more or less free hand in formulating Iraq policy or you believe he needs to be reined in.

Most voters believe the latter. What Sen. Collins believes is anyone's guess.

But what she wants us to think she believes (at least for the moment) is that there exists some gray area between forcing the President's hand and leaving him alone to do as he chooses.

It's an absurd position--and the fruit of an almost transparent, finger-in-the-wind political calculation.

And ultimately, I don't think it will wash.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Senior Senator

Bill Nemitz doesn't break any new ground in his Friday column, but he touches on an issue that's been puzzling me:

Snowe, Hagel and Smith broke ranks for an obvious reason: They plan to support the Levin-Reed plan if it ever comes up for an actual vote.

Not so for Collins...

It's but one example of the widening gap between Collins and Snowe--who's not running for anything in 2008--on how best to proceed in Iraq.

Snowe, in her floor speech Tuesday evening, could not have been clearer: "We can no longer afford to place American servicemen and women in harm's way to instill a peace that the Iraqis seem unwilling to seek for themselves."

And Collins? Not so clear...

Collins has co-authored a proposal with Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

That measure "would immediately require the President to change the mission of our troops away from combat and toward counter-terrorism operations, border security, and training Iraqi forces," Collins said in her news release.

What it wouldn't set a hard date by which the president must complete said change. The plan's March 30 date for "redeployment," Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley said, is more "a goal" than a hard deadline.
Here's the thing.

When I first began to focus on Collins and the 2008 race, I had no idea when she'd pivot on Iraq. But I figured she would be one of the first Republican senators to get behind a plan that would force the President's hand.

And yet, here we are, approaching August--with a slew of Republicans ready to rein in the President, and two weeks ago after a Collins reversal seemed imminent--and the junior senator still hasn't managed to cut the cord.

Even when fellow "moderate" Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has given her all the political cover in the world to make that very move.

There are only two possible explanations: Either Collins is so fearful of crossing the Bush administration that she's basically frozen up, or--more frightening--she truly believes that the President should have a free hand when it comes to Iraq policy.

Both alternatives are chilling, admittedly. But one of them, or some combination, must be the truth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The Portland Press Herald muddies the waters again.

The headline? "Collins sides with Democrats on war vote."

The substance (four paragraphs down)? "She opposes the [Democratic] legislation...[Collins spokesman Kevin] Kelley said.

It's understandable that the Collins camp would want to obfuscate their candidate's position on Iraq. But does the Press Herald have to play along?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Habeas Shmabeas?

Firedoglake lists Sen. Collins as on-the-fence on habeas restoration.

So where exactly is the junior senator on the issue? And why is it that we so often have to wait till the last minute to find out how Collins will vote on the most pressing matters facing the Senate?

(Hint: If you answered, "because of her decisive nature and commitment to principle," then you haven't been paying close enough attention for the last eleven years.)

The Fog of Logic

The Portland Press Herald runs a confused and confusing editorial that expresses these three sentiments:

1. "There's no question that what we're doing now [in Iraq] is failing."

2. "The president seems unwilling to change course."

3. "The need to get the Bush administration to reverse course is clear."
And yet--here's the kicker--the editorial is largely sympathetic to the junior senator's refusal to support any legislative attempts to force the President's hand.

I know these things are often written by committee. But if anyone can square that circle, I'd like to know.

Collins Wants Bush's Help

Via The Politico:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) hesitated. She abandoned her thought mid-sentence and sighed.

It was the question: Would she accept assistance from President Bush for her 2008 reelection campaign?

"Oh, jeez," Collins said. "I don't anticipate ... well, who knows? I really haven't focused on that, but my general view is, anyone who legally wants to help raise money ..."
(Emphasis added.)

In short, Collins' opinion about a Bush fundraiser in Maine?

Bring it on.

(An aside: Does the junior senator really want to go on the record expressing her willingness to accept fundraising help from literally anyone who can legally raise funds? Because my hunch is that David Duke is probably available.)

To be serious for a moment, I think her refusal to cut the cord with Bush--in spite of all her recent tsk-tsking--reveals more about her true attitudes toward the man than her campaign might have liked.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Department of Huh?

From Sen. Collins' op-Ed in The Boston Globe--co-authored by none other than Sen. Joe Lieberman (CFL-CT)--touting her work on the homeland security front:

Another important provision for inclusion in the final bill would encourage the general public to report suspicious activity.
Glad they're focusing on the really difficult stuff...

CapeDem has more.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

They Write Editorials

Yesterday's Portland Press Herald, in an editorial on Iraq policy, offers a succinct summary of the current landscape:

For Snowe and Collins, the choices remain difficult.

Surely, they want to be supportive of a Republican president, and they don't want to alienate conservatives who believe pulling out of Iraq would be tantamount to surrender. But just as surely, they feel pulled in the other direction by the truth.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Collins Q2

Via My Two Sense we learn that Sen. Collins raised $1.26 million during the second quarter.

(That's more than Rep. Allen's $1.1 million total--but not much more.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On the Air

The DSCC launches a new Collins ad, slated to run in Portland and Bangor.

Wouldn't call it elegant, exactly. But it does get the point across.


Monday, July 9, 2007

It's Too Late

When you look at Sen. Collins' recent public comments, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that she's getting ready to pivot on Iraq.

It could take several weeks--although I wouldn't be surprised if it happened within days. But sooner than later, it seems likely that the junior senator will get behind a congressional measure that seeks to force a change in Iraq policy.

And those of us who've been calling for just such an about-face need to think about how to greet a Collins reversal.

Naturally, the first thing to say is that it would be welcome: Any effort to dislodge the current Iraq policy will be difficult, and those of us urging change need all the votes we can get.

But that, of course, isn't the whole story. It's not even half of the story.

Because the fact is that Sen. Collins' conversion, when it comes, will represent the opposite of leadership.

Instead of speaking up in 2004, 2005 or 2006, Collins will have waited until scores of her Republican colleagues have stated the obvious: That our Iraq policy is broken; that change is desperately needed, even if it needs to be forced down the President's throat.

And so instead of acknowledging these stark truths back when it might have saved lives, Collins has timed her conversion to blend into the woodwork.

Instead of risking something by getting out in front on the most important issue of the last several years, the junior senator has waited to crawl out of the President's pocket until the overwhelming risk was in not distancing herself.

As we said just over a month ago:

At a certain point, the weight of the evidence that the Bush administration was fundamentally dysfunctional...became overpowering.

And at that point, those supporting him on Iraq were no longer just guilty of wishful thinking. They were enabling--and participating in--a political, economic, diplomatic, humanitarian and human catastrophe of staggering proportions.

That was the time for people of good will to stand up...

That was when giving the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt became an act of political malpractice. And that was when senators and house members who failed to use their public platforms--and their votes--to confront the administration became guilty of moral cowardice.

Maine's junior senator is on the wrong side of those divides. When the stakes were high, when the crisis arrived, she failed the test.
Sen. Collins may be rethinking her position--and that's welcome news.

But it's too late to undo the damage that she and her silent colleagues caused over the last four years.

Way too late.

UPDATE: Looks like the pivoting has already begun.

The key thing to keep an eye on, in the coming weeks, is whether Collins is willing to show any flexibility.

Or is her amendment designed to fail, and to allow her to continue to stand with the President in opposition to those mean, partisan Democrats?

Allen Q2

Rep. Allen raised roughly $1.1 million in the second quarter, according to his campaign, from 9000 contributions averaging $122.

Obviously, it will be interesting to see how the junior senator's numbers stack up.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Opposite of Leadership

As Senate Guru notes, Sen. Collins has penned a column for today's Lewiston Sun Journal on the subject of Iraq.

(Hmm. And no time for even a soundbite about the Libby commutation?)

Her take-away message?

At this point, Congress should consider all options.
The time for partisan politics to determine the direction of our policy in Iraq is long over.
If Collins is more interested in forcing a change in policy than she is in skirting the tough questions via empty bromides--and by playing the tired "partisanship" card--she sure has a funny way of showing it.

Silence on Libby?

By July 3, Rep. Tom Allen had publicly condemned the Libby commutation, telling the Associated Press:

The words engraved over the door to the Supreme Court read 'Equal Justice Under Law.' The president's action yesterday amends that to 'unless you're Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff.'
But five days later, I'm still unable to find a statement about Libby from the junior senator. (Anyone else find one?)

At a certain, one has to assume she doesn't have a problem with it.

Collins Comes Alive

Her 2008 campaign website is up.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Education of Sen. Collins

First: Welcome, Daily Kos readers! And thanks to MissLaura for the link.

Senate Guru has an excellent post up at Turn Maine Blue detailing the junior senator's about-face on the importance of the Iraq issue to Maine voters.

But I would add the following point: Even as Collins escalates (slightly) her rhetoric on Iraq--bemoaning the failures of the current policy, expressing concern about the lack of progress, etc.--there's still no evidence that she's willing to act on these misgivings.

The question we must continue to ask is not whether Sen. Collins is capable of stringing together a few moderate-sounding, sensible-seeming sentences. It's whether she's willing to cast the kind of votes that will force a change in policy.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Quote of the Month

Many of you probably caught this while we were away. But in case it didn't make as big a stir as it should have, here's Sen. Collins, via Hot Air, talking to the Los Angeles Times about Sen. Joe Biden's (D-DE) plan to decentralize Iraq's government:

"It’s essentially giving federal approval to ethnic cleansing," Collins said. "On the other hand, nothing seems to be working."
Then again, this is what passes for serious foreign policy analysis in George W. Bush's America.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Brief Thoughts

The word "Iraq" cannot be found in Sen. Collins' eNewsletter dated June 22, 2007.

Will Iraq make the cut next time? We'll be watching.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Get Out of Jail Free

Where does Sen. Collins stand on the Libby commutation?

Just asking.

An Inconvenient Truth

It's good to be back. And it'll take us a while to get caught up.

But for starters, here's a piece from Wired News that caught our eye:

Much of this apparatus, including the recently revealed NSA eavesdropping and phone record-mining programs, has no oversight...

Senators have abdicated their Constitutional duty to provide checks and balances on the executive branch...

Today, Senator Susan Collins, a moderate [sic] Republican with a fairly strong privacy record, met with Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the NSA who has been nominated to lead the CIA.

The best Collins could muster after her meeting with the man who ran a program the Administration says Congress has no right to oversee was that she was "pleased he was nominated," but "the administration must be more forthright with Congress about these programs so we can exercise our oversight responsibilities. These surveillance programs should also be subject to the confines of law to ensure oversight and judicial review."
(Emphasis added.)

These programs "should" be subject to the law? Ya think?

I'm all for careful, measured discussion, but we're not talking about a scuffle over the highway bill here. We're talking about an out-of-control administration hellbent on breaking the law--and in a way that violates the fundamental rights of Americans.

And yet Senator Collins is basically asking the administration to stop acting like a dictatorship, pretty please.

Would it be so hard for the junior senator to muster up some stronger language? Would it be a such a stretch for her to convey the impression that she views executive branch lawbreaking as a deeply serious problem, and not a mere inconvenience?