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.Here's the thing.
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 do...is 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.
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.