Sunday, September 30, 2007

Layers of Meaning?

Given the opportunity to host a Washington D.C. film screening (at the invitation of The Week magazine), Sen. Collins--together with her friend Rep. Jane Harman--selected THELMA AND LOUISE.

An interesting choice, to be sure. Make of it what you will.

Friday, September 28, 2007

They Write Letters

As the kids say, read the whole thing:

The Washington Post story published in the Sept. 20 Portland Press Herald erroneously reported that Sen. Susan Collins voted against cloture on a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Arlen Specter allowing terrorism detainees the right of habeas corpus.

Unlike Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Collins shamefully voted in effect to deny detainees this historic right, which dates to 1215 and the Magna Carta. She ignored the plain language of the Constitution, which allows suspension of this right only "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Sen. Patrick Leahy made clear the bill's significance by saying: "Casting aside the time-honored protection of habeas corpus makes us more vulnerable as a nation because it leads us away from our core American values and calls into question our historic role as a defender of human rights around the world."

Characterizing the fight against terrorism as a "war," with its implications for presidential powers not otherwise allowed by the Constitution, is at the root of this country's current constitutional crisis.

A "war" against ill-defined enemies and of indefinite length provides a pretext for un-American abuses of the kind regularly employed by dictators.

The "war" argument was central to the opposition to this bill, as enunciated by Sen. Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama: "This is purely a matter of congressional policy and national policy on how we want to conduct warfare now and in the future."

I urge Mainers not to re-elect Sen. Collins, who blatantly rejects our basic constitutional values.

Meredith N. Springer

Peaks Island

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Unnameable

For the second time in recent months, the word "Iraq" does not appear in Sen. Collins' eNewsletter.

But readers do learn that:

Senator Susan Collins recently attended the Lewiston MAINEiacs home opener at the Colisée in Lewiston.
and that:
Senator Collins recently visited the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland where she met with approximately 50 elementary and middle school students from Nobleboro Central School, Hope Elementary School, and Oxford Hill Christian Academy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Exclusive: Tom Allen Interview

We spend nearly all our time here at Collins Watch focusing on Maine's junior senator. And for good reason--it's what we're all about.

But with the 2008 race coming into focus, we thought it would be worth shifting our attention, at least briefly, to her Democratic opponent, Congressman Tom Allen.

So we reached out to his campaign, which graciously set up an interview. On Monday, we sat down with Allen, who has represented Maine's first district since 1996.

Our discussion lasted about an hour, covering topics ranging from Iraq to Sen. Collins' perfect voting record to

Here's what we learned.

On Iraq: Allen told us without hesitation that, "setting a deadline is the best way" to move forward.

When asked about Sen. Collins' continued unwillingness to support a withdrawal timetable--in the context of her repeated calls for a change in mission--he said, "the bottom line is, Susan wants to maintain an open-ended commitment in Iraq. And that's the President's policy."

"Changing the mission," he argued, "is just relabelling the mission."

He rejected, specifically, Collins' contention that redefining our military aim in Iraq as "counter-terrorism" would result in a changed role for US forces ("fighting terrorism is what we're doing now") or that it would necessarily cause a troop draw down.

And he characterized the limited troop reduction that Collins seems to be contemplating as a potential "worst of both worlds" scenario because the US presence would remain large enough to be seen by Iraqis as an occupying force, and yet the American military would have a tougher time policing Baghdad because of reduced troop levels.

He also dismissed the charge that he and other Democrats are arguing for an "abrupt" or "precipitous" withdrawal, countering that "nobody who understands the mechanics of pulling troops out safely" is calling for a lightning-fast process, and that a safe, orderly redeployment of troops and equipment would take about a year.

Allen conceded that the next step for withdrawal timeline supporters isn't clear. He speculated that the House might take up the Webb amendment, but acknowledged that the failure of Levin-Reed in the Senate means that progress toward a revamped Iraq policy has stalled for now.

On fighting for Maine's interests: "Susan Collins has supported the entire Bush economic agenda--she's voted for every tax cut. The result is less money in Maine for healthcare, environmental protection, headstart" and other programs. "When you give billions to the wealthiest, there's a lot less for domestic priorities."

Predicting that Democrats would hold or expand their congressional majorities, he argued that seniority--one of the reasons Collins has used to justify breaking her promise to serve only two terms--is less helpful for the state than having a senator who is a member of the majority party.

On the subject of Collins' pledge, Allen called Collins' newfound appreciation for the importance of seniority politically expedient but "not credible" given her decade of experience on Capitol Hill as a staffer for former Senator William Cohen.

On habeas corpus: "It is fundamental to a free society that if the government locks you up, you have the right to an attorney and a right to a hearing before a judicial officer. [Collins] disagrees...Civil rights issues are a major point of difference between us."

On Supreme Court vacancies: "I want very intelligent people, but also wise men and women--people who've had the right kind of life experience." He also cautioned against nominees "married to a particular ideology" and those with an expansive view of executive branch power.

On Justice Alito: "Alito had a record as an ideological partisan that stretched back for years. So it's no surprise that he's been a key vote in enhancing executive power" or that he's voted to uphold a ban on late term abortions and to make it harder to challenge workplace discrimination.

On Mukasey: Allen said he'd like to hear more about the President's nominee for Attorney General, and that his record "bears some close examination" given this story in yesterday's New York Times.

On Sen. Collins' perfect voting record: "Not important. I think there are seven people in the House this year who haven't missed a vote. If you have the kind of record I do, which is a 98 percent voting record over a decade, what's important is what you vote for, what you fight for, not the difference between 98[%] and 100[%]."

"If she missed the vote on the 2003 tax cut," Allen quipped,"the country would have been better off." and the Petraeus Ad: "I don't think it was a wise ad," Allen told us. "I disagree with it." He later called it "over the top."

At the same time, he maintained that, "the people who attack attack it because of its politics" and that "there's nothing wrong with essentially small dollar contributions from large numbers of American citizens."

Allen distanced himself from the Senate resolution condemning the organization, asserting, "you won't see me criticizing a conservative group that raises money from conservative American citizens."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Watch This Space

As Atrios and others have noted, Sen. Collins said this in March:

"My vote against this rapid withdrawal does not mean that I support an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq," Collins said in a statement issued after the vote.

If Bush's strategy in Iraq does not show "significant results" by fall, "then Congress should consider all options including a redefinition of our mission and a gradual but significant withdrawal of our troops next year."
Well, it's now officially fall.

And Sen. Collins is still rejecting all legislative attempts to mandate the very "gradual but significant withdrawal" she promised she would consider.

Surprised? I'll confess that I am, at least a bit: A few months back, I was almost sure that Collins would have pivoted on Iraq by now.

Meanwhile, we're gearing up for a busy Monday here at Collins Watch: We hope to serve up some exciting content--and maybe even break a little news--in the next day or two.

So tune in early and often.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Still No Hits

According to Google, the word Bush is still nowhere to be found on

Susan's Selective Memory

Over at Susan's blog the junior senator recaps what she calls a "busy week in Washington." And indeed it was.

And yet somehow, her 545 word post manages to skip both the failure of the Webb amendment and her unconscionable--and much-discussed--vote against restoring habeas corpus.

I wonder why she'd skip right over the week's two most important events...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

WaPo: Collins Visibly Angry

Don't miss this juicy anecdote in today's Washington Post (via Turn Maine Blue) about the disconnect between Maine's senators.

Sen. Collins was apparently none too happy about having to stand alone in opposition to reinstalling the right of habeas corpus.

Snowe apparently did not inform her leadership of the switch, according to aides and senators familiar with the decision. Therefore, Collins never got the message, leaving her all alone.

Collins, who is facing a potentially tough reelection battle next fall against Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), an antiwar liberal [sic], was visibly angry, according to eyewitnesses in the chamber's press gallery. She paced around the floor, confronting several members of the leadership.
So: Is this how she decides how to vote?

I mean, we're talking about a core modern legal principle for crying out loud, and Sen. Collins is worried about blending in with the crowd?

BDN Double Standard?

Yesterday, we commented at some length about BDN's decision to cloak objective, verifiable facts in the language of "he said/she said."

Specifically, Tom Groening's article on Sen. Collins' decision to break her two-term pledge seemed carefully constructed to avoid blurting out the obvious and undisputed truth that Collins is in the process of breaking a promise to voters.

Well today, BDN runs a story on Rep. Allen and by Tom Groening. And yet, would you believe that this time there's no hedging and no attribution to the opposing campaign?

This despite the fact that the Maine GOP has been pushing the narrative for some time.

So why is BDN reporting out attacks on Rep. Allen in neutral, objective language while portraying demonstrable facts about the junior senator as mere allegations?

Here at Collins Watch, we'd like to think that Groening took our commentary about the first article to heart, and changed his ways.

But somehow, I'm not convinced that's what's going on here.

Habeas Watch

I missed this, but Maine Democrats caught it: Yesterday, Sen. Collins voted against reinstalling habeas corpus, the ancient right to challenge one's detention in court.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted in favor of the habeas provision.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reporting on The Pledge

Give the Bangor Daily News credit for paying attention, this early in the race, to Sen. Collins pledge to serve no more than two-terms. (We discussed the pledge here.)

That said, Tom Groening's reporting leaves a lot to be desired.

Start with the headline: "Democrats say Collins broke two-term pledge."

Well, did she or didn't she? Why the suspense?

Unfortunately, the article itself is similarly non-committal:

Sen. Collins, according to Democratic Party spokeswoman Carol Andrews, made the pledge to serve just two terms while running for the seat in 1996. Collins announced the two-term pledge on April 1, 1996, while signing a document supporting a constitutional amendment limiting terms for members of Congress.

While seeking re-election in 2002, Collins reaffirmed her pledge to serve two terms in a letter to a constituent, according to Andrews.

The Collins campaign does not deny she made the pledges.
(Emphasis added.)

So let's review. A Democratic spokeswoman makes a couple of charges. Sen. Collins doesn't deny them. But the reporter still thinks it's necessary to couch the information as "according to Democratic Party spokeswoman..."

Why not, y'know, do some actual reporting and find out whether the charges are true so that you can give readers the unmediated, straight scoop? (Hint: The fact that the Collins camp hasn't refuted them is telling.)

Look, BDN isn't the only journalistic organization guilty of this kind of lazy reporting. But when I read a newspaper, I don't want to just hear what some party hack said happened. I want to know what actually happened.

Especially in a situation like this, where verifying the facts is so easy.

The truth is, Sen. Collins, by running for a third term, has broken her pledge. Period. Full stop.

Enough with the hedging.

This Is Leadership?

Sen. Collins is nominally in favor of the Webb amendment.

And yet, when she's asked about its chances of passage, does she work to rally support for the measure? Does she use the opportunity to underscore the dangers of stretching our military too thin?

Of course not.

"Senator Warner’s voice carries a lot of weight with the caucus and I think his decision to oppose Senator Webb’s amendment may very well stem the tide of support," said Ms. Collins.
I think this speaks volumes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

They Write Op-Eds

Quoth Congressman Allen:

The young service men and women from Maine that I met...were sent to Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, and they did it swiftly and decisively. We need to end their mission, not re-label it.

Hoodwinking NPR

This isn't the first time NPR has given readers and listeners the mistaken impression that Sen. Collins supports a bill that would mandate a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

Granted, the junior senator has worked hard to conceal that even now, she's unwilling to support legislation that would rein the President in.

But a national news organization like NPR shouldn't allow itself to get hoodwinked so easily.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Photographic Proof

Contrary to what you might think from looking at Sen. Collins' relaunched site, the junior senator and President Bush have in fact been in the same room at the same time.

(Unless one of these is a cardboard cut-out.)

Susan's Blog

Check it out.

Her whole website appears to have relaunched.

UPDATE: Lots of nice snapshots in the photo gallery. But I can't seem to find any of the junior senator with her good friend President George W. Bush.

In fact, a Google search of the site turns out nary a reference to our President.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Funeral Police

I don't blame Congressman Allen's campaign for drawing attention to the dual roles played by two Collins aides. It's worth pushing the junior senator to explain the arrangement.

That said, I can't get too worked up about senate staffers working on their boss's campaign. To me, it seems inevitable in the age of the permanent campaign.

But Collins Chief of Staff (and campaign manager) Steve Abbott's reaction is something to behold:

Abbott countered that Allen, the six-term 1st Congressional District representative, is improperly sending his office staff to events in the 2nd Congressional District. Abbott suggested it was a way for Allen to increase his visibility in the 2nd District.

Abbott listed dates and events, including military funerals and business announcements from May through July, and the names of the Allen staffers who attended.
You read that right.

Abbott is calling Allen out because his staffers have been seen at the funerals of Maine soldiers who happened to live outside his district.

Now, call me old fashioned, but sending a staffer to the funeral of a local soldier sounds a lot like common courtesy--something the Collins camp has been making a fetish of lately.

And yet, there's Steve Abbott, not only disclosing that he's been tracking the movements of Allen staffers, but also that he thinks their presence at soldier funerals smacks of impropriety rather than, say, decency or respectfulness.

What was that about the importance of civility?

At the risk of stating the obvious, it behooves anyone in Congress or thinking of running to err on the side of maximum respect for American soldiers, and particularly the fallen.

Not because it's politically expedient. But because, ultimately, everyone in Congress bears some responsibility for the fate of those soldiers.

If Sen. Collins--and even Steve Abbott--had exercised that responsibility a bit more responsibly over the last few years, maybe we wouldn't be where we are today.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Collins Questions Petraeus

And Crocker. Not that she gets much of an answer.

Via TPMmuckraker.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Q & A

As The Left Coaster intimates, it will be interesting to see how Sen. Collins performs on Tuesday at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Gen. David Petraeus.

Will she ask tough questions, pushing the general off of his talking points? Or will she stick to generalities and empty bromides?

Clearly, the hearing presents the junior senator a golden opportunity to demonstrate to constituents that she takes their concerns about our Iraq strategy seriously. And being tough on Petraeus costs her nothing.

But how best to mask her demonstrated unseriousness on the Iraq question? Among her options: She could draw attention to the fact that the surge has failed on its own terms; push Gen. Petraeus to clarify his comments about his America's long term presence in Iraq; or demand that he explain what "winning" in Iraq means and what it's likely to cost.

In any case, we'll be watching.

UPDATE: If Collins really wants to surprise us, she'll ask Petraeus about this.

Lynx Politics

John Richardson pens a long, nuanced piece for the Kennebec Journal about the shifting endangered species-status of the Canada lynx, and a meeting Maine's senators set up between an interior department deputy assistant secretary and timber company representatives, at which staffers for the senators were present.

Naturally, a PAC associated with the company has made contributions to both senators (as well as Rep. Allen and Rep. Michaud) over the years.

So: Was setting up the meeting a gift to special interests? An unremarkable example of constituent services? A favor to the governor?

Richardson doesn't offer any easy answers--he does a good job of following a complicated set of facts where they lead him. And I'd like to give his piece another read before floating any theories.

But it's fair to say his report provides more evidence, if any was needed, that the line between good government and backroom shenanigans isn't always as bright as some of us would like it to be.

In the meantime, Maine press: More thoughtful, well-researched political reporting like this, please?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Woodward Recuses Himself

From the Bangor Daily News:

Two editors at the Bangor Daily News with close ties to candidates vying for a U.S. Senate seat in the 2008 election have recused themselves from dealing with any aspect of the paper’s coverage of the campaign for the duration of the race.

Executive editor Mark Woodward and assignment editor Tim Allen took the action this week after conferring with fellow editors about apparent conflicts of interest the two have...

"Although my wife and I have only the same stake in the outcome of this election as any other Maine voters, and nothing more, the appearance of having a conflict can be damaging to the integrity and credibility of the newspaper," Woodward said. "Our newspaper's role in the campaign is to report the news, not be part of it. For Tim and me to step out of the news process in this campaign is only common sense."

Collins on Petraeus

Well, not Petraeus exactly. But the junior senator did talk to NPR about Iraq:

"I draw a distinction between a timeline and a deadline," Collins said. "I am for a timeline for changing our mission...What I've opposed is a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, a hard deadline that is unrelated to what is happening on the ground."
Fair enough.

At least she's fessing up to her unwillingness to rein in the President.

Incidentally, can someone tell me who these nefarious "precipitous withdrawal" advocates are? It's not at all clear--unless Collins and other Republicans think twelve months qualifies as "precipitous."

If they think that, I really wish they'd mention it to the American people.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Allen on Petraeus

He says:

The withdrawal of one brigade does not begin to do what needs to be done and is unacceptable. To get out of Iraq, we need to set a binding deadline for withdrawal. We must stop talking about if we bring our troops home but how and when.
Sen. Collins, your thoughts?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Craig Watch

Radio silence, still, from camp Collins on the Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) situation, which now seems likely to drag on quite a bit longer.

The junior senator has disowned a contribution from Craig's PAC--a conspicuous and rather extreme step. But she has yet to explain the move, or tell Mainers whether she wants Craig to resign.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Was That So Hard?

Judging from this article and this editorial, The Bangor Daily News seems to have arrived at a reasonable response to the conflict-of-interest that exists given Executive Editor Mark Woodward's ties to Sen. Collins.

Reading the two pieces, one learns:

--Woodward is not involved in formulating the paper's editorial positions.

--Woodward "has asked five newsroom editors to investigate the conflict-of-interest issue, and report on whether any changes are needed."

--Editorial page editor Todd Benoit believes that, "A newspaper has a responsibility to build in safeguards against conflicts, and one way it does this is to announce their potential. for editors to recuse themselves from covering certain stories to deflect even the potential of a potential conflict of interest.

So that's good to know.

It must be said that Benoit's column--which manages to sound haughty and defensive at the same time--knocks down a number of straw men and makes a number of dubious points on the way to basically the right conclusion. (Hint: "Our spouses have to work somewhere" isn't a terribly persuasive defense.)

So let's hope this isn't all just lip service.

But it's Labor Day Weekend--why nitpick? This is definitely a step in the right direction.