You'll remember that a couple weeks back we expressed confusion about Sen. Collins' curious, questionable alliance with State Department official Stuart Bowen.
Today, the Washington Post--in a piece aptly-titled "It's Maine. Who's Going to Notice?"--unpacks some of that confusion, and answers a few of our questions:
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr., whose own office is under investigation by the FBI and three other entities for waste and mismanagement, raised a few eyebrows last week when he showed up in Maine with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and told the state's leading paper she was the "most consistent and effective supporter of our oversight in Iraq."Let's be fair: It's not as if Sen. Collins has single-handedly politicized the executive branch.
Collins is in a tight reelection battle in a blue state where the war, and her prior support for it, could be a critical factor. Last year she helped save Bowen's office, which has exposed enormous waste and fraud in the Iraq rebuilding effort, after House Republicans tried to kill it.
Bowen, a former top aide to President Bush in Texas, last week went to Maine with Collins to speak at a college and then joined her at an editorial board meeting of the Portland Press Herald-Maine Sunday Telegram, where he praised her for supporting him.
His trip didn't go unnoticed in Washington. A senior State Department official said he was "puzzled" by Bowen's appearance alongside Collins. "I wondered what he was doing," the official said. "This is the kind of thing we're taught not to do."
But her willingness--and seeming eagerness--to participate in the Bowen charade shows poor ethical judgment: An inspector general's legitimacy depends on a perception of independence and political neutrality, and Collins ought to know that.
It also underscores that for whatever reason, seven years in, the junior senator still desperately craves the Bush administration's seal of approval.
(And by the way, if Collins has been the "most consistent and effective supporter of our oversight in Iraq" then Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is a pacifist.)