Friday, October 30, 2009

Hypocrisy Watch

From MPBN:

Maine Sen. Susan Collins has come out in opposition to President Obama's nomination of Rafael Borras for a top post at the Department of Homeland Security.


Collins says in his current position, Borras manages 100 people, and in the new DHS position, he would manage more than 200,000 people, along with a $50 billion annual budget.

Collins says Borras also made numerous tax errors on recent federal income tax filings, mistakes she says "show a lack of attention of detail and a pattern of carelessness."

Despite the objections of Collins and other Republicans on the panel, Borras nomination was approved by a vote of 7 to 3.
Borras managed fifteen hundred people during his time as a regional administrator for the General Services Administration's Mid-Atlantic region during the 1990s. And before that, he was deputy assistant secretary of the Commerce Department. So he's certainly got experience as a manager.

So is the main objection supposed to be a few unspecified tax errors? Is there more to the story? It's not entirely clear.

But it would be interesting to hear the junior senator explain how Borras' credentials and foibles stack up against those of former Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) head Julie Myers.

Myers, you'll remember, was the 36-year-old niece of retired Joint Chiefs Chair Richard B. Myers and wife of Michael Chertoff's chief of staff who was elevated to her ICE leadership post via recess appointment by the Bush administration--even though she lacked any relevant immigration or bureaucracy management experience.

As Myers' awaited confirmation, she raised further questions about her fitness for the post by famously awarding a racist Halloween costume first prize at an agency Halloween party. Then she allegedly destroyed evidence of the incident.

Talk about bad judgment.

So what did Susan Collins think of all this? You guessed it: She stood by Myers and her thin resume. Collins supported her confirmation.

Of course, it's not possible that the junior senator has different standards for Republican administrations than she has for Democratic ones.

Is it?

BDN: Public Option Essential

They write editorials:

Without the public option--Democrats are now calling it the "consumer option" and "competitive option," to explain its raison d'etre--the health care bill is a partial fix, something like putting three new snow tires on the car.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, whose vote for the Finance Committee's version of the bill without a public option was gratefully embraced by the Obama administration, is now signaling her disapproval of the revival of the government-run plan. Her GOP colleague, Sen. Susan Collins, also appears likely to abandon the reform effort if it contains a public option.
Of course, on the other hand, Sens. Snowe and Collins have interesting biographies and seem like really nice people...

Missed This

The Lewiston Sun Journal has some thoughts:

As soon as Sen. Olympia Snowe voted for health care reform, the nation's eyes turned toward her counterpart, Sen. Susan Collins. Hijinks ensued.


On Oct. 14, [Collins] released a long statement that essentially said she endorses health reform that produces more affordable insurance options and doesn't cost too much money. But this is not particularly helpful because, regardless of partisan sensibilities, everybody wants that. The question is how it's done.


Poker faces are valuable in politics, we understand. On this issue, however, Collins shouldn't be concerned about making detailed sentiments on reform clear. In fact, as the former state insurance commissioner, her opinions would be quite valuable to this process.


We know Collins has strong positions on health care reform, yet in the context of the pending legislation, nobody quite understands what they are, and she isn't saying...Her position as a U.S. senator requires her to let her constituents know what she thinks.
(Via Al Diamon.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Memo to Maine Media

A public option that anyone can purchase is now supported in Maine by a margin of 61%-28%.

That's a landslide--and an even bigger margin than the last Research 2000 poll.

Short Term Memory

Sen. Collins now:

Maine Senator Susan Collins is demanding to know why there are shortages of the H1N1 vaccine...In her letter, Collins said the tight supplies of the H1N1 vaccine is [sic] "alarming."
Collins this spring:

She also thinks the Obama administration is "not doing a good job of preparing the nation for a biological weapons attack by terrorists" though I don't remember Collins criticizing her feckless pals in the prior administration for their half-hearted approach to homeland security.

In short, utterly shameful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Something to Watch

Matthew Yglesias writes:

One good way to tell the difference between a member of congress who’s genuinely concerned about the long-term budget deficit and a hypocritical jackass is to ask them where they stand on the Kyl-Lincoln $250 billion budget-busting giveaway to the children of extremely rich people.
Of course, Sen. Collins' voting history strongly suggests that she'd support such a measure, irresponsible as it is.

But Collins works really hard and has great family. So I guess that makes it okay.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Diamon: PPH Story Not Journalism


On Oct. 25, the Maine Sunday Telegram...did its own story, by staff writer Matt Wickenheiser, that incorporated some of the [Washington] Post's material, but added another round of fawning interviews--again, without a single critical opinion.

Collins has a great work ethic, we’re told, because of her background growing up in northern Maine. She has an excellent resume, and she's beloved not only by members of the GOP, but by Democrats and independents. So much so, apparently, that no one could be located who took a less positive view.

This isn't journalism. It's public relations.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

PPH or People Magazine?

Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram runs a health care-pegged profile of Sen. Collins today that reads more like a canonization brief than a piece of legitimate journalism.

The article, full of glowing praise from Collins fans, includes not a single skeptical-sounding clause about the junior senator; no critics are heard from; and all context about the, um, evolution of Collins' position on health care is omitted.

The piece also privileges biographical detail over legislative substance, the implicit message being that Collins is first and foremost a celebrity--and only incidentally a legislator.

Of course, this kind of friendly, uncritical approach is what we've come to expect from PPH, whose former editor is now a Collins staffer.

When the new ownership arrived, an early editorial hinted that a more healthy, less cozy relationship between the paper and the senator might develop. But since then, Richard Connor has raised the white flag and returned to the fawning approach adopted by his predecessor.

It's not just a shame--it's a betrayal of the paper's readership. Or what's left of it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Collins With Scozzafava

Sen. Collins got in the middle of the divisive NY-23 congressional race today--the one that's been splitting the Republican party down the middle--by campaigning with Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a moderate Republican.

Scozzafava is opposed by pretty much the entire slate of 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Gov. Sarah Palin.

For some reason, video of the event is hidden behind a firewall.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Snark Watch

New York Magazine:

Reading the Post article today, we were reminded of one of our favorite things that happens whenever [Sens. Snowe and Collins] are covered in the press together. There's always a line like this, in every story (emphasis ours):
Snowe and Collins, who are not personally close and are at times competitive, could be critical crossovers.
Is that a necessary detail? No. It's like the political version of, "Claire Danes, who stole Billy Crudup away from a pregnant Mary-Louise Parker, could be an Oscar contender." Not key to any particular story, but always so much fun to write!

Zip It

Sen. Susan Collins is unhappy with the pace of the H1N1 vaccination program.

“There still is an issue of whether the vaccine is going to get to people too late,” Rep. Susan Collins (R-Maine), vice chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified.


Collins questioned Napolitano on emergency preparedness. Collins said Bowdoin College, in her home state of Maine, reported an increase from six H1N1 flu cases to 245 in little more than a week's time.
But here she is in April.
In the face of the recent outbreak of swine flu cases reported in Mexico and several southern states, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins stands by her efforts to eliminate $780 million for pandemic flu preparedness from the federal economic stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year.
Here's contemporaneous video:

Collins is--literally--the last person in a position to be criticizing the government's response to the flu pandemic. So you might expect that, when the issue came up, she would have the decency and humility to keep her mouth shut.

No such luck.

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

"I don't play the game with the administration, 'I'll give them a vote if they give me X, Y, Z for Maine.' I advocate very hard for the state of Maine on a host of issues, but I'm not interested in a quid pro quo."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rare Burst of Candor

From Roll Call:

"Susan Collins is as conservative a Senator as can be elected from Maine," a former GOP Senate leadership aide said. "She is wired differently than Sen. Snowe."
That sounds about right. More:
Republican Senate aides say Collins has kept [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell informed of her position from the outset, again noting that she has emerged as one of the loudest voices in private Conference meetings against the Democratic bills.
This isn't a surprise to anyone paying close attention. But it runs directly counter to the impression conveyed by the media in Maine and Washington.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How To Pay For It?

Watch Sen. Collins avoid three questions in a row:

Still no idea how the junior senator wants to pay for reform. (Hint: $54 billion over 10 years gets you nowhere.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Collins: "I'm Not Seeking More Attention"

Alas, more of the same.

Sen. Collins doesn't want the money to pay for reform to come out of Medicare. Fair enough. So where does she want it to come from?

(And why doesn't anyone ever ask her?)


We haven't run this chart in a while.

Anyone paying close attention knows that Sen. Collins is a stalwart supporter of big business and a vigilant guardian of corporate interests. She has been for a long time.

UPDATE: Incidentally, "Health"--just below "Finance/Insur/RealEst"--includes pharmaceuticals and HMOs.

The National Media

I don't think this is a case of Sen. Collins duping the national media.

The truth is that, for obscure and complicated reasons, many Washington-based reporters are desperate to believe that Collins is above the fray. And so they'll do somersaults to support that narrative, even in the face of evidence that undercuts it. Even when the junior senator herself is supplying the evidence.

Collins may have created the myth that she's indifferent to partisan concerns, but members of the national media have always been willing accomplices.

Seriousness Watch

When it comes to health care, Sen. Susan Collins professes to support universal coverage.

But she's never come anywhere near articulating a plan for how to get there. (Except that she wants lots of hearings.) And she opposes all five health care reform proposals currently making their way through Congress.

What does that say about her seriousness on the issue?

Right Wing Talking Points

If she's such a serious-minded, results-oriented, pragmatic, moderate bipartisan centrist, then why is Sen. Collins slinging mud instead of offering solutions?

Why is she fear mongering--and parroting unsubstantiated insurance industry claims--instead of explaining how she proposes to improve the legislation?

"Many individuals and families would be forced to pay more for their health care under the Finance Committee bill, and they would have fewer choices...

"As structured, the bill actually could discourage small businesses from adding more jobs...

"The legislation contains no meaningful medical liability reforms to reduce frivolous lawsuits..."

Potholm: Mainers Trust Snowe More

The Boston Globe:

Christian Potholm, a political scientist at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, said he believes that if Snowe still favors the bill when it comes to the floor, she could have a significant influence on the state's junior senator, Susan Collins, another moderate Republican. Like Snowe, Collins supported the Democrats' stimulus plan in February.

"I think there is a fair amount of rivalry" between them, Potholm said. But because of the importance of this issue, and because Mainers do not understand what is in the bill but trust Snowe deeply and see her as the expert on this issue, they are likely to view Snowe’s vote as the right one.

"People have a great sense that if anybody knows whether it's a good or bad bill, it will be her," he said.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nelson: Collins "Likely" On Health Care

In the wake of Sen. Snowe's 'yea' vote on health care reform in the Finance Committee:

"It'll now be a 14-9 vote coming out of Finance Committee," he said. "That's a huge margin. Olympia makes it bipartisan. This is a first step in a long process, but it's an extremely important first step."

Nelson also had a prediction:

"Susan Collins now will likely come with her fellow Maine senator once they vote on the floor."
More proof that even Senate colleagues are blind to the fact that Sens. Snowe and Collins are discrete human beings with different priorities?

Or is Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) actually on to something?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thought of the Day

I wonder how this plays out over the next several weeks. And whether it influences the national debate.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Still Silent On Johnsen

Sen. Collins' refusal to say much of anything about Dawn Johnsen's nomination is disappointing, if not surprising.

It's a reminder that the junior senator is, at best, a selective supporter of the rule of law.

Monday, October 5, 2009

GAO Answers Collins On Ethanol

Kudos to Sen. Collins for asking the question. Sure seems like a dubious program to me.

The GAO report, requested by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), says that a 45-cent-per-gallon federal tax credit is doing nothing to spur production of renewable fuels that government mandates aren't already achieving...

The credit "may no longer be needed to stimulate conventional corn ethanol production because the domestic industry has matured, its processing is well understood, and its capacity is already near the effective RFS limit of15 billion gallons per year for conventional ethanol," the GAO said.

The 45-cent-per-gallon credit available to ethanol blenders is up for renewal next year.