Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quote of the Day

Edward Luce in The Financial Times:

In order to win over Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, the Democrats removed $83bn of short-term spending from the [stimulus] bill at the cost of 400,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Collins, Carly and Crist

Also in the latest FEC filing from Dirigo PAC, Sen. Collins' political action committee, is news of donations to the senate campaigns of ousted executive Carly Fiorina and Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL).

The support for Crist, in particular, puts the junior senator at odds with conservative activists.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Old Friends

The top contributor to Sen. Collins' political action committee, Dirigo PAC, for the 2009-10 cycle? Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Monday, February 22, 2010

In Perspective

The entire "jobs" bill that Sen. Collins has decided not to try to block clocks in at less than two percent of the stimulus bill.

It's $15 billion cost is also a mere fraction of what Collins and allies stripped from the Recovery Act, at a time when every additional dollar of stimulus was sorely needed.

So let's be frank: Her support is little more than a token gesture.

This isn't a centrism; it's a feint toward centrism. Though it's almost certain that the junior senator and her friends in the Maine media will pretend otherwise.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thought of the Day

The fact that so many wingnuts hate Sen. Collins with such passion demonstrates that they're focused much more on rhetoric than substance.

With the exception of the stimulus bill--which she worked hard to water down--the junior senator has voted with the Republicans on every single major piece of legislation over the last 9 years.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lucy, Charlie and the Football

Sen. Collins has spent half a year, give or take, carrying water for the GOP and lying about health care. But now she says she's back to being a bipartisan moderate pragmatist.

Anyone who thinks she's interested in advancing serious reform rather than killing it is either incredibly--almost willfully--gullible or just hasn't been paying attention.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pet Projects

Thomas Cushing Munjoy notices something the deferential, power-coddling Maine media aren't in a hurry to report.

I do wonder where he got that picture.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joke of the Day


"It's a bad sign," Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told me about Bayh's retirement. "The loss of someone like Evan speaks volumes about people's frustrations with the Senate and our failure to work in a bipartisan fashion."
Two weeks ago:
"The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the War on Terrorism.

“And, because of that blindness, this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

Thrasybulus at As Maine Goes:

Collins is 100% as conservative as she can be AND win re-election in the dystopia that is Maine. Cut some slack.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Insult, Injury, Etc.

She's lost Tornoe too.

Crisis Management Mode

Just a week ago, Sen. Collins had a national platform and was on the attack. This morning, she dialed in to a local talk radio show to--in the show's own words--"defend her criticism" of President Obama.

Things haven't exactly gone according to plan.

Not surprisingly, Collins spends much of the interview on the defensive, testily delivering the talking points she's been using since the argument turned against her.

But she also manages to deliver this gem: "What's frustrating to me is that it's [the discussion of Abdulmutallab] becoming politicized."


This is a woman who teed off the discussion by quipping, "this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them."

On the radio, the junior senator tries to walk back that ridiculous, overheated rhetoric--at least implicitly--by saying, "I'm not seeking someone's head. I'm not calling for someone to be fired."

But really, who is she kidding? Not the host, who basically calls her out on her hypocrisy and bad faith.

It seems the damage to the junior senator's reputation has already been done.

Coming Out of the Closet

Yes, we're on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

End of a Bad Day

A bit more unflattering exposure for Sen. Collins. Start at 0:55 and stick around for the great Bush clip:

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Collins Losing Maine Media?

It's not just BDN. All of a sudden, even PPH has the audacity to allow criticism of Sen. Collins in its pages.

Greg Kesich unloads on the junior senator today.

Remember: Since Richard Connor's early flirtation with Collins skepticism, the Portland daily (like BDN) has handled her as a kind of sainted celebrity, keeping its pages totally free of sentiments critical of Collins.

So what to make of today's about-face? And the fact that it comes the same day that BDN is taking a break from its pro-Collins posture?

Interesting stuff.

Anyway, here's Kesich:

Sen. Susan Collins wrote a column for this newspaper explaining her objections to the package that she voted against in the Senate on Christmas Eve. ("Cost control essential if health care reform is to succeed," Feb 1)

Collins said that she would not vote for the bill because it didn't do enough to control costs and listed several areas in which it could be better...

[But] voting against this health care reform package because it doesn't control costs is like voting against Social Security because it's not nice enough to old people.

Despite a few polite words now and then, partisanship is the order of the day. right in the middle of it.

Her ongoing critique of the Obama administration's handling of terrorism does not look like someone trying to find common ground. She lambastes Obama for decisions with which she had no problem when Bush was making them. And she is so dismissive of FBI interrogators, you'd think they'd handed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab over to ACORN for a few questions last Christmas.
It's not entirely clear, but it would appear that Collins' demagoguery about the Christmas Day bomber is what pushed Kesich over the edge. (We unpacked her disingenuous health care critique at greater length here.)

In any case: Bet they're having a wonderful day over at Collins HQ.

Merrill: Collins Pawn in GOP Machine

Who would have thought that a former state senator would have the temerity to call out Saint Susan's noxious rhetoric about the Obama administration? Or that BDN would have the temerity to publish his criticism?

A year ago in an OpEd published here, I praised Sen. Susan Collins for the independence she demonstrated in crafting and voting for the Obama recovery act...

Sadly, last week Sen. Collins allowed herself to be made a pawn of the Republican spin machine. The issue is the government's handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young man who botched an attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day...

Sen. Collins played her partisan role with all the finesse of an old city ward boss...

Sen. Collins knows that far from being soft on terrorism the Obama administration has been aggressive in going after terrorists around the world. Sen. Collins knows that under Obama, the drone attacks on terrorist enclaves in Pakistan have more than doubled. Sen. Collins knows that Obama beefed up our efforts in Yemen even before the botched Christmas Day attack.

Sen. Collins knows Abdulmutallab is said to have told the FBI that in Yemen he was in contact with terrorists released from Guantanamo by the Bush administration. Sen. Collins knows that one of the tools terrorists are using to recruit young men like Abdulmutallab is America's failure to give detainees captured abroad the benefit of trials.

Does this mean there is no room for a critical look at the administration's handling of the Abdulmutallab affair?

Not at all, but an honest inquiry would start with Collins making a statement like this: "I know trying Abdulmutallab in federal court was simply following a policy set down by the Bush administration in 2003, a policy I have not previously tried to reverse. I know the Obama administration is working on many fronts to keep this nation safe, but we should use this event to see if there is a better way to proceed in the future."

That is the approach Mainers have every right to expect from a senator who won our votes on the promise she would put our country before her party.
Keep in mind the context: It's been many months--if not years--since BDN has published explicit criticism of Sen. Collins anywhere outside its letters to the editor. Her point of view is never countered in news articles and her views are virtually never challenged in editorials or op-Eds. It simply isn't done.

So is this an aberration or a watershed moment?

Clearly, it's too early to tell. But the fact that BDN is willing to risk offending the junior senator suggests that the landscape has shifted.

NYT: Collins Plays Fear Card

The New York Times editorial page:

An election is coming, so the Republicans are trying to scare Americans by making it appear as if the Democrats don't care about catching or punishing terrorists.


Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, suggested--without any evidence--that vital intelligence was lost by [having the FBI arrest and interrogate Abdulmutallab].


The Republican propaganda is a distraction from the real issue: that the counterterrorism system is malfunctioning more than eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Like many of the nation's other problems, Mr. Obama inherited this one. For eight years, Congress failed in its legal duty to oversee the intelligence community and the basic operational tasks of the Department of Homeland Security and correct the abusive system of detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere that made our country more vulnerable, not less.
Guess who was chair of the Homeland Security Committee for most of that stretch?

One quibble, though: Collins didn't just suggest that intelligence was lost when Abdulmutallab was placed in FBI custody. She asserted it as fact--and then backtracked.

Her irresponsible, authoritarian rhetoric is certainly getting lots of national attention. But is this the kind of attention she had in mind?

Even More Hypocrisy

Sen. Collins, you'll remember, voted in favor of policies generating trillions of dollars of debt during the Bush administration.

But now, things are different:

Collins, meanwhile, said she would be open to exploring a bipartisan jobs bill that focuses on creating private-sector jobs without adding to the federal deficit.
It's just like her response to the Christmas Day bombing: One standard for Republican administrations, another standard for Democratic ones.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hypocrisy Watch

For the Maine audience, Sen. Collins shelves the McCarthy-inspired rhetoric about the Christmas Day bombing in favor of a slightly more nuanced argument, albeit one riddled with holes and distortions.

Still no explanation for why she's appalled at the Obama administration for following the Bush approach (which she never criticized) to the letter.

Still no explanation for why Collins expressed no concerns about the FBI's conduct in a discussion with an administration official as events were unfolding.

And still no explanation for her eccentric reading of the Constitution.

Here's a tip: If the junior senator offers you legal advise, run in the opposite direction.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Collins' Blind Spot

After campaigning for and winning reelection as a results-oriented centrist who brings people together to get things done, Sen. Collins has spent the last two weeks spouting often-false, ultra-partisan talking points and making objectively ludicrous, hyperbole-laden assertions like, "this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them."

Even though the Obama administration followed Bush administration precedent (and the law) in its handling of the Christmas Day bomber.

Even though the junior senator registered no qualms about the Bush administration's approach to similar cases.

And even though there's no evidence that her preferred--illegal--approach to the case would have resulted in a better outcome.

But now we learn that Collins was briefed on the administration's handling of Abdulmutallab on Christmas day? And that she raised no concerns about the actions that only weeks later she would call "dangerous" and "a charade" and "inconceivable"?

It doesn't get much more brazen and disingenuous than this.

It's pretty clear that the last couple of weeks have damaged Collins and debunked, once and for all, the idea that she's a straight-shooter. I suspect that it'll be a while, for example, before she gets any glowing "above-the-fray" treatment from the big, national news organizations.

But her debut as GOP attack dog has been so poorly managed--and so cynically executed--that you have to wonder if she knew what she was signing up for.

Did Sen. Collins jump off the diving board without checking to see if the pool was full of water?

Oh Dear

Greg Sargent breaks some news:

Senator Susan Collins, who's emerged as a leading critic of the decision to Mirandize the bomb plot suspect, raised no concerns about his handling while being briefed on Christmas Day about his capture on a private call with a top Homeland Security official, a source familiar with the conversation tells me.


When Collins delivered the GOP weekly address in late January, she devoted the entire thing to criticizing the decision to Mirandize the suspect...

But on Christmas Day, Collins was briefed by a top Homeland Security official about the circumstances surrounding the capture and arrest of the suspect, a source familiar with the call says, and she had no objections...

"Senator Collins did not raise any concerns about the possibility of him being Mirandized or about the suspect’s handing," the source says.

UPDATE: Double ouch: Collins' office confirms. And spins desperately. But as Sargent correctly sums up:
The basic point...remains unchanged: There was no reason to assume the suspect wasn't going to be Mirandized, and no concerns about this possibility were raised [by Collins]. In other words, there was no sign that this was a matter of concern for Collins and others until it became a political talking point.

Silence All These Years

Jake Tapper, quoting a "senior administration official":

"The truth is, not one time in the nearly eight years since (attempted shoe-bomber) Richard Reid was Mirandized has one of these guys offered an alternative view until now," the official said. "It's nothing but politics, pure and simple."

Their protests "would be easier to understand if there was one statement" from these Republicans "during that time that was different," the official said. "But alas, there isn't."


Congratulations to Sen. Collins for getting it right about former Sen. John Edwards!

She may not know much about the Constitution. But when it comes to being ahead of the curve on sex and paternity scandals, she's one for one.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


One wonders what the folks over at Human Rights Campaign are thinking, tonight, about their endorsement of Sen. Collins' 2008 reelection bid.

Are they shocked and dismayed by what the junior senator is saying about "don't ask, don't tell"? They really shouldn't be.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Quote of the Day

Dahlia Lithwick (via Greenwald):

Each time Republicans go to their terrorism crazy-place, they go just a little bit farther than they did the last time, so that things that made us feel safe last year make us feel vulnerable today....

We're terrified when a terror attack happens, and we're also terrified when it's thwarted. We're terrified when we give terrorists trials, and we're terrified when we warehouse them at Guantanamo without trials. If a terrorist cooperates without being tortured we complain about how much more he would have cooperated if he hadn't been read his rights....

But here's the paradox: It's not a terrorist's time bomb that's ticking. It's us. Since 9/11, we have become ever more willing to suspend basic protections and more contemptuous of American traditions and institutions. The failed Christmas bombing and its political aftermath have revealed that the terrorists have changed very little in the eight-plus years since the World Trade Center fell.

What's changing--what's slowly ticking its way down to zero--is our own certainty that we can never be safe enough and our own confidence in the rule of law.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quote of the Day

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME):

I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Thought of the Day

In Sen. Collins' fantasy, the government is allowed to lock up Canadian tourists forever without charging them or giving them access to a lawyer. Just because.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More on the Mitchell Interview

Everyone really ought to watch Sen. Collins' unsteady, damaging TV debut as the GOP's civil liberties attack dog. A few more thoughts:

1. Gasping for air is a public-speaking no-no. And it's a pretty good sign you're losing the argument.

2. In the closing minutes, Collins situates herself, quite openly, on the outer fringes of the debate, attacking the Bush administration's civil liberties record from the right.

3. Invoking Jose Padilla by name, Collins makes it abundantly clear that she's comfortable with federal marshals scooping up American citizens, locking them in closets and throwing away the keys--as long as someone in the government is ready to call them "terrorists."

What's more, she'll trash any president who disagrees. At least if he's a Democrat.

BDN Lectures Collins on Constitution

As a rule, BDN doesn't directly criticize Saint Susan--I mean Sen. Collins--in its editorials. But you don't need to read too far between the lines here:

The U.S. Constitution requires that foreign detainees have the same right to a trial as U.S. natives. The Supreme Court upheld this view more than 100 years ago and several times in recent years has ruled that detainees in the so-called war on terror must have access to the judicial system.

So, a bill to ban civilian trials for suspected terrorists, as some have proposed be introduced in Congress, would be a waste of time.
Of course, what BDN thinks is almost beside the point: Collins' rhetoric during this episode hasn't been intended for a local audience. She's not trying to influence Mainers or win their support.

Rather, she's engaged in a calculated, self-conscious attempt to wound President Obama and Democrats, as part of a national political strategy based on fear and misdirection.

She may even succeed. But it's already clear that any success will come at a substantial cost to her moderate bipartisan centrist image.

#CollinsFail Round-Up

More debunking here:

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And here (starting at 2:49):

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Howard on Collins and Lawlessness

H. Cabanne Howard, Executive Secretary of the Maine Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability, former member of the Maine Attorney General's Office and current Assistant Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Maine School of Law:

I'm sorry to see that Senator Collins seems to think that when the government apprehends someone on U.S. soil it calls a "terrorist," the Constitution should be suspended. What distinguishes our society from that of the lawless is just these protections.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Inner Collins?

It's worth remembering that Sen. Collins recently lost her long-time chief of staff.

Have her weekend gaffes about the Constitution, today's apparent retraction and her recent wingnut turn all been products of the shake-up?

Without a savvy, exacting advisor to triangulate for her, are we getting a clearer picture of what the junior senator is made of? And what she really thinks?

Flustered, Fazed and Defensive

Andrea Mitchell does an abysmal job of getting Sen. Collins to answer her questions here. But clearly, the junior senator isn't used to being interviewed skeptically.

Not her finest hour.

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UPDATE: Don't miss the discussion starting at 9:10, where Collins explicitly endorses the Bush administration's handling of Jose Padilla.

Damage Control Mode?

The early reviews aren't good. If we're able to track down the video, we'll post it.

Meanwhile, not a peep from the Maine media. Unless Sen. Collins sends out a press release, it's as if it never happened.


Disregarding her oath of office, Sen. Collins seemed to call for suspending the Constitution over the weekend, using the platform of the GOP weekly radio address to endorse a reactionary pick-and-choose approach to the rule of law.

Or maybe she was just very, very confused.

Either way, where are the pointed questions? The condemnations?

The MCLU has spoken. But when a sitting US senator calls for the suspension of fundamental constitutional protections--and literally centuries of settled law--wouldn't it make sense for other officials in her state to stand up and call her out? To push back against the offensive, irresponsible rhetoric?

And yet I haven't been able to track down a single reaction from any Maine political figure of any stature.

The silence is appalling. And dangerous.

It's Evolution, Baby

Sen. Collins over the weekend said that giving Abdulmutallab access to a lawyer:

Undoubtedly prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to our country.
Collins now:
We will never know whether the quality and quantity of information might have been superior had he not been given a lawyer.
(Emphasis mine.)

Merriam-webster defines "undoubted" as not doubted and undisputed.

Even The AP

You know you're in trouble when the AP calls your position flat-out wrong:

After the Christmas plot, however, the president's critics say the administration should have treated Abdulmutalab as an enemy combatant. The right to a lawyer, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, alleged last week, is reserved for American citizens, not foreign terrorists.

Collins is wrong. Immigrants, even those who entered the country illegally, are guaranteed lawyers in the U.S. when they commit a crime.
It's not exactly clear where Collins or other critics suggest Abdulmuttallab should have been sent...

Had Obama sent Abdulmutallab to a military prison, there's no guarantee he would have talked. But it's certain there would have been a yearslong court challenge like the ones that stalled Bush's anti-terrorism policies...

Which means that, years later, Obama, like Bush, would face the question of what to do with dangerous prisoners who can neither be prosecuted nor set free.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quote of the Day

Glenn Greenwald:

One can only marvel at the consensus outrage generated by the mere notion that we charge people with crimes and give them trials if we want to lock them in a cage for life. Indeed, what was once the most basic and defining American principle--the State must charge someone with a crime and give them a fair trial in order to imprison them--has been magically transformed into Leftist extremism.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Collins: Cover 30,000,000 For Free

That's the upshot of the position Sen. Collins lays out in a deceptive, innumerate op-Ed today complaining about the absence of cost controls in the Senate health care bill.

Nowhere in the article does she explain how to cover 30 million Americans without increasing the aggregate total spent on health care in the country. (Maybe because it's impossible?)

Instead, she spends the piece pointing to supposed flaws in the legislation.

Collins' proposed fix? She outlines 6.2 billion per year--$62 billion over ten years--in additional health care cost controls. That amounts to roughly .3% of all health care spending in the US.

That's three pennies out of every $10.

Anyone who thinks the Obama administration and congressional Democrats wouldn't make a deal with Collins to bridge that gap hasn't been paying attention.

Of course, Collins isn't interested in such a deal. That's been clear for months.

What we have here, instead, is more bait-and-switch: The junior senator paints a complicated picture to the folks at home and then ditches the nuance once the plane lands in DC, reclaiming her position as a cog in the GOP nonsense machine.

It's a farce and a tragedy. But also a pretty neat trick, and one the Collins team has sort of perfected it at this point.

MCLU: Remarks Dangerous, Wrong

Executive Director Shenna Bellows, on the phone:

Senators take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Senator Collins is saying the Constitution doesn't matter. And that's just wrong.
What Collins is suggesting is that our Constitution should be simply thrown away--that there should be no rule of law, no due process.
Because of this, Bellows said, "Senator Collins' suggestions...are very dangerous to American security." They would, "make permanent some of the abuses of power that occurred during the Bush administration," which have been, "a huge rallying cry for our enemies."

Collins and the Constitution

In the wake of Sen. Collins' ugly radio address, Greenwald does some more intellectual garbage cleanup.

I'm stunned--I really am--that we're even having this debate.

Projection, Anyone?

Sen. Collins, who presided over the Homeland Security Committee during a period in which al-Qaeda flourished and its influence spread around the globe, and who supported a war that diverted resources from the fight against those responsible for the September 11 attacks, thinks the Obama administration has a blind spot when it comes to terrorism?

When Collins goes ahead and apologizes for the damage she caused during the last decade, she'll have standing to criticize others.