Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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.

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