If there's one sentence I'd like to hear from President Obama tomorrow, that would be it.
Don't get me wrong: I don't expect the President to launch a blistering attack on Sen. Collins in her own state. That would be undignified, bad politics and it's just not the guy's style.
Further, I understand that since he's hoping for support from Sens. Snowe and Collins on climate legislation and other proposals, he's likely to include some praise for them in his remarks. And that's totally understandable.
But it would be a shame--and a mistake--for the President to allow his speech to feed the idea that Maine's senators are transcendent, non-ideological figures. In fact, he has a unique opportunity to push back against that ridiculous, pervasive myth.
To put it plainly: With extremely rare exceptions, the Maine media simply don't allow criticism of the state's senators to surface anywhere outside letters pages. The notion that either woman might be fallible--let alone motivated by ideology--just doesn't get aired.
So imagine if, in a speech the local media can't help but cover, President Obama said the following:
I applaud Senator Collins for her vote on the stimulus bill. And I thank her for her engagement and hard work on the issue of climate change.It wouldn't change anything over night. But it would plant a seed in the minds of a lot of politically independent and politically incurious Mainers.
But I've been deeply disappointed with not just her vote on health care reform, but her rhetoric before and after that vote.
During the debate, Senator Collins repeatedly complained about the cost of reform to the federal government, even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office had long maintained that the proposal under discussion would actually reduce the deficit.
And now that the law has passed, Senator Collins still isn't being candid with Mainers. Just last week she issued a confusing press release suggesting, or so it seems, that 97% of Maine employers will now be faced with a new, unaffordable requirement to provide health insurance to their workers. But that's just not true, Susan.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of Maine's large employers, the ones who do face a new requirement under the law, already offer health insurance to their employees.
Now, Senator Collins has been willing to cross the aisle more often than many of her Republican colleagues. But I'm afraid that what we have here is partisan jockeying interfering with an objective examination of the facts. And that's a real shame.
And once you plant the seed, who knows where that might lead?