Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Last Two Years

In today's edition of PPH, Rebekah Metzler looks back at the 111th Congress and Sen. Collins' role within it.

On the one hand, the piece isn't Nemitz or Wickenheiser-style hagiography--it's not a gushing, completely one-sided take on the last two years. Critical voices are included and a couple of embarrassing facts even get mentioned.

So in the context of PPH's recent history, it counts as a genuine step in the right direction.

Still, it privileges Collins' point of view, omits key context and engages in revisionism in ways that just about always seem to reinforce Collins' centrist branding.

And while no Maine political reporter who wants continued access to the junior senator is likely to undercut the "Collins-as-moderate-nonideological-pragmatist" narrative too often, Metzler seems to go out of her way to reinforce it. Even when the facts cut against it.

A few observations:

--On the stimulus, Metzler leads off by noting Collins' opposition to new grass for the national mall, implying that a lot of projects she objected to were dubious if not downright frivolous. In truth, the cuts she insisted on were deep and substantive.

--The piece implies that Collins replaced these supposedly frivolous stimulus initiatives with "traditional infrastructure" projects. In reality, Collins voted against $25 billion in highway, mass transit, water and sewer spending. The net effect of her involvement in stimulus debate was massive cuts to (for example) special education funding, LIHEAP and home weatherization programs. Any of which would have been roughly as stimulative as infrastructure spending.

--In Metzler's piece, we learn that Collins was denied votes on several amendments during the health care debate. But we are never told that this happened after the junior senator had spent months working to delay, dilute and kill the bill. Or that the amendments were effectively poison pills since Collins was still committed to voting against the bill even if they passed.

--Metzler never spells out that Collins voted to block even a vote on the health care bill, after characterizing health care as a key issue during her 2008 campaign and calling candidate Obama's plan "pretty good" and one she was open to supporting.

This enormous flip-flop on the biggest policy issue in years has (as far as I know) literally never been mentioned in the Maine media. The silence on the subject from the Maine press is, to put it plainly, scandalous.

--Metzler finds plenty of space to trumpet the junior senator's bipartisan moderate centrist credentials. But there isn't even a passing mention of her disingenuous ultra-partisan ravings in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing.

It wasn't a piece of legislation, but it was an important national story and Collins was at the center of it. It deserved to be included in any survey of her activity since 2008.

We've invited Metzler to share her comments about our thoughts. If she takes up the offer, we'll let you know.

No comments: