Collins' essay is a valuable document, a perfect gem of intellectual incoherence, for its inadvertent exposure of the vacuity of the establishment view...UPDATE: We served up several tweets along the same lines yesterday. A day later, I have to say I'm struck--more than anything else--by the total incoherence of Collins' argument.
The stimulus bill was an effort to spark consumer demand through Keynesian pump-priming. Many conservatives adopted the position that Keynesian pumo-priming cannot work. They opposed the bill.
Advocates of the bill presumably accepted the basic contours of its intellectual rationale. Yet they insisted on changes that made the bill less effective. There was no particular intellectual theory guiding the actions of Collins and her moderate GOP allies. They could point to no analysis that claimed their intervention made the bill more effective.
To be sure, they could say that a smaller bill was still better than no bill, but that is not a good defense when you are the one making the bill smaller. To advocates of the stimulus, Collins and her allies seemed to be operating from pure political expediency, unlike both the opponents and the proponents of the bill, who had at least some economic basis for their stance.
So what horrors befell Collins for her stance? A columnist criticized her. Bloggers questioned her opposition to swine flu spending. Conservatives sent her emails. Oh, how could such terrible things be allowed to happen?
If you suspected that the voices of establishment Washington really have no conherent views about substance, and cherish their own prerogatives--especially the absence of criticism of any kind--then Collins' rambling essay will confirm your suspicions.
I tend to think of the junior senator as sneaky and meticulous. But her speech raises real questions about that characterization.