Thursday, September 23, 2010

Putting Her Party First

There's an obvious retort to the argument that Collins was guilty of rigid partisanship and putting ideology ahead of substance in her Tuesday vote against the military authorization bill. It goes something like this:

Oh come on. The military authorization vote was set up by Democrats as a political exercise, an election gambit to fire up the liberal base.

If Sen. Harry Reid (NV) was serious about repealing DADT and the DREAM Act he would have sent them to the floor independently. Or he would have allowed Republicans more than a single amendment. But in either case, Collins isn't to blame for Reid's political posturing.
I don't disagree with the idea that Reid was "playing politics." But that misses the fundamental point.

Namely, Collins has been telling us for years that she simply isn't interested in politics--who's up, who's down and who benefits. Unlike all those ideologically-driven partisans out there, she's supposed to be focused, single-mindedly, on doing what's right for Maine and the country.

Her reelection message hinged on this idea--that she was willing (unlike her opponent) to let the chips fall where they may, ignore partisan consideration and simply adhere to Maine values.

This wasn't an incidental point or something she portrayed as a side bonus. It was her central campaign argument:

On Tuesday she faced a stark choice: Stand behind a bill that had earned her support on the merits or stand up for Republican political prerogatives.

It's pretty clear, given her promises to Maine voters, where she should have wound up.

Her refusal to block out the politics and simply do the right thing probably won't do much to undercut her moderate bipartisan centrist branding. But it ought to.

Your Moment of Zen

Sen. Collins makes The Daily Show, in a segment called, "Are We Ruled By A**holes?" The relevant bit starts at 6:44.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Are We Run by A**holes?
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

It's nice to see Stewart, who's organizing a rally in support of political moderation, drawing attention to the partisanship and hypocrisy inherent in Collins' decision to let process considerations trump substance...only when Democrats are in charge.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Question of the Day

Working to stop a bill you say you support on the grounds that your partisan allies have issues with it: Isn't that pretty much the quintessential example of partisanship?

Sharing The Limelight

I've seen the idea floating around that the Lady Gaga rally somehow backfired. Because, you see, Sen. Collins is turned off by celebrities.

Collins press release headline:


Flashback: HRC Endorses Collins

In the wake of Human Rights Campaign's 2008 endorsement of Sen. Collins, David Smith, who is in charge of policy and strategy at the organization called the junior senator an "ally, friend and leader."

The endorsement was quite controversial at the time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EQME: Collins and Snowe Are Pandering

From Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine. Via e-mail:

EqualityMaine is extremely disappointed in U.S. Senators
Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who today voted lockstep with their
Republican colleagues Mitch McConnell and John McCain in a display of
pandering to the right to avoid repeal of the military's discriminatory
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy...

"Governing is about making important choices in difficult times," said Matt
Moonen, Political Director of EqualityMaine. "Senators Snowe, Collins,
McConnell and McCain are using arcane Senate rules to delay progress on LGBT

Strange Equivalency

Sen. Collins on the Senate floor:

I support the provisions in this bill. I debated for them; I was the sole Republican on the Committee that voted for the Lieberman-Levin language on don't ask, don't tell. I think it's the right thing to do, I think it's only fair...But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down debate and preclude Republican amendments. That too is not fair.
Does Collins believe that preventing Republicans from offering every poison pill amendment under the sun is unfair in roughly the same way--or to the same degree--as is a blatantly discriminatory federal policy?

I don't think it requires too tortured a reading of the above paragraph to conclude that she's implying some sort of equivalency.

Of course, the fact that Collins views phantom Republican procedural prerogatives as comparable in importance to equal treatment under the law--with the former edging out the latter--speaks volumes.

A Loyal Soldier

With all the ink being spilled about the defense authorization bill, and its repeal of the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy, it's instructive to set out, in plain English, what Sen. Collins is up to here.

Namely: At this hour, it appears that Collins is planning to work to block even an up or down vote on a bill that she's already voted for in committee.

It's that simple.

As usual, she's cloaking her obstructionism with complaints about procedure. But the pure partisanship of the move--turning around and blocking a bill she's already voted for--is audacious, even for the junior senator. It's hard not to almost admire that kind of gall.

Meanwhile, will the move help the junior senator shore up her credentials with the tea party folks? Andrew Ian Dodge of the Maine Tea Party Patriots doesn't seem to think so. Via e-mail:

I have never heard any tea party types mention ['Don't Ask Don't Tell'].
This isn't even about fending off a challenge from the right. It's about partisan loyalty. And it's vintage Susan Collins.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Collins Slams DeMint


Senator Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who has seen his stature rise through his support of conservative candidates, made it clear in the aftermath of the Delaware upset that he would prefer losing a seat to Democrats than having Republican colleagues who stray from the conservative line and erode party unity and image by voting for policies supported by the Obama administration.


Senate Republicans do not deny that Mr. DeMint has opened a rift. “It is a new and shocking development to have a member of our conference opposing incumbent Republicans,” Ms. Collins said.

Snowe, HRC and DADT

Back in May, just after the defense authorization bill passed out of committee, I e-mailed David Smith, who is in charge of policy and strategy at Human Rights Campaign.

I asked him whether Sen. Snowe would go along with a repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell.'

Here's his reply, in full:

She will support repeal.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In The Spotlight

You probably know by now that Lady Gaga is coming to Portland tomorrow to push Sens. Snowe and Collins not to block an up or down vote this week on the 2011 Defense Authorization bill, which includes a repeal of the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy.

But you may not know that Collins voted for DADT repeal in committee, and she also backed the full bill.

So why, then, does Collins need to be cajoled? How on earth does she justify going mushy this late in the game?

Yup, she's going to hang her hat on "process":

"Senator Collins would like the Senate to proceed to a full and open debate on the defense Authorization bill, with members able to offer amendments on all relevant issues," said Kevin Kelley." She has spoken to Senator Reid and encouraged him to work with Republican leaders to negotiate such an agreement so that the bill could be brought to the floor."
Of course, it's routine for the number of amendments to be limited, the length of the debate to be limited, etc. And, for crying out loud, Collins has already voted in favor of the bill. So--outside of the fact that the junior senator is a Republican and the commander in chief happens to be a Democrat--where's the problem?

It's not remotely clear. In fact, you kinda sorta get the sense that, just maybe, Kevin Kelley is trying to create a smokescreen.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the junior senator responds, if at all, to the very public pressure she'll be receiving over the next 24 hours.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Collins Job Approval In The Dumps?

Via Dirigo Blue--which doesn't run itself--we learn of the new Collins and Snowe approval numbers from Public Policy Polling.

The news isn't great for the junior senator: Her approval/disapproval clocks in at 45%-43% with 12% undecided.

Collins has the support of 51% of Obama voters but only 38% among McCain supporters. And the poll suggests that she's much more popular with women voters (51%) than with men (35%), even though she did slightly better with men than with women in 2008.

I'm surprised by how weak the numbers are, frankly, though I suppose they're plausible given the country's dour, anti-incumbent mood.

On the one hand, it speaks volumes that a net +2 approval is the best Collins can muster even with the full cooperation of the submissive Maine media, who treat her more like a sainted celebrity than an accountable public official.

But on the other hand, it's quite an achievement for a senator who's been as conservative as Republicans could have legitimately hoped--and much more partisan than she promised in 2008--to be polling 13% higher among the voters of a president she's worked to wound, weaken and stymie than she is among supporters of the candidate she endorsed and worked to elect.

Clearly, most Mainers aren't paying very close attention. Or what they're paying attention to is mostly slanted and skewed. Or both.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Quote of the Day

David B. Offer:

It would be no surprise to see Palin in Maine before the 2012 election, either as a candidate for president or supporting an insurgent campaign against Sen. Olympia Snowe, who will be up for re-election.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Diamon: Snowe Profile "Wimpy"

From press critic and columnist Al Diamon, via e-mail:

I think it [Rebekah Metzler's profile of Sen. Snowe] speaks for itself as an example of the kind of wimpy journalism the MTM papers produce. Even a political neophyte would know there had to be more to this story than appeared in print.

LCV: Still No Regrets

Rebekah Metzler at MaineToday gets an answer to a question I asked months ago:

Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director for the Washington, D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters, said the group doesn't regret endorsing Collins over Tom Allen, her Democratic opponent in the 2008 U.S. Senate race.

"She's been a long-time champion on energy and global warming and a number of other environmental issues. Ultimately, I guess she ended up being the only Republican who is officially on a climate bill," she said
I wonder how LCV members--and especially donors--feel about the organization's willingness to tout the environmentalist credentials of a supporter of the Murkowski resolution--which LCV itself concedes "increases our dependence on oil, overturns sound science, endangers public health, and jeopardizes long-overdue action to hold the biggest polluters accountable for their global warming pollution."

How do the organization's supporters feel about such a person being called a "champion" on global warming issues?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Everybody Love Olympia?

In a slanted 2000+ word profile clearly meant to build up Sen. Snowe rather than examine her performance, Rebekah Metzler at MaineToday rounds up not a single serious in-state criticism of Saint Olympia.

Everybody we hear from--left, right and center--seems to think Maine's senior senator is doing a pretty fantastic job.

And yet it took me no time to track down a dissenter, even on a lazy Labor Day weekend afternoon.

Here's Andrew Ian Dodge (with whom we've spoken about Snowe previously):

A typical puff piece by the Portland Press Herald... the biggest weak link in the Senate and put together with the other RINOs Collins, Brown and Graham, a continuing thorn in the side of the conservative (of all types) cause.

I have yet to attend an tea party event anywhere where her name does not cause an enthusiastic outbreak of boos from the audience.
I bet there are a few other Mainers out there--maybe even some on the left--who have misgivings about Snowe.

At least a couple of them would probably even be willing to talk to a reporter with a deadline.

UPDATE: We've made a few more observations over at Twitter.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Leadership


With Sen. Lisa Murkowski conceding to Joe Miller in the Alaska Republican primary earlier this week, Senate Republicans are left to choose from only three female senators--Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine--to fill her vice chairman position, which has long been a steppingstone for higher-level leadership jobs.

But none of those three appear likely to lobby for the GOP’s No. 5 spot.

“This isn't a good story to have in American politics, that when one woman leaves, there's no one to step in,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
I wouldn't be surprised if Collins took the gig.