Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Times Takes Aim

Along with the rest of the national media, The New York Times has long followed the unwritten beltway rule: Everyone has to be very very nice to Sens. Snowe and Collins.

Skepticism about their motives? Off-limits. Scrutiny of their actions and how they line up with their words? Afraid not.

But something seems to have changed:

Sightings are reported of that rarest of Washington species--Republican moderates. If only.

The Republicans in question are Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The four voted in lockstep with the rest of their caucus in support of the House Republicans' ludicrous and destructive budget-slashing bill. But then they put out word that they did not much like it that the bill had eliminated one popular and valuable government program: funds for family planning.

[...]

Ms. Snowe and Ms. Collins once creatively worked the middle ground. In recent years all we've heard is how they'd like to reach across the aisle, but somehow the time or the deal or the we're not sure what else isn't right.

They, as well as Mr. Brown and Ms. Murkowski, certainly could have voted no in the first place and--who knows?-- struck a spark for the art of compromise...
Scathing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Editorial of the Year

I've posted a series of tweets about this editorial from Bangor Daily News, and the last paragraph in particular:

Both senators have broken ranks on occasion, and being independent minded, they can be expected to do so in the future. Who is a better judge than our senators themselves on where to break ranks? If you like them, why not leave the decision to them? They probably know better than anyone else when to go along with their party and when to resist. The choices depend not only on rights and wrongs, but also what it takes to get re-elected. And in our system, re-election can be a lot better than going down fighting.
The message is clear: Voters should avoid judging their senators, and instead just trust Snowe and Collins to do what they think is right. They have their reasons.

Because of the clunky phrasing and facile reasoning, at first I figured the text was surely an improperly labelled letter to the editor. But that seems not to be the case.

Like their counterparts in the North Korean press, the editors of Bangor Daily News really do seem to believe that some powerful officials ought to be considered beyond reproach and immune to scrutiny.

At this writing, a Wednesday e-mail to Editorial Page Editor Susan L. Young asking for clarification had not received a reply.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Delayed Reaction

After four days of silence about the internationalization of the Libyan conflict (but just hours after Sen. Snowe made her own views known) Sen. Collins took to Twitter late this afternoon and declared herself troubled by President Obama's decision to take military action without congressional approval.

Presumably, the series of tubes the junior senator uses to access the internet were stopped up on Saturday. And Sunday. And Monday.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Military-Industrial Round-Up

This week in war making:

--Late Friday, Sen. Collins passed along the news that General Dynamics subsidiary Bath Iron Works had received a $28 million contract from the Navy to build a new a DDG-1000 destroyer. No word on whether the vessel, once assembled, will be deployed to the Navy's Fifth Fleet, hosted by US military partner Bahrain, an autocracy that this week adopted a policy of killing its own people in the street. (Warning: link contains gruesome video.)

--Elsewhere, General Dynamics won even more business.

Defense giant General Dynamics has been awarded a $7.8 million contract to produce Gatling gun systems for the U.S. Navy.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine said about half the work for 22 lightweight Gatling gun systems used on fighter jets will be done at General Dynamics' plant in Saco, Maine.
It just so happens that through its PAC and via its employees, General Dynamics has funneled more campaign contributions to Collins over the course of her career than all but one other corporation. (For Snowe, General Dynamics has been the third largest contributor.)

--To our knowledge, there was no word this week from Sens. Snowe or Collins on their views of military intervention in Libya.

Collins, it should be remembered, visited Libya and its leader Muammar Qadhafi in 2009, as part of a US delegation tasked with discussing a possible military equipment sale or transfer. (Video here.)

UPDATE: Some context that may or may not be relevant: Jefferson Consulting Group, the lobbying shop that employs Sen. Collins' investment partner Tom Daffron, has purportedly worked on behalf of defense giants BAE Systems, Dyncorp, Halliburton and Northrop Grumman among others.

(For some reason, none of those companies appear on the client list posted on Jefferson's website.)

It is not known whether Daffron or his colleagues have lobbied Collins formally or informally on defense-related issues.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Incoherence

Did Jonathan Riskind at PPH botch the story on the Senate budget vote? Did Sen. Collins flip-flop?

Those seem like the only two possibilities, but there may actually be a third: That Collins wants Mainers to swallow the idea that she voted for a bill which she nonetheless does not support.

It's actually not as crazy as it sounds. After all, pretty frequently legislators face votes where the outcome is in doubt, and where the bill has some provisions they love and others they loathe. In those situations, pols have to choose between backing a bill they see as fundamentally flawed or voting against legislation with lots of goodies buried inside it.

It's a professional hazard and it happens all the time. But let's be clear: This isn't one of those situations.

Why? Because as Collins acknowledges in her press release, the House GOP budget was never going to pass. The vote was all about sending a message.

And in that case--when symbolism is the only thing at stake--there's simply no reason to vote for a bill unless you actually support it. To suggest otherwise is to be guilty of incoherence.

The junior senator, of course, is not above a little strategic incoherence every now and then.

But if that's what she's up to here, shame on the Maine press for letting her get away with it.

UPDATE: From Collins' press release:

"I am left with a choice between a proposal that doesn't go nearly far enough and one that makes many wrong choices."
That's just false. There were two separate, up-or-down votes on two separate bills. At no time was the junior senator forced to choose one over the other.

Susan Collins is lying.

Rewriting History

Portland Press Herald, March 9:

Collins dismissed a proposal by Senate Democrats, backed by the White House, that would cut $4.5 billion through the end of the 2011 fiscal year as not nearly sufficient "given the seriousness of the deficit problem."

But Collins said in a Capitol Hill interview Tuesday that she also doesn't support the House GOP-approved bill, which would cut $61 billion.
Portland Press Herald, later the same day:
As expected, Maine's two GOP senators voted against a Democratic budget proposal and for a House GOP proposal, even as they expressed unhappiness with the latter option, too.
(Emphasis added.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Deficits and Double Standards

Politico:

When the requests were coming from President George W. Bush, moderate Republicans in the Senate such as Susan Collins and Dick Lugar had no problem voting to hike the federal debt ceiling year after year.

Now, with a Democrat in the White House and full-blown deficit anxiety taking over Congress, these Republicans are avoiding taking a firm stand, realizing that unquestioned support for increasing the U.S. borrowing limit is politically toxic with voters--not to mention many in the right wing of their party.
I've seen no evidence that increasing the debt limit is "toxic" with general election voters--given that the alternatives are shutting down the government or making draconian cuts.

But beltway reporters seem to feel obligated to advance that faith-based narrative.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

They Ask "Questions"

Keith Shortall of MPBN (an organization capable of excellent, incisive reporting) had five minutes with Sen. Susan Collins.

He asked the following questions--and only the following questions:

--So you're talking about the erosion of etiquette or rules of decorum in the Senate or the House?

--You mentioned occupying the center. Are you not maybe feeling more of the brunt because you're getting it from both sides [chuckling]?

--Are there colleagues do you think who agree with you on the civility issue but sort of feel pressure to be loud and to be divisive in order to protect themselves politically?

--And it's your belief that colleagues who go along with that [a more civil approach] and make an effort will not suffer politically?
In short, he prods Collins to flesh out her views; commiserates with her about her position in the debate; and then lobs a couple of softballs that implicitly accept her basic thesis.

No push back. No attempt to play devil's advocate. Not even a hint of an effort to hold her accountable for her own words and actions.

Why does a serious, aggressive news organization switch over to propaganda mode when the subject is Sens. Snowe and Collins?