Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two Selves

Sen. Collins has lectured the country about civility and cast herself as an unaligned pragmatist, uniquely situated to heal our national political culture.

Earlier this month, she played the role of partisan loyalist, telling the Maine Republican convention:

I stand with each and every one of you as a committed supporter of our outstanding Republican candidates at every level of government, and I will do what it takes to make sure our winning streak continues
Obamacare has more negative side effects than those medications you see advertised on TV.
(She also managed to pass on two misleading claims about the Affordable Care Act, the second of which was clearly phrased to deceive her audience.)

It hasn't been since the junior senator's GOP weekly address in 2010 and before that her speech at the 2008 Maine GOP convention--during which Collins took some shots at Sens. Obama and Clinton (near the top)--that she's indulged in such red meat rhetoric.

And while there's no obvious way to reconcile Collins' fiery partisan speechifying with the non-ideological image she's cultivated in the (obliging) press, in a way, that's the point: Making sense of Collins' impact requires looking beyond her "Maine media" posture and her "GOP audience" posture to evaluate her actions on the merits.

Admittedly, it can be difficult, time consuming and often boring work. But it's a lot better way to figure out what she's up to than listening to her talk.