It's hard to know where to begin with Campbell Brown's bizarre, drive-by attack on Planned Parenthood in today's New York Times--in which Sen. Collins plays a starring role.
The key questions it fails to tackle are obvious and numerous:
--What evidence is there to suggest that Planned Parenthood has a "shrinking number of defenders"?
--Why shouldn't the organization endorse the candidate that has a better record on the issues it cares about?
--Why does Planned Parenthood owe deference to incumbent pols who happen to be pro-choice?
--Why do Planned Parenthood endorsements automatically imply that the organization views opponents of candidates it endorses as "enemies of the cause"?
--What does it say about the strength of Brown's case that she cites only two races, three cycles apart, out of the hundreds (thousands?) of races Planned Parenthood has reviewed for endorsement over the last four years?
But set aside the giant conceptual hole at the center of Brown's critique and the moderate-glorifying, power-coddling mindset on which it depends. Just as important are the facts Brown and Collins get wrong, and the disturbing implications of the junior senator's words.
For starters, Brown writes:
Senator Collins once had close ties to the group. Planned Parenthood endorsed her in 2002 because of her strong record of votes supporting abortion rights. Yet in her 2008 campaign, Planned Parenthood turned on her. The issue was her vote to confirm Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court.While it would have been perfectly sensible for Planned Parenthood to break with Collins over the nomination of Samuel Alito--a man who, prior to nomination, had declared his fervent support for the view that abortion isn't protected by the Constitution--the truth is more complicated. As I wrote during the 2008 race (by which time Alito had been on the court for more than two years):
Tellingly, she's never voiced misgivings about her Alito vote, or about his opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart--a verdict which brings us a step closer to a Roe reversal.These were three significant, prominent issues involving family planning; Collins sided with the pro-life camp all three times. To distill Planned Parenthood's objections to Collins down to the Alito vote is simply not accurate.
(Collins also sided with pro-life forces on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a backdoor attempt to undermine Roe. And she refused to join supporters of reproductive freedom in speaking out against a new Bush administration rule that gives health care providers wide latitude to deny services to women on a case by case basis.)
That said, Collins is certainly free to view Planned Parenthood's decision in her race as "infuriating" and to be "disappointed in the organization and how it cut ties to her." But--and this brings us to the piece's second major flaw--that's not what she said at the time:
Collins' spokesman Kevin Kelley said that the Collins campaign was not surprised by the endorsement [by Planned Parenthood of her opponent]...Collins did not seek an endorsement from the organization. (My emphasis.)When you've been in the Senate as long as Collins has, I suppose you expect groups whose endorsements you don't seek to give you the nod anyway, and reserve the right to be infuriated when they don't comply. But I hope she'll forgive the rest of us for not acceding to that view.
Still, that's just a little old fashioned revisionism. It's the article's third misrepresentation--the junior senator's claim that Planned Parenthood is nothing more than an "arm of the Democratic National Committee"--that's hardest to forgive.
Why? Because it's obviously false. And you don't need to leave the state of Maine to prove it: Planned Parenthood helped raise more than $10,000 for Sen. Snowe during the current election cycle.
I thought it was an awful move, and said so at the time. But clearly, if the group was as partisan as Collins suggests, it wouldn't have solicited big dollar donations from its supporters for a Republican, let alone done so preemptively before any Democrat joined the race.
Collins knows this, or ought to. Her false smear is an attempt to bully one of the few interest groups in America that hasn't been swayed by her moderate reputation--one of the only institutions with power in DC that has opted to judge her on the basis of her actions in office rather than her squishy rhetoric.
The junior senator's reaction to this kind of scrutiny, as we see from the piece, is to lash out. Her words:
“Why should I try to make their case in the Republican caucus?"How about because Planned Parenthood does critical family planning work that otherwise would not be done? Or because it performs a wide range of vital health services for Maine women and men? Or because you've been telling Mainers for years that you believe in its mission?
Or is that not enough?