October 11, 2013

Bill Nemitz: LePage, Collins’ behavior beyond baffling

Their responses to crises leave jaws gaping.

(Continued from page 1)

So imagine my surprise when I tuned into CNN Thursday morning and there was Collins, once again claiming “there’s some skepticism about whether (Oct. 17) really is the date – given what we’ve seen before.”

The point here is not the notorious thinness of the senator’s skin or her remarkable ability to appease the extreme elements of the Republican Party while clinging to her image as Maine’s matriarch of moderation.

Rather, it’s Collins’ startling inability (or refusal) to separate this week’s top Republican talking point (“Deadline? What deadline?”) from the inescapable truth about the world’s already skittish financial markets: Fast-spreading fear, not the precise proximity of the lightning bolt, is what starts a stampede. And once the whole herd bolts, it’s all but impossible to rein in the panic.

In other words, Collins may well be correct that the Treasury can scrape together enough cash to pay the day’s bills one short week from today. But if the world economy is already in free fall at that morning’s opening bell, so what?

The painful irony behind the latest political headlines is that both LePage and Collins, as they struggle to stay one foot ahead of a truly historic partisan meltdown, have no one to blame but their own Republican Party for dragging them into this mess in the first place.

Thus LePage now finds himself raging against “this mess in Washington, D.C.,” with no acknowledgment whatsoever that the tea partiers who got him elected and the tea partiers who are now gumming up his state government are in fact the same chorus of tone-deaf obstructionists.

Collins, meanwhile, struggles to placate the right-wing extremists in the House of Representatives while presenting herself as the voice of compromise and reason – all as her campaign for a fourth term (remember she vowed she’d serve only two?) looms just around the corner.

Last week, while Collins’ spokesman Kelley tried mightily to convince me that his boss was working “behind the scenes” with the House rebels to solve this national crisis, I made him a promise:

“If you folks put out a press release over the next few days announcing that the shutdown, the debt crisis, Obamacare – the whole mess – has been magically solved simply by repealing a new tax on medical devices, I’ll laugh out loud.”

Tuesday evening, an email landed in my in-box. It featured Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, both heaping praise on Collins’ proposal to end the shutdown in exchange for the face-saving “repeal (of) the medical device tax imposed by the new health care law.”

Hear that?

It’s me – laughing out loud.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: bnemitz@pressherald.comTwitter: @billnemitz——

Correction: This column was revised at 10:06 a.m., Oct. 11, 2013, to correctly identify the Press Herald staffer who quoted Attorney General Janet Mills. It was Joe Lawlor.

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