October 2, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Sen. Collins hardly a profile in courage during shutdown stalemate

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

Uh-huh. Meaning?

“She supports these various (Obamacare) provisions, but she has told them all along, ‘You’re playing a game that you can’t win,’ ” said Kelley. “If the House Republicans would send a clean CR to the Senate, not tied to Obamacare, she would support it.”

Getting dizzy? Imagine how it felt after 20 minutes aboard the Collins Merry-Go-Round.

Loath as she may be to admit it, the simple truth is that Collins isn’t just frustrated with the lunatic elements in her own party. With her re-election primary eight months away, she’s scared to death of them.

She has good reason: The gavel had barely fallen on last week’s Senate cloture vote when Americans for Limited Government blasted Collins with a press release headlined, “Senator Collins supports Obamacare with cloture vote.”

“Senator Collins now owns Obamacare, having voted to invoke cloture on the continuing resolution that will certainly allow its funding to be implemented,” fumed Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens. “It is rare in Washington, D.C., that elected officials are forced to show their true colors.”

Think about that. Collins voted only to put the dead-on-arrival House measure to a vote. Then, when the time came to say “yea” or “nay,” she dutifully voted against stripping out the very components that Americans for Limited Government and the rest of the far-right so vehemently support.

Yet even that is enough to earn her the dreaded “Collins Supports Obamacare” stamp of disapproval from a group that clearly hates President Obama a lot more than it hates a new, private-sector-based health care initiative. (An initiative that, back in 1989, long before anyone had ever heard of Barack Obama, was a feather in the cap of the uber-conservative Heritage Foundation.)

Thus Collins now finds herself in that most unenviable of political positions: The left and middle are angry with her for not doing more to stop the federal shutdown, while the far right is furious with her for not doing more to stop Obamacare.

What’s a legislator to do?

Something brave. Something principled. Something that says to Maine and the whole nation, “Enough of this nonsense. We’ve got a country to run here.”

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profiles in Courage,” John F. Kennedy wrote more than a half-century ago that three distinct pressures stand between politicians and acts of political courage.

The first is the need to be liked – hardly a problem for Collins, in view of her overwhelming electoral victories over these past 17 years.

The second is the desire to be re-elected – one that will in all likelihood be fulfilled next year with or without a tea party-induced primary challenge.

The third is pressure from constituents, from the average voter who simply wants to be heard to the special interest group that sees any and all compromise as a sign of cowardice, an unforgivable act of betrayal.

As Kennedy wrote all those decades ago, however, “Compromise does not mean cowardice. Indeed it is frequently the compromisers and conciliators who are faced with the severest test of political courage as they oppose the extremist views of their constituents.”

By her words, Susan Collins wants us to think she’s courageous.

But only by her votes can she prove it.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

Twitter: @billnemitz

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