David Treadwell

David Treadwell

Six years ago, I audited a course on Leadership at Bowdoin taught by former Gov. Angus King. A skilled communicator, King imparted the lessons of leadership by focusing on a few strong leaders from the past, such as Sir Ernest Shackleton, a polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic; Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and Joshua Chamberlain, legendary Civil War hero who led the 20th Maine Regiment’s famous counterattack in the Battle of Little Round Top.

Sen. Angus King seems to have channeled Chamberlain in his current position as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is currently holding hearings on Russia’s influence in the 2016 elections. He’s being smart and strategic, fearless and focused.

Chamberlain was trying to hold the Union Army’s position at Little Round Top. King is trying to preserve the very foundation of our democracy. Unlike most politicians today, King seems genuinely interested in getting at the real truth of how the Russians attempted to disrupt our 2016 presidential election. He’s not just covering his political hide or playing to his base. I would suggest that King’s “base” is largely comprised of independent-minded and moderate voters, the thinking middle. In fact, I would argue that most voters fall in this camp, not on either extreme.

Right-wing media outlets and flag-waving Trump diehards claim that the Democrats are just mad about the election results. They say we should just drop the whole Russian thing. Frankly, it boggles my mind that patriotic Americans believe we should just move on. The adults in Congress (including Angus King) and Americans who truly care about our nation’s core values believe that we should get to the bottom of the Russian interference. Now is no time for blind partisanship.

King’s efforts evoke memories of two courageous Maine senators who preceded him: Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and Sen. Bill Cohen, both Republicans who at the time of a national crisis had the courage to put country over party. Smith took on the odious antics of Senator Joseph McCarthy in her famous “Declaration of Conscience” speech in 1950. A member of the House Judiciary Committee in the Watergate investigation, Cohen was one of the first Republicans to break with his party and vote for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.

Sadly, we live in a deeply divided America. Too many citizens from both “sides” tend to blame “the other” for all the nation’s ills. I’m susceptible to this knee-jerk response myself. We should — we must — try to find common ground, a tough task given the media’s love of verbal food fights, which pit left against right.

To his credit, Sen. Angus King is setting a good example by taking the independent road, the high road, the right road, on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns at [email protected]

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