Monday, April 27, 2009

The Bipartisan Susan Collins

O.K., in the interests of bipartisanship (and that, we know, is next to godliness), we'll stipulate the following:

- the swine flu outbreak is not, fortunately, at least as of now, a pandemic;
- so far, as the spokesman for Senator Susan Collins (R.-Me.) says, "There is no evidence that federal efforts to address the swine flu outbreak have been hampered by a lack of funds."
- spending on public health does not fit the GOP's theme of contempt for science;
- Senator Collins was not trying to kill off Americans, or even Mexicans.

Still, Senator Collins played a major role (video below) in stripping from the economic stimulus bill nearly $900 million in pandemic flu preparations, boldly declaring "Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill? No, we should not."

Granted, Senator Collins, short of sound judgement, as of now has had the integrity? courage? to leave on her website a Wall Street Journal article from February 5 (before final approval of the package):

After meeting with Mr. Obama, Sen. Collins expressed concern about a number of spending provisions, including $780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness. "I have no doubt that the president is willing to negotiate in good faith, that he wants to have a bipartisan bill," Sen. Collins said.

Collins joined with Repub Senators Snowe of Maine and Specter of Pennsylvania in forcing cuts to the stimulus package in return for their "aye" vote. Collins claimed that such spending on public health would not create jobs, that eliminating it "would step back from spending projects that don't immediately lift the sagging U.S. economy." Still, Collins' opposition was, not coincidentally, consistent with Karl Rove's complaint that the bill included "$462 million for the Centers for Disease Control, and $900 million for pandemic flu preparations."

But enough of the Rove-bashing- I'll leave it to others. Commenting on Hardball tonight, Ryan Lizza probably was closer on motive when he "semi-defended" Collins by saying in part "Susan Collins through that whole process had no coherent argument. She just wanted to knock down the total so she could be viewed as a moderate Senator." And the piece in the WSJ only substantiates Lizza's theory: the writer approvingly referred to "Sen. Collins, a centrist with allies in both parties...."

Centrist! Bipartisan! Few adjectives are more lovingly bestowed by the mainstream media, and probably few more coveted by politicians, than these. The grandstanding Susan Collins, earlier this year, portrayed herself as a responsible, independent-minded public servant- while doing it all for the political benefit it bestowed as she charmed the Fourth Estate. She may have, as Lizza maintains, "a long history of funding for flu outbreaks, flu money" and, a celebrated "centrist," she can avoid the media ridicule others would face if she maintains: "I voted for it before I voted against it."

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