October 10, 2018
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Listening to the extraordinary speech by Senator Susan Collins I was struck by the resemblance to the senators described in President John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage.
While he was still a senator, Kennedy took advantage of a period when he was recovering from back surgery to write a study of eight senators who he felt had been courageous in doing what they thought was right, even if it cost them re-election.
Profiles in Courage was received with rave reviews and won the Pulitzer Prize.
If Kennedy were writing the book today, he would have to add a chapter for Senator Collins.
Senator Collins has consistently done what she thought was right. I am much more conservative, and I have often disagreed with her. Nonetheless I have worked on health projects and other issues with her, and she has always been thoughtful, serious, and dedicated.
When we have disagreed, it has been within a tone of friendship and mutual admiration that we are both serious people trying to help America navigate through some very difficult and complex challenges.
When I watched her speech Friday I had great admiration for her words – even more than for her final decision.
If you have not read or watched her nearly hour-long speech, I encourage you take the time to do so.
It epitomized the Senate at its best (I write this as a former Speaker of the House for whom praising the Senate under any circumstance is a painful prospect).
The Founding Fathers wanted senators to be more aloof than representatives. They designed it so only one third would be up for election in any given year. Initially, they had senators elected by the state legislatures to protect them from direct pressure from the public. In its earliest years, the Senate took this concept of aloofness so seriously that they met in secret and refused to tell people how they had individually voted. In fact, they met in secret until 1794.
The Senate has a tradition of much longer speeches than the House (if you don’t believe me watch C-SPAN coverage of the two bodies for a few days). The goal was to have a solemn deliberative body that would be slower than the House in following public opinion.
All too often the age of televised sessions, the power of social media, the impact of organized, passionate interest groups, and the ambition of individual senators who grandstand to attract attention so they can later run for president (such as Senator Cory Booker absurdly declaring he was having a “Spartacus moment”) combine to break down the deliberative nature of the Senate and the ability of its best members to think seriously and speak wisely.
For one hour last week, Senator Collins took us back to an age when calm, reasoned logic, powerful imagery, and deep thought controlled the Senate floor.
While most people will focus on her vote, I think for historic purposes it is even more important to watch her reason methodically and then take the case for approval or rejection of Judge Kavanaugh step-by-step and item-by-item.
Senator Collins explored the background of the judicial decisions Judge Kavanaugh has made in his years on the bench. She reported on the hours she had spent interviewing him and many other people. She outlined the case for and against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s charges.
Again and again, Senator Collins shed light and logic where others had engaged in emotional diatribes, character assassination, and smears. The contrast could not have been more vivid.
At the end of her speech, I was impressed with how thoughtful and methodical she had been in laying out the case and announcing she would vote “yes.”
Maine is a moderate state with a big activist left-wing element.
Left-wing, anti-Kavanaugh activists had already organized a web page that had gathered more than $2 million in pledges to fund an anti-Collins candidate in 2020 if she voted for Kavanaugh. Left-wing activists sent more than 3,000 coat hangers to her staff symbolizing back alley abortions in an effort to emotionally pressure her into rejecting Kavanaugh.
Collins seems impervious to pressure from both the right and the left. That is a profile in courage worthy of note.
Now, in response to her vote to confirm Justice Kavanaugh, former Obama official Susan Rice is saying she might run against Collins in 2020.
I think that would be the perfect match. Susan Rice was the designated liar sent out by the Obama team to lie to the American people about the Benghazi attack and the death of four Americans including our ambassador to Libya.
I can’t imagine a clearer contrast between a profile in courage and a profile in dishonesty.
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