Illustration by Dale Stephanos
This year saw a lot of weirdness and lunacy, in Portland, in Maine, and around the nation. Here, we collect some of the most ridiculous and egregious violations of general normality, sensitivity, and basic intelligence.
Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins got some great press this year during the partial government shutdown. “Collins Leads Senate Sisters in Shaping Deal,” a USA Today headline read in October. Time Magazine called her “The Deal-Maker in DC.” The Boston Globe reported, “Maine’s Collins is Suddenly the Moderate in the Middle.” But taking those reports at face value is like digging into Tofurky expecting it to be the real thing — disappointing, to say the least. It’s true that Collins, who has been in office since 1997 (despite saying she would only serve for two terms), did come forward with a bipartisan plan to help end the shutdown (a proposal that was ultimately rejected). It’s true that before the shutdown even began, she criticized her colleagues in the House for linking Obamacare amendments to the budget, calling theirs a “strategy that cannot possibly work.” But, as Bill Nemitz pointed out in his October 2 column for the Portland Press Herald, Collins was “hardly a profile in courage during the shutdown stalemate.” A close look at Collins’s votes during this time reveals that she actually voted along party lines when it came to measures that would have removed Obamacare provisions from the spending resolution.
Specifically, after voting for an up-down vote on a budget resolution that linked Obamacare to federal spending, she then voted not once, but twice against un-linking the Affordable Care Act to the budget. She may have rhetorically disagreed with the GOP strategy, but her actions failed to back up her words — all because she’s attempting to appear centrist while still placating extreme right-wingers.
There’s no denying that Collins’s positions are moderate when compared with those of Tea Party hard-liners like Ted Cruz. But those who turn to Collins seeking truly visionary leadership are looking in the wrong direction. Let’s not forget that our senior senator was an NSA apologist; when the spying news broke, she defended it by saying “it has defeated and thwarted dozens and dozens of terror plots both here and overseas” (this was later revealed to be untrue). She may be good on the issues of reproductive and gay rights, but she also voted against Obamacare, against attempts to ban so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and against a motion to end the sequester and replace it with an alternative deficit-reduction plan that combined both spending cuts and tax increases.
On second thought, maybe it’s not Collins who’s a turkey — maybe instead, that designation should go to Maine voters who care more about keeping a steady flow of pork coming into our state than about shifting course in Congress.
It’s hard to know where to start. The Vaseline remarks? How about when he talked about bombing the Press Herald building? Or remember when he claimed that almost half the people in the state “don’t work”? Governor Paul LePage said a lot of turkey-ish stuff in 2013, but what’s more infuriating than the words themselves is how LePage attempts to explain away his verbal gaffes. He blames the press. He blames his upbringing. He blames his bilingualism. Isn’t personal responsibility a major conservative tenet?