Monday, April 9, 2007

Collins Fights Back

A few days ago I saw an attack ad, produced by Americans United for Change, against Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. The attack ad has been viewed over 21,000 times, the comments under it are passionate on both sides of the war, but the most important thing about this ad is that it is a classic example of smear. Collins is one of the most vocal critics of the President's surge plan, and she's decided to hit back with her own ad pointing that out. It has only been viewed a little over 3,600 times, so I'm re-posting it here hoping a few folks will watch it:

Here is the part of Senator Collins speech that they clipped (italics), and what they left out (bolded):
Just this last weekend, the State of Maine lost another soldier in combat in Iraq. The American people deserve to know where each and every one of us stands on the President’s strategy, on whether to cut off funding, on the important issues related to this very pressing issue. There are legitimate arguments on both sides. There are those who agree with my position that a surge of 21,500 troops would be a mistake. There are those who believe that the surge is the right course to follow. I respect the views of Senators on both sides of the aisle and, indeed, this is not a partisan issue. But surely—surely this is an issue that deserves our full debate in the best traditions of this historic body. Surely—surely our constituents deserve to know where we stand.

The vote that they cite in the ad was the pork stuffed emergency appropriations bill. Most of the Republican Senators and Representatives who are opposed to the President's management of the war and our indefinite involvement voted against the bill, including all three Republicans whose speeches I highlighted earlier. Instead of working with these Republican allies to craft a bi-partisan bill, the Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate bribed some of their own caucus with pork to get them to vote for the resolution, which then lost most of the Republicans.

It's selfish of the Democrats who demanded the pork. I can hear them saying "Well, of course I support the troops in the field. But my District supports them more with a sugar beet subsidy." How ridiculous is that? It is also very weak of the Democratic leadership to cave to it. I had hoped the Democrats were going to act differently than the Republicans over the last few years, especially when it came to stuffing pork and earmarks into spending bills, but obviously it's more politics as usual.

Sen. Collins's very vocal criticism of the management of the war has been paired with her attempt to get a bi-partisan approach to bringing the President in line. She also stood up to the President when it came to enacting the 9/11 Commission recommendations, acting as an original co-sponsor of the Senate bill and voting for it, something our own Representative Scott Garrett didn't do. Collins was also part of the Gang of 14 that prevented the authoritarian Republican leadership from eliminating the filibuster in the last Senate.

I haven't studied her record completely, but what I do know about Collins I tend to like. She's hardly as partisan as Representative Garrett, has refused to cower in the face of the President, and tries to find the middle ground more often than not. As partisan as Washington continues to be, often Sen. Collins seems like the voice of sanity. She should be praised instead of being attacked with misleading information.

Unfortunately, this is where single issue and overtly partisan politics have taken us. I'm glad to see Collins fight back (they do need to make the ad shorter), just as I would be to see a Democrat fight back when they're being smeared. If we're really going to start moving forward as a nation again, we as voters need to demand more than the 30 second attack ad.


Jill said...

Matt, please do me a favor. Go take a look at the bill here and tell me exactly what in it this "pork" is that you're decrying. Is it the money for Katrina recovery? Veterans' health? What?

rmfretz said...

There's no denying there's some really good stuff, and needed stuff in this bill. However, a lot of it has nothing to do with the troops. It's disheartening to see the same folks who railed against the raise in the minimum wage being combined with the estate tax repeal last year doing it with these bills this year. Unfortunately, that's politics for the time being.

The link didn't work but I'm assuming you meant the Senate version of the bill. The House version contains the notorious $74 million for peanut storage, among other things.

A lot of what I would consider pork are the targeted agriculture subsidies located in Title IV. Here are some of my "favorites":

Section 414 provides relief to cattle ranchers, who pay well below market rates to have their livestock graze on public lands out west, when the land is shut down for land recovery. Ted Turner's a big beneficiary of this. I've read a lot about how the overgrazing is contributing to the impact of the draught out there, and so now we're going to pay them for the problem they're worsening? If you need I'll find an article and post.

There's the targeted stuff at North Dakota regarding their floods (Sec. 415). The problem is, with $6 million appropriated, if the need exceeds the amount, the money is given out on a per acre basis. This is a subsidy for the biggest farmers who can most afford to take the hit. ND's entire delegation are Democrats.

Then there's Christmas Tree, decorative shrub, and ornamental vine relief (Sec 431), not in the original farm bill but they're in there now. That's up to $75,000 in seedlings per affected person, with no cap on the number of recipients.

The granddaddy IMHO is the $100 million paid by taxpayers for the 2008 party convention security that was slipped in with the local law enforcement assistance part of Title 2, Chapter 2. They gave $70 million for local police on the whole Gulf Coast, and $50 million per convention host city. I guess that's a bi-partisan earmark, but the parties should pay that themselves.

rmfretz said...

Oh, and the sugar beet subsidy is also in the Senate version.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't know the purpose or value of an agricultural subsidy if it bit you on the butt, Matt. What years were you toiling in the fields, only to be ruined for the year by drought or floods? Ever have to worry about rotating crops or leave fallow fields to sustain topsoil but for $0 revenue as part of the USDA management to maintain essential and steady food supply American grocers and food manufacturers?

Didn't think so. Geez!

Sadly, you seem to know even less about the reality of how federal legislation happens or the partisan bartering that goes on. I can't say I agree with that process, but your uneducated critiques like this are a disservice, if anyone were to read them. Maybe you have so few comments because you delete those that tell you the truth?

rmfretz said...

You're right, I haven't worked a field. My great grandparents on my dad's side sold tomatoes to Campbell's until the Navy built an airbase on their farm, and my father's uncle grew corn in Pennsylvania.

However, the targeted subsidies I point out wouldn't have helped them; they're aimed at corporate agriculture as opposed to the family farm.

The North Dakota subsidy would have short changed them because they wouldn't have had enough acreage to compete with the commercial farms.

The grazing subsidy encourages the taxing of the land, worsening draught conditions downstream of where the cattle ranchers move their herd. There's no benefit for those farmers in that earmark.

The Christmas tree grant has two options, either the seedlings or funds for things like pruning.

I appreciate your passion and your comment. I'd prefer if you weren't anonymous, but I won't discriminate. I hope you're coming back to see that I wasn't assailing all subsidies, just the targeted earmarks.