State of Maine: Collins and King must help rein in the instigator in chief

Our President has taken action to rid the world of a man who U.S. Sen. Angus King has called a “terrorist,” a “force of evil” and a threat to the “security and the safety of American service members and diplomats serving abroad.” Is this bold political action or reckless conduct?

U.S. citizens are being urged to flee the area, as reprisals are threatened. The President who promised to bring our troops home has instead put them in immediate jeopardy and made it likely that the armed conflicts of the last decades will continue, not cease.

We, the people, are worried. What will happen next? Wherever we get together, on the street, at church or the coffee shop, there is a soberness to our neighborly interactions. The topic comes up right away. Most often it is a dead-serious version of “What do you think is going to happen?” The answer? How the heck do we know? At a music session on MDI last week, the band pondered aloud what their closing number would be. They picked the ’70s tune “What’s Goin’ On?”

The instigator, the commander in chief, is a man with neither background nor experience in international or military matters. He is also a man whose tolerance for intelligence briefings hovers near zero. According to a Time report last winter, the President exhibited “willful ignorance” and a “stubborn disregard” for his advisors’ assessments. He does not read written briefings, preferring oral summaries. Techniques such as visual aids, short sentences and frequently repeating his name and title are used to keep his attention.

And Congress, the constitutional check on the power of the presidency? The Senate has been emasculated. Merriam-Webster assures us that term can be applied to either gender, and in addition to the anatomical meaning (which we do not invoke here), can also mean to “demoralize, paralyze, undo, unnerve or unstring.”

Oh, the senators are unstrung alright. They have abdicated their responsibility to act as a check on presidential power. The only calculus in Washington is re-election. Many members of Congress purportedly express deep worry about this impulsive and uninformed President. A fat lot of good that does. Will they say it out loud? Almost never.

Senators must have a compelling desire to be re-elected to bow before this President. Dissent is a political football tossed back and forth between the parties, not a measured debate about public policy. Before one takes an opinion on any issue, it must be run through the screen of what it will do to a candidate or a party in the next election.

The Trump administration is on its fourth national security advisor in three years. This is the role of chief security advisor to the president, a guiding hand in an emergency or crisis situation. The first of these, Michael Flynn, holds the distinction of having the briefest term of office in history, serving a scant month before being convicted of a felony.

There have been two secretaries of state, with abundant rumors that a search is on for the third. There have been two secretaries of defense with one additional “acting” in between the first (James Mattis) and the current (Mark Esper). The rotating cast of characters in these high-level, security-related positions undermines the ability of the nation to develop a consistent defense and security posture.

In Congress, just 20 percent of both branches are military veterans. Very few have sons or daughters who serve. Males applying for federal student loans through FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) are required to register for the draft — already a requirement for males turning 18. Not to worry, says the Selective Service System, there is no active draft at this time and Congress “would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft.”

That’s rich! This President has gone his merry way, law notwithstanding, unchecked by a craven Congress in thrall to his vocal supporters. The volume of inquiries from concerned FAFSA applicants last week was sufficient to crash the Selective Service website.

News from the science world this week described puffin behavior in which these clown-y faced birds were observed to use tools. The “tools” in question were sticks, which two separate puffins were seen to pick up and use to scratch themselves. That, exclaimed excited scientists, showed that puffins are “problem-solvers.”

Using a stick to scratch an itch may be problem-solving in a puffin but does not suggest the level of problem-solving we would like to see in the leader of the free world. The tools of belittlement, dismissiveness and braggadocio may have served our President well in some spheres of his life but do not become the occupant of the Oval Office. Sens. Collins and King, we say: Dirigo. Please speak out.

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Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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