Perilous times

To the Editor:

I share this as an open letter to Sen. Susan Collins.

An extraordinary request is being made of the American people to believe that “grown-ups” (Trump advisors Mattis, McMaster, Tillerson) are in charge of this administration’s diplomacy, military and our national security, and that they are containing the most dangerous instincts of the chief executive.

Blindsiding them, Donald Trump deliberately left NATO unsure and furious about whether or not the United States would uphold Article 5, under which mutual defense has long been pledged among our closest allies. For the first time in many decades, we are no longer considered to be reliable.

Recently, he has recklessly promoted Middle East conflict against Qatar, seemingly unaware or unconcerned that it’s the home to one of our largest military bases in the region. Secretary of State Tillerson tried to calm the growing crisis, only to sit in the front row at a press conference a couple hours later, and hear the president completely undercut his efforts with yet another off-the-cuff broadside.

In short order, our diplomatic reputation is being reduced to junk bond status.

We are in a world in which boots on the ground or bombs from the sky are no longer the only way to inflict grievous harm on an adversary. We are facing an extraordinary and ongoing threat from Vladimir Putin’s Russia in the form of hacks of our electoral system and the dissemination of destabilizing propaganda. These incursions have been bold, sustained and effective. We are advised they have many other targets. For example, there is evidence of their growing capacity to hack into and disrupt major portions of our electrical grid.

The interwoven nature of the financial and political relationships between the president, his family and close aides, and politically powerful and influential Russians has been allowed to remain shrouded in unprecedented and unforgivable mystery. The lies and feints about contacts between Putin’s emissaries and key members of the administration and/or his campaign pile up.

The president fired the director of the FBI in an attempt to free himself of the Russian investigation, according to an unambiguous statement from the president on national television and to a boast to the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office. He has dismissed the danger of Russian intentions and encroachments as a hoax.

This shambolic administration, with its mendacious posturing, dissembling and threatening, is tearing us to pieces at home and abroad. The damage is almost incalculable. When the bill for it comes due, as it surely must, we will have to face it diplomatically, politically and socially isolated and divided. You will not be able to truthfully assure the nation that we are in good hands.

You are regarded as a steady voice for moderation, comity, decency, collaboration and mutual respect. Yet you continue to mince words, providing the president undeserved political protection. With regard to the testimony that in secret he told the FBI director he wanted a criminal investigation quashed, you heavily modified your criticism of his actions by claiming he’s new at his job and doesn’t understand how he really should behave.

That rationale is an insult to the office of the presidency and to the nation. Common sense dictates that Trump’s shortcomings are not amenable to education. They are hardwired into who he is. In short order, he has revealed himself to be ill suited to serving as a president of a healthy democracy. The presidency is not some sort of starter job.

Domestically, among many other concerns, including, but not limited to, energy, education, the environment, ethics, civil liberties and fair access to the voting booth, we wait to see if you and the Senate are going deny meaningful access to health care to millions of Americans. If it does, it will financially imperil health care institutions in Maine already struggling to make ends meet. No one will escape that harm.

Increasingly, the answer seems to be “Yes,” the Senate will take this step. A bill is being written by a few Republicans behind closed doors. There is an intention to proceed without opportunity for hearing, amendment or meaningful debate. It is an appalling abuse of the legislative process.

We know you may have some objections to the nature of what may be in the Senate version of the bill, but objections that do not result in protection of our health care and our health care institutions are simply not good enough.

Complicity in Trump’s harm to this nation has become fundamentally incompatible with the duties of senator. You know all of this. When will you break with him and a party that enables him? The Senate is so evenly divided, a switch to Independent, caucusing at least for now with Democrats, would send a powerful message that party can never be put before country.

Surely, you’ve never expected to have to consider such a possibility, but these are not normal times.

As our senator, the people of Maine have given you much. There always has been the expectation that in times of peril, as this is rapidly becoming, extraordinary deeds may be required. Failure to act proactively and powerfully is to risk forsaking our fundamental freedoms, values and the safety and security of our nation.

Gail Marshall

Mount Desert


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