Viewpoint: Margaret Chase Smith’s heirs

by Gail Marshall


Many times Senator Susan Collins has gushed her adoration of Senator Margaret Chase Smith, who, in 1950, stood in the Senate to speak her “Declaration of Conscience.”

It was the act of one woman who found the courage to challenge Senator Joseph McCarthy’s long running, mendacious campaign of hatred that had rendered her colleagues politically paralyzed in fear and silence. It broke the logjam and eventually ended his reign of terror.

Recently, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and former National Security Council member Fiona Hill showed themselves to be Sen. Smith’s true heirs. They put their years of non-partisan public service on the line and strode to the Capitol over the objections of the Trump State Department and White House. They each sat for ten hours before the House Intelligence Committee. They each outlined facts amounting to a blistering condemnation of the corruption and self-dealing of Donald Trump, his State Department and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, undertaken at the expense of national interest and security.

In contrast, as years of Trump’s corruption, chronic dissembling and threatening, and destructive actions and policies continue to cheapen the office of the Presidency and endanger our nation, Senator Collins repeatedly issues anodyne statements of “disappointment” and “disagreement.” She has never taken any action or definitive step that will draw even the faintest line in the sand.

Where exactly is her line? When will enough be enough?

It wasn’t when:

Trump actively obstructed the investigation of the Russian interference in the last election to his advantage. We now know it was likely a prelude to what he is trying to orchestrate for 2020.

He staffed the Office of the President with his completely unqualified children, overriding security clearance assessments on their behalf.

He met alone with Vladimir Putin and seized the notes of the talks, freezing out our own national intelligence agencies.

He withdrew us from the Paris Climate accord and subsequently took a wrecking ball to clean air, water, and land protections as the nation increasingly floods or burns, freezes or broils.

He and his children enrich themselves as foreign leaders, businessmen, state officials, the Defense Department and Cabinet members fork over cash at Trump properties.

He engages in and encourages racist, hateful demagoguery that has lead directly to an explosion of right wing extremism, including threats and violence.

When was the last time the Senator listened to the entirety of a Trump rally with his often alarmingly incoherent, coarse incitement to violence and hatred? She should. (You should too.) And then explain to us how a “moderate” Senator can fail to take meaningful action for the good of the nation.

He willy-nilly started trade wars, costing us billions of dollars. The cost of tariffs comes directly out of our pockets, as does the cost of billions in farm subsidies to partially offset their Trump-made losses. Or at least it will eventually. Right now they are just throwing it on to their exploding deficit.

He operated intentionally and unnecessarily cruel border and immigration programs, including forcibly separating from their parents thousands of young children.

He openly trashes our painstakingly built strategic alliances the world over, favoring and empowering anti-democratic tyrants instead.

He runs much of the government with “acting” Cabinet Secretaries and others who, per the Constitution, are supposed to be confirmed by the Senate. When he does send nominees to the Senate, the Senator votes to confirm people like William Barr and Michael Pompeo, both of whom operate their respective Departments like they are personal and private subsidiaries of Trump, Inc.

How about Syria, where he’s suddenly abandoned our allies, the Kurds, offering a preposterous excuse that that they didn’t help us at Normandy? Turkey, home to one of Trump’s large hotels, promptly began slaughtering Kurdish men, women and children, and deliberately bombing all around US military positions, as ISIS fighters escaped from Kurdish captivity. Russia and Syria have moved in quickly to fill the void he created, with Russia now occupying one of our former bases. The Senator said Trump’s move is “terribly unwise” and would favor sanctions if things get out of hand. The horse is out of the barn, Senator, so do bar the door, won’t you?

Senator Collins argues that if Articles of Impeachment are referred to the Senate, she will serve as a “judge” of the charges against Trump, so she can’t express any opinions in advance. How very typical and convenient. And also not true. It’s just another tree to hide behind. She’s had plenty of power and tools at her disposal all along and she’d done nothing. Instead, like the rest of the Republican Senate, she has fully enabled a narcissistic bully to turn far too much of the nation into a cauldron of fear and loathing, hollow out our international capacity to credibly represent and protect ourselves, weaken and degrade our fundamental democratic standards and safeguards, and imperil our children’s future.

If Senator Collins were truly the “moderate” she claims to be, she would take a page from Ambassador Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill and Senator Smith. She would draw a line right now. She would risk her Senate career for the good of the nation. She would act in a bold way to help stop the increasingly radical damage done by Donald Trump to this nation before we are beyond the point of no return.

Gail Marshall is a resident of Mount Desert.