Posts Tagged ‘Maine’

Real GOP Mavericks: Murkowski, Collins

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski at work, governing.

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski at work, governing.

If you’re looking for a maverick, you don’t go to Arizona where they brag about the “dry heat” and almost everybody is a retired something or other from somewhere else looking to be left alone while they head for the air-conditioning. The state motto in Latin is Ditat Deus, which means “God enriches.” Whether one is a believer or not, that certainly doesn’t suggest an attitude of going out and stirring the pot to make things happen. It’s more like, “Well, OK, let’s chill and if it doesn’t work out, it’ll work out.”

No, if you’re looking for a maverick, by which I mean in this case, an independent-minded person, you go where it’s cold a lot of the time and winters are rough and people don’t have time for pettiness and pettifoggery. “Get on with it! What are you talking about? That’s nonsense; don’t waste my time.”

You go to Maine or, better yet, Alaska. If you’re lucky, both.

The Maine state motto is, “I direct,” or “I lead.” Alaska’s is “North to the Future.”

Action words. Follow me. I know the way.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate early Friday morning, John McCain, the Arizona senator whose reputation as a maverick disappeared in a puff of “Holy smoke!” at Liberty University when he was running for president in 2008, staged a dramatic moment in which he cast a “no” vote — complete with a theatrical thumb-down — on the Republicans’ last-gasp effort at repealing Obamacare.

Boom! The bill was dead. Gasps from Republicans. Applause from Democrats and millions of Americans. The maverick — fresh from surgery for brain cancer at a Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix — was back.

Not really.

Yes, McCain’s was the deciding 51st “no” vote, which killed the bill. But without the preceding “no” votes from Republican senators from Maine and Alaska, McCain’s would have been meaningless and those two senators had been in the forefront of opposing their party’s hypocritical efforts at “health care reform” from the outset.

In the matter of saving Americans from the cruel reality of the disastrous GOP effort to kill Obamacare (as opposed to passing its own health care measure), the real mavericks were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Both women endured insults and threats from male (Republican) colleagues in Congress — and the president — as they stood firmly opposed throughout the sham process conducted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. No last-minute theatrics for them. They let McConnell and the president know where they stood from the outset — on the side of truth and reasonableness, no petty politics.

For doing their job, voting their consciences and what was best for their constituents, rather than toeing the strict party line, Murkowski and Collins were referred to as “witches” and “bitches” online by the Trump troll patrol. Rep. Blake Farenthold, another sad excuse for a legislator from Texas, said that he would challenge them to a duel if they were men. He’d never survive.

The narcissist-in-chief tweeted his displeasure with Murkowski and suggested, in true Kremlin style, that her state might face retribution by the administration. In fact, Senate Democrats said they would ask for an investigation into calls from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Murkowski and fellow Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, in which Zinke threatened projects important to their state if Murkowski persisted in voting no. That was merely more thuggery from an administration that has no respect for laws or rules of conduct, much less respect for differing opinions.

Collins displayed no patience for McConnell’s nonsense from the beginning of the latest Republican effort to squash Obamacare, pointing to the lack of information and debate on the measure, as well as its negative impact on millions of Americans — the things most other Republican senators were fully aware of but chose to neglect in voting yes.

Collins and Murkowski, of course, were not among the dozen white male Republican senators appointed by McConnell to try to figure out how to repeal and replace Obamacare. No women were on that special panel.

This is today’s Republican Party. A misogynist, or worse, in the Oval Office and a bunch of dumb white men trying to tell women to mind their place.

McConnell, of course, famously shut off the microphone of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a Senate debate, only to listen as she persisted. Clearly, he has similar feelings about Republican women, senators or not.

But Murkowski, who vowed to defend funding for Planned Parenthood (eliminated in the GOP health plan), was elected as a write-in candidate over a Tea Party opponent who beat her in a GOP primary. She doesn’t scare off.

After the big GOP health care flop, she said, “My vote yesterday was from my heart for the people that I represent. And I’m going to continue working hard for Alaskans and just focus on that. I have to focus on my job. I have to focus on what I came here to do.” She had earlier said that it would be nice if some “governing” actually went on in Washington, rather than constant campaigning.

Collins was heard on an open microphone saying Trump’s handling of the budget was “completely irresponsible.” She opposed the Republican health process from the beginning, including the vote to even allow debate. McCain described that tactic as irresponsible, before voting for it. Then he actually voted for a GOP health plan offered later. Collins, Murkowski and several other Republicans voted “no,” (as did all Democrats on every vote). McCain saved his “maverick” vote for the end.

Some called it statesmanship. It was political theater — the deus ex machina coming in way too late. We’re glad you did it, senator, make no mistake, but where have you been all this time, through all this arrant nonsense from McConnell and Trump?

It brings to mind another “mavericky” theatrical moment in the McCain biography, one that also involved an outspoken woman politician from Alaska. Sarah Palin, senator. Remember her? What were you thinking? Were you that desperate for votes in 2008 that you had to sell out to the loony fringe now running your party? Don’t bother answering. Thanks for this decision; it’s a big one. But it doesn’t come close to making up for that earlier one.

No, if you’re looking for statesmanship and courage in this story, look to Senators Collins and Murkowski. If the Republican Party hopes to reclaim its soul, it needs more mavericks like them.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Gay Marriage in Maine: Signed, Sealed

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

By Jean Webster

It’s official. Same-sex marriage is legal in the state of Maine, but may face a challenge.

Just four weeks after a majority of Mainers – 54 percent, in fact – voted in favor of same-sex marriage, the referendum has been certified by Governor Paul LePage. Gay couples in Maine can set their wedding dates, though they must wait until the end of the month, when the law goes into effect.

Maine joins eight other states – Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia – in agreeing that gay people have the right to marry. But Maine went one better. It is the first state to approve gay marriage by popular vote. Gay rights activists call it an important step forward.

Prospective couples are rejoicing over the vote and the governor’s swift signing it into law. However, there is still a strong movement in Maine – and throughout the country – to overturn these rights by giving opponents of gay marriage another chance at the ballot box.

For years, many Mainers have supported the rights of gays and lesbians, including their right to marry. In fact, in May of 2009, Governor John Baldacci signed a bill in favor of gay marriage that came through legislative approval. At the same time, the opposition rallied enough signatures to put a referendum on the 2009 ballot, and gay marriage was rejected by voters in a “people’s veto.” If not for that referendum, Maine would have been the first state to legalize same sex marriage through legislative process and a governor’s signature.

That referendum was brought about, and eventually succeeded, through the work of the National Organization for Marriage, the leading opposition group to gay marriage in the United States, along with various religious and family watch groups. Funds in the millions of dollars came into the state from near and far to support the veto resolution.

And, NOM is already rallying its troops to overturn this year’s vote, just as it did in 2009.

According to Justin Alfond, Portland’s State Senator, there is nothing to stop these groups from doing it again. The law does not restrict what can be put to a vote. But Alfond admits it would be more difficult for NOM this time.

“Taking away rights is a much bigger chore than maintaining the status quo,” he said. Also, if the anti-gay marriage groups hope to get on the next ballot, they’d have to collect more than 57,000 names by Jan. 24, 2013.

There is no doubt in my mind that the foes of same-sex marriage are already gathering funds and signatures to get this new law annulled. The cry through much of the country is that marriage should be between a man and a woman, as it states in the Bible. Opponents of gay marriage have come to call heterosexual marriage “a building block of society.”

These opponents say they aren’t attacking the gay lifestyle. They just want to preserve traditional marriage. (If the divorce rate teaches us anything, it is that traditional marriage is pretty shaky.)

Others believe that the marriage of two men or two women endangers the marriages of the rest of us. (I haven’t figured that one out yet.)

Throughout the campaign the hue and cry in television ads claimed that gay teachers would teach their students about the gay and lesbian lifestyle.

In spite of the slim possibility that the new law could be rejected, gay couples are already seeking wedding locations so they can plan their weddings as soon as the new law takes effect, on Dec. 29. Because that’s a Saturday, some towns are considering whether to keep their municipal buildings open to accommodate gay couples.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan would like his city to hold the first same-sex ceremony, but he says that whenever it happens “I want to be there.”

Memorial Day

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Small Town Memorial Day, East Boothbay, Maine, 2005

By Jean Webster

People gather this chilly morning on a bend in the road
Just below the hill where a white church sits.
Some face the memorial erected years ago
Some look out over the river where two shipyards still
Send ships and boats off into the world.
Others face the Mill Pond, but few here recall
Its working days.

Several generations are represented, from sweet toddlers to elders
Who remember too many wars, too many young people dead
Or permanently impaired in body or mind. Men in uniforms
From several wars march together, lift their feet in unison
Turn to face the memorial as an army would
United in their actions – perhaps in their thoughts as well.
A lone trumpeter plays Taps, the notes soaring over the pond
Followed by a reverent silence. The player rejoins the band
For the Star-Spangled Banner and the drums beat the cadence
For the marching men.

Young people on bikes stream in, park and join the crowd.
Children holding American flags watch with solemn faces
Listen for echoes of the guns over the water. Even their dogs are quiet.
The minister speaks of past wars, reminding us about the “War to End
All Wars,” an optimistic expression now part of our language.
But we know better.
The minister reminds us that each year
Fewer towns and cities gather their people to pay tribute.
As this small town has today.

Waving flags and marching feet end the Memorial Day observance.
The flag-waving children march in a group, their faces bright
Looking forward to the next event, the next moment in their lives.
May they carry with them the memory of this day
The minister’s prayerful words, the sweet toddlers,
The elders and the men in uniform, all united in a single cause.
For now.

Snowe Takes a Hike

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Olympia Snowe

By Jean Webster
Senator Olympia Snowe has been all over the news since her surprising announcement that she’s through dealing with what she called “an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies” in Congress.

Since then, the question has arisen about whether Maine without Olympia Snowe would be like Massachusetts without Ted Kennedy, both of whom served in the Senate for decades, he for 47 years, she for a total of 34 years in the House and Senate (plus five years in the Maine Legislature before that).

My immediate response is “no.”

I respect Snowe as a person who often did good work, without keeping her name in the public eye. But as a lifelong Democrat, I never voted for her.

Of course there were years when I wasn’t in Kennedy’s corner either. These were the times when his personal behavior more than embarrassed his family and his country, culminating in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. It was the low point in his life and ruined any chance to be president, though over time he worked his way back from spoiled rich guy to patriarch of his family and beloved senator who was admired by several of his ideological opposites in the Senate.

But, besides that personal conduct, there were vast differences between Ted Kennedy and Olympia Snowe. He was a public person, frequently seen in the news, not only in his home state but in the national and international media and had a far more public persona than Snowe. Despite their differing personalities, Snowe and Kennedy worked closely together, particularly on defense issues.

Snowe has served on a number of important committees in Congress – Small Business, Intelligence, Commerce, Science and Transportation – but she’s seldom seen in the news. It seems she prefers to remain in the background.

Between Snowe and Susan Collins – Maine’s other Republican Senator – Collins wins hands down in getting her face and name on television and radio, and in print. Probably three to five times more often. If Snowe has a statement to make, she does it quietly and without fanfare. Perhaps she’s more like Maine’s first woman senator, Margaret Chase Smith, another Republican, who worked quietly yet who was one of the first members of the Senate to stand up to condemn the tactics of Joseph McCarthy in 1950.

What will Snowe be remembered for? It will be her centrist views and her attempts to get beyond partisan politics. Recently, both she and Collins were called the most moderate Republicans in Congress. In 2010, they were two of the three Republicans to support President Obama’s financial reform bill.

Although Maine voted wholeheartedly for Barak Obama, people here are very loyal to their two Republican senators. I think it’s the Town Meeting mentality; every March, Mainers convene in town halls to vote for those who will run their local governments. In a mostly rural state, these are their neighbors, their friends. In Maine, we vote for the person, not the party.

In 2008, I made phone calls for Tom Allen, the Democrat running against Susan Collins. Remember, I was calling only Democrats. But many I spoke with said yes on Obama, no on Allen. When I asked why, they would invariably cite a personal story about how “Susan” helped them. No problem about crossing party lines. I understand that Susan’s not Olympia, but to me it’s an attitude here in this state – about people and about how to vote.

Perhaps it’s this attitude of fairness that Olympia Snowe misses in the Senate of the 21st century.

Post comments to jean@zestoforange.com

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Harpswell Sunset

By Carrie Jacobson

This weekend, the plan was for me to be off Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Heather, the wonderful woman who went to Canada with me, was getting married in Maine, at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds, on Saturday, and I was invited.

Another friend in Maine wanted to see paintings, with the thought of possibly buying one.

And I needed a break. I needed a break more than any time I can think of in the past 20 years.

Since September, I’ve been working steadily. Many weeks, I’ve worked upwards of 100 hours. Every week, I’ve worked six or seven days. I’m tired. Mushy-headed. Dull.

On Friday, I was up at 3:30, writing a story from a meeting the night before. It took me until 9 to get everything done. But then it was done.

I readied my paintings to be shown. I packed them into the van. I packed my painting supplies, I packed clothes, I packed my computer. I left the house, got the oil changed, went to the bank and then finally, lusciously, exuberantly, I was free!

Five hours later, I reached the house of my friend who wanted to see paintings.

No one was home.

I nearly left, but hung around long enough that her husband and kids showed up. My friend was in New Hampshire, helping a friend of hers who has cancer.

So I left my paintings and went out to paint.

I found this scene at the very end of Harpswell, on a finger of an arm of land that sticks out into the Atlantic. I painted FAST, I painted wild, I painted before the light faded, and the God-rays vanished, and  darkness surrounded me.

I felt as free and as happy and as utterly connected as I ever have.

How I miss that feeling!

Sometimes it seems that my life has been turned upside down. That what I should be doing is taking a backseat to what I must be doing.

But I plow through, full of energy, full of optimism, full of hope.

Meantime, if you know anyone who is looking to be a patron for an exuberant, promising artist, please send him or her my way.

Interested in this painting? Please email me at carrieBjacobson@gmail.com for price and delivery options.