Political Animal


September 22, 2011 11:25 AM Snowe diagnoses ‘the problem’

By Steve Benen

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), arguably Congress’ most moderate Republican, issued a statement this week in response to President Obama’s debt-reduction agenda. She has some concerns.

“Clearly, spending is the problem, so why would more taxes be the solution? We cannot ask the American people to pay more than they already do in order to paper-over the debt problems that Congress created; it is up to us to fix the spending problem, not retroactively justify it by making people pay increased taxes.”

As a substantive matter, as Jamison Foser noted, Snowe’s analysis just doesn’t make any sense. To believe “spending is the problem” is to ignore all of the available evidence.

But reading Snowe’s statement also reminded me what a shame it is that Snowe is what passes for “moderation” in Republican politics in 2011. Given the larger landscape, there’s room for genuine GOP centrists — in, say, the Mark Hatfield or Lowell Weicker mold — to have a significant impact. Real Republican moderates, if they existed, would not only generate considerable attention, but could potentially have an instrumental role in shaping policy.

But that’s not an option. The best of the best — relatively speaking, of course — is Olympia Snowe, who’s somehow been convinced, the year before running in a Republican primary, that “spending is the problem.”

As Foser added, “If Olympia Snowe had supported a significantly larger stimulus package in 2009, the economy might not be in such lousy shape, and millions more Americans might have jobs. And now Snowe is peddling the same falsehoods as the rest of her party, in support of the same shortsighted and cruel austerity measures that have kept the economy weak.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • martin on September 22, 2011 11:31 AM:

    So can we quit referring to her as a "moderate" and quit sucking up to her? Please? She's a Republican and should be treated as such using the current definition of Republican.

  • walt on September 22, 2011 11:32 AM:

    I talk to people who are understandably disappointed with Obama. Often they say they would vote for a sane Republican (e.g., Huntsman) if he were the GOP nominee. I respond that the problem isn't the candidate, it's the party. And the GOP is insane and pathological.

    Props to Olympia Snowe for keep the flickering candle flame of moderation alive. But she illustrates the greater problem: when your party has gone off the rails and you're not speaking out, YOU become the problem. Snowe would be more effective as a public figure if she stopped playing footsy with crazed zealots. Speak up, because in the end the only thing that matters is the truth.

  • T2 on September 22, 2011 11:37 AM:

    Snowe is not to be trusted for a second. She's collecting a Federal check and wants to keep collecting it. Same goes for that other NewEngland GOP lady Senator. Let me be plain about it.....if anyone has (R) after their name, they'll sell you out in a second.

  • c u n d gulag on September 22, 2011 11:40 AM:

    So, Snowe is melting under heat and pressure from the hard-right?

    Nothing to see here!

    You created most of the debt by giving your rich friends tax cuts, and you left 2 wars and occupations unpaid for, as well as your give-away to Big Pharma.

    And we're not asking most of "the American people" to help pay - we're asking those who were helped the most to help pay back.

    But, instead, what YOU want is for 'the American people' to live lives of slow economic deterioration to continue to pay for the profits of greedy individuals, families, and corporations.

    How "the American people" don't see through her, and every other Conservative in this country is a testament to the success of their propaganda and 'divide and conquor' rhetoric and policies.

    Shame on us!
    The dumb part of 'us,' not the smart ones like the readers here.

  • Amnesia on September 22, 2011 11:42 AM:

    See with higher taxes under Clinton, the economy shrank and unemployment soared. But Bush's tax cuts energized the US, and saved us. So obviously, the Republicans have been proven right.

  • dweb on September 22, 2011 11:43 AM:

    Poor sad Olympia. She has been thrashing about for the past three years in increasing desperation, but sweetie, face the facts. No matter how much you try to out tea bag the Tea Baggers, they ARE going to primary you and chances are you will lose.

  • max on September 22, 2011 11:49 AM:

    "Olympia Snowe of MaineMain article: United States Senate election in Maine, 2012
    Three-term incumbent Republican Olympia Snowe was re-elected in 2006 with 73% of the vote, the largest margin of any incumbent in 2006, other than Indiana Senator Richard Lugar (who ran without a Democratic opponent). She will be 65 years old in 2012.

    A conservative challenger, Scott D'Amboise, is already running against Snowe in the Republican Primary. Tea Party candidate Andrew Ian Dodge is also challenging Snowe in the Republican Primary."

    Snowe is just running scared from the local Tea Party nutcase and dumb voters in Maine.

  • rrk1 on September 22, 2011 11:52 AM:

    Snowe is anxiously looking over her right shoulder, from which direction she will no doubt attract a Teabagger primary challenger. It would seem that in Maine the down-easters appreciate and respect a truth-teller, but she's obviously gone ga-ga with the rest of the lunatics in her party for fear of the career-killing primary.

    If whatever remains of 'true' moderates in Republican circles can't retake control of their party, and I don't think they can, then they should become independents as the Senator from Vermont (who's name I've forgotten) did, and as did Lincoln Chaffey in Rhode Island. You can't pretend to be a moderate and also parrot the reactionary talking points of the crazies. Joe Lieberman, poor excuse for a human being that he is, also said screw the party and became and nominal independent. He survived, and was inexplicably forgiven. So can she survive, although her party won't forgive her.

    Snowe presumably knows the calculus of her reelection better than this Massachusetts resident, but she has had bipartisan support in the past because she's been a moderate in the old style. Does she think she can win as a born again Teabagger? Or will she win because she stands for honesty, truth, and above all reality. Until she clarifies her position we shouldn't be calling her a 'moderate' anymore.

  • TCinLA on September 22, 2011 11:55 AM:

    Snowe is a gutless PoS who's gotten so comfortable being a senator she will say or do anything to keep the job. With a far right Tea Turd ready to "primary" her next year, she has to prove she really is what passes for a "Republican" in WhackoWorld.

    Further proof that depending on Republicans for anything useful is a fool's errand. "The only 'good Republicans' are pushing up daisies," as good Democrats knew back in Harry Truman's day. I guess we are finally ready to re-learn that lesson.

  • Danp on September 22, 2011 11:59 AM:

    So, what Snowe is saying is, "We (Congress) screwed up, so how can you ask us to stop asking millionaires to divert their hard earned profits to us? Wouldn't it make more sense to just lay off our staffs?"

  • Danny Gail McElrath on September 22, 2011 12:03 PM:

    I have never understood calling Snowe or Susan Colllins a moderate. What moderate stance or action can be attributed to either. What good have they ever supporoted or accomplished. They like to dance around and sometimes flirt with the Democrats and love getting the media attention but when it is fish or cut bait time they cannot be distinguised from the rest of the extreme conservatives. I don't know a single Republican I could describe as moderate. Enough already!

  • Krowe on September 22, 2011 12:10 PM:

    Spending IS the problem.
    But it's CONSUMER spending, not gov't spending, that's deficient.

  • howard on September 22, 2011 12:11 PM:

    susan collins has some intelligence.

    olympia snowe is a moron, although admittedly, far from the dumbest gop senator.

  • Rathskeller on September 22, 2011 12:12 PM:

    Danny Gail McElrath - this. They're only moderate if that is defined as "occasionally voting with the Democrats after extracting maximum concessions and media attention."

    And, while I am happy for their occasional vote, Snowe in particular seems like a dim bulb.

  • FRP on September 22, 2011 12:15 PM:

    Drowning , sinking , or running into a wall are fairly simple concepts in that there is little resistance to overcoming the immediate consequences of these easily understood situations .
    The effect of presenting a tissue of lies as common sense and the unshakeable foundation of booschienomics , was supportable aside from caterwauling of some outlier economic professorial types crying "wolf" over at the NYT . That is why relying on the stoicism in our nature can pay the wages for the high priestly functions of "who could have imagined" Condi Rice stylish stupefaction that passed for analysis while the organ grinder increasingly plays over the Princeton economics professor that , clearly , calmly , even stoically presents observable facts , repeatedly . The stoicism which prevents a good person from complaining about the increasing decibels during a thirty year drag on discretionary spending may very well be loathe to mention the hearing loss acquired during the catapulting of the loud and shiny distractions amiably described as propaganda . The career minded obscurantist will in true vitals to the wind haruspex style rely on the political breeze to steer the con mans (we luv u Condi oh yes we do) poetical distraction , until the game is up .
    When you have intelligent able to feed and clothe themselves sorts of people claiming we don't have a drowning , sinking , or smashing problem , but a swimming , sailing , or visual obstruction you are in the presence of a priest , priestess . The only matter that will be safely described will be the weather or when Cantor or Ryan have re crafted the games cadences to cover the "So old it's new again" act with the modesty required to keep little children from pointing and laughing , or to remind the propagandized to deaf that we don't have a budget but a spending problem .
    Its so easy

  • DRF on September 22, 2011 12:32 PM:

    Clearly, Snowe has been running to the right for the past couple of years in anticipation of a primary challenge from the Tea Party in Maine (which did, after all, elect a Governor there last time out).

    It's certainly a logical strategy for re-election. You have to wonder though, given her advancing age, whether at some point we have a right to expect that Snowe will make a stand for integrity and for the moderate center that she historically occupied, even if that means she risks being defeated in her primary.

    Obviously, I'm not in her position, but we've seen this movie before: McCain in Arizona in 2010, Hatch in Utah now, Snowe now. All have enjoyed long careers in the Senate. All have flushed or are flushing their reputations down the drain in order to survive for one more term. It's just disheartening when Senators who've been around that long are so desparate to keep their jobs that they will abandon their integrity.

  • DAY on September 22, 2011 12:40 PM:

    Humans are loathe to engage in self examination, and seldom accept the blame for their condition, when a handy scapegoat is available.
    Hence it is the politician's fault that I don't have whatever I want, be it a job, a nice house, or a trophy spouse. Vote the bum out!
    And the wannabe bum tells us that it is not our fault, and I will get you a job, a house, and I can hook you up with the Hollywood crowd. Did I mention that you are smart, witty, and will soon get a big government grant- just as soon as you vote for me. . .

  • FlipYrWhig on September 22, 2011 1:10 PM:

    "The American people" are not targeted for tax increases. The top 1%, $250K and up, are. That's not "the American people," it's the highest tier of American privilege. Fuck you, Snowe.

  • Stephen Stralka on September 22, 2011 1:50 PM:

    The "spending problem" line has become awfully tiresome. It's not even wrong or self-contradictory so much as it's basically meaningless. What is a spending problem, anyway? We're spending too much? Well, what's too much? And who says?

    One obvious way to say we're spending too much is that we're spending more than we take in, but spending less is only one of the two obvious solutions in that case. Raising more revenue is in fact an entirely plausible way to fix that kind of spending problem.

  • square1 on September 22, 2011 1:52 PM:

    The politics surrounding Olympia Snowe encapsulate the problem when Democrats join the Cult of Bipartisanship.

    In an ideal world, "moderate" Republicans would present a great opportunity for Democrats. As the GOP moves further to the extreme right, Democrats could aggressively target these seats and force the GOP incumbent to either cross party lines and vote for Democratic bills or pander to their base and lose the seats to a Democratic challenger. That is the natural dynamic.

    For example, when Obama was first sworn in, Snowe, Collins, and Specter should have been firmly in the crosshairs of the Democratic Party.

    But when Democrats define bipartisanship as a goal in of itself, it actually creates an incentive for Democratic voters to vote for Republicans over Democrats in certain cases.

    Here is what I mean.

    The Cult of Bipartisanship says that no bill is good unless it has at least one Republican vote. Actual voting majorities (or supermajorities) are not important. Bipartisanship is important.

    But achieving bipartisanship means convincing "the most liberal Republican" in the Senate to vote for Democratic legislation. However, paradoxically, as moderate Republican Senate seats are picked off, that moves "the most Republican" further and further to the Right.

    Republicans lost Specter and Chafee in recent years. If Collins, Snowe, and Brown get replaced (whether by Democrats or more conservative Republicans), imagine what Democrats would have to do to achieve bipartisanship!

    The Cult of Bipartisanship says that no matter how unpopular the minority party becomes, they still are permitted to sign off on legislation or else the legislation is suspect.

  • sapient on September 22, 2011 1:57 PM:

    square1, you say that "The Cult of Bipartisanship says that no bill is good unless it has at least one Republican vote. Actual voting majorities (or supermajorities) are not important. Bipartisanship is important."

    But actually, it's not the cult of bipartisanship that says that. It's the Senate rules when there are 59 Democrats and they need 1 Republican vote to overcome the filibuster. Obtaining Olympia Snow's vote was, in some cases, necessary to pass legislation.

    I really wish that "progressives" would learn to count to 60.

  • sparrow on September 22, 2011 2:37 PM:

    Dialing down two clicks from bat-shit crazy makes one a moderate in the Republican party? News to me too especially in this day and age.

  • J.T. on September 22, 2011 6:24 PM:

    There is still a place for moderates in this country -- it's the Democratic party. It's the liberals who no longer have a home.