Democacy dies behind closed doors – and closed investigations

We are poised on the edge of a Constitutional crisis and a medical catastrophe for anywhere between 20 million and 50 million Americans. As President Trump – with the aid of numerous Irish-American lemmings such as GOP leaders Paul Ryan, Mick Mulvaney and Scots-Irish-American Mitch McConnell – tries to incinerate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and shut down the “Russian hoax” by finding a way to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, one member of the Republican Senate has planted herself squarely in the president’s way.

Susan Margaret Collins stands as one of the very few politicians unafraid to speak truth to power. She also stands as one of the very few GOP legislators unwilling to rip Medicaid away from the poor and the elderly.

Collins likely sees that her party has two paths to suicide. If they destroy Obamacare without an actual and viable replacement – their current bills are a toxic hash – and millions of Americans find that the president’s guarantees of cheaper and better health care are bald-faced lies, the GOP’s burial shroud awaits. If the party refuses to challenge President Trump as he moves against Mueller and suppresses the Russia investigation, they will blatantly tell the nation that they value party above country. The choice is that stark: Putin and political power above country.

Should that come to pass, the GOP as we know it will be RIP after the next few election cycles, and the disorganized, near-rudderless Democrats won’t have to do a thing. The GOP will sink with the Bully in Chief and have no one to blame but itself.

Susan Margaret Collins is one of the six children of Donald Collins and Patricia (McGuigan) Collins whose paternal forebears arrived in Caribou in the 1840s, and she is one of a vanishing breed – the moderate Republican. Sadly, moderate Democrats are also an endangered species.

Compassionate conservatism has marked her long political career along with deep experience in foreign policy and defense. She knows that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was brazen and unacceptable. She demands answers, and that’s why she has warned the president and his minions that any attempt to fire Mueller is “unacceptable.” She doubtlessly understands that if her fellow Republicans allow Donald Trump to kill the Russia investigation, the Constitution means nothing.

P.T. Barnum famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Donald Trump counts on that. He has made a career of it in business. He conned millions of voters by promising to repeal Obamacare without touching Medicaid. Is it any surprise that as Mueller begins to delve into the Trump clan’s murky financial ties, especially into the president’s mysterious tax returns, he has grown manic trying to squelch the investigation? Again, Trump is counting on a majority of “suckers” to let him get away with what would be the biggest con job in presidential annals.

On the healthcare and Russia investigation fronts, US Sen. Susan Margaret Collins asserts that the miserable multitude is as entitled to quality medical services as the fortunate few and that the nation is far more important than any one person – even a person named Donald J. Trump.

Collins is no fan of Obamacare. Still, she is pragmatic and courageous enough not to sell out millions of Americans who are dependent upon Medicaid, safeguards for pre-existing condition, women’s health care, and other ACA protections. Unlike most of her male GOP colleagues – particularly Ryan and McConnell – she refuses to back down to the bully at the bully pulpit.

It’s fitting that a Down East Republican senator sees Donald Trump for the threat that he poses to a divided democracy. In June 1950, in a nation similarly divided over “Russian” influence, one of Maine’s US senators, Margaret Chase Smith, did what most of her male colleagues did not dare – call out Senator Joe McCarthy. With calm and cutting clarity, she warned that McCarthy’s “Four Horsemen of Calumny – Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear –- threatened the nation.”

She asserted that “a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation….I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest.”

With Medicaid on the brink of destruction – and Medicare and Social Security maubge headed for the chopping block – handing massive tax cuts to the fortunate few and aiming to squash the Russian investigation, Trump and his GOP enablers and apologists are racing toward history’s proverbial cliff, apparently unable or unwilling to stop themselves.

To paraphrase Dennis Lehane’s “Gone, Baby, Gone,” the GOP’s determination to pass Obamacare repeal or repeal and replace and the sight of many Republicans’ acquiescing to Trump’s push to choke off investigations of any Russian ties will have a dire result – “Gone, GOP, Gone” in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

That would be less a victory for Democrats than an example of political and moral suicide by the GOP.

For its annual Profiles in Courage Award, the Kennedy Museum might not have to look too far afield for a Republican recipient fighting that disheartening scenario. US Sen. Susan Margaret Collins of Maine fit the bill for her stand against heartless healthcare policy. She also stands high above most of her GOP colleagues for her embrace of patriotism above party when it comes to Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Sen. Collins remains one of the few Republicans, along with an alarmingly small number of Democrats, who clearly grasp the truth uttered by Irish statesman Daniel O’Connell in the mid-1880s. At this darkening moment in America’s annals, his words bear repeating in this space:
“Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong.”

P.S. – As a long-time admirer of US Sen. John McCain, and also as someone who witnessed how the slow decline and death of my father, a Navy combat veteran, from cardiomyopathy nearly brought financial ruin to the family, it was satisfying to watch as he closed down the latest GOP effort t savage health care in this country. Now in the fight of his life against brain cancer, he has, and should have, the best medical care available. So, too, should every American citizen, not just the fortunate few.

I remain an admirer of all that John McCain endured for our nation. I hope that when President Trump moves to have Mueller fired and then to close the Russian investigation, John McCain will again roar like the Lion of the Senate against a president who has no respect for the Constitution, and no regard for anyone save himself.