COLLINS FALLS, KEEPS DIGGING…. We’re supposed to be able to expect a certain degree of rationality from “moderates” like Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine. When truly unhinged senators like DeMint and Inhofe make incoherent, blatantly false remarks, no one bats an eye. When Collins does it, reasonable people start wondering if Republicans will ever be able to recover from their current condition.
On Saturday, Collins delivered the official GOP weekly address, and blasted the Obama administration’s handling of the Abdulmutallab case. She claimed, in prepared text, that officials only questioned the attempted terrorist for 50 minutes before he was read his rights and “he stopped talking.” She proceeded to use some absurd, Giuliani-like rhetoric, as if she were just another Republican hack.
We’ve since learned that Collins was completely, demonstrably, unambiguously wrong. The administration handled the matter exactly as Bush/Cheney did, but unlike Bush/Cheney, Obama’s team actually got results. Thanks to this administration’s strategy, the attempted terrorist didn’t “stop talking,” but rather has been “cooperating for days” with U.S. officials. Abdulmutallab has in fact produced valuable, actionable intelligence.
OK, so Collins was wrong. We all make mistakes. She can show some contrition, express her relief that Obama’s approach is helping improve our national security, and we can all move on. Collins’s reputation would be a little worse for wear, but it can recover.
But, no. Collins refuses to back down — even though we know she was completely wrong — and keeps digging herself deeper. Asked to explain the discrepancy between her claims and reality, Collins issued a statement to MSNBC:
“I remain concerned that there was no consultation with intelligence officials before the Department of Justice unilaterally decided to treat Abdulmutallab as if he were an ordinary criminal. If Abdulmutallab is now talking in the context of plea negotiations, that is, of course, welcome, but it implies that the government is willing to grant him a measure of leniency for the information he is willing to provide. We will never know whether the quality and quantity of information might have been superior had he not been given a lawyer who is now guiding him on what to reveal and what not to disclose. The lack of coordination on the front end and the inexplicable, reflexive choice to use a law enforcement approach were dangerous decisions.”
Is Abdulmutallab “now talking in the context of plea negotiations” as Collins suggests? No, she just made that up, and the Justice Department has offered him nothing in exchange for information.
Did we lose valuable “information” by reading the attempted terrorist his rights? No. The FBI interrogated Abdulmutallab, then read him his rights, and then got lots of additional information.
Collins is now clinging to the notion that there “was no consultation with intelligence officials,” but what she may not realize is that the FBI is actually pretty good at this, and there was no reason for the Justice Department to “consult” with other agencies. [Update: Also note, Collins has her facts wrong on this, too.]
Honestly, Collins is coming across as a rookie, right-wing House member, more interested in getting on Fox News than seeming credible. Josh Marshall concluded today that Collins has ended up looking like “an embarrassment.”