Susan Collins asks Bush to tell her how to vote

The moderate Maine Republican needs a former president to tell her if the START treaty is good or bad

Published November 29, 2010 5:10PM (EST)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Republican Sen. Susan Collins -- one of the two "crown princesses from Maine" -- is a very moderate and reasonable Republican, and so she is reserving judgment on President Obama's arms control treaty with Russia, which requires 67 votes for ratification.

Primary Republican negotiator Sen. Jon Kyl would like to delay the vote until the new Congress begins, so that Rand Paul has a chance to vote "no," but if the Obama administration can round up enough moderate Republican "yes" votes, they'd really like to get this thing done during the lame duck session. What would help Susan Collins make up her mind, exactly?

"It would be wonderful if President [George H.W.] Bush would come out for the treaty. That would be so powerful and definitely help," Collins said in a telephone interview last week.

That would be wonderful! So, so wonderful. And powerful. Susan Collins is, I guess, too dumb to decide for herself if this treaty is worthwhile or not, and apparently former President George H.W. Bush must make public announcements telling her how to vote on things, from now on. Bush signed the original START agreement. His national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, and his secretary of state (and honorary Bush family member), James Baker, are in favor of this one. But Susan Collins cannot bring herself to support it unless the 86-year-old former president himself holds a press conference politely asking her to.

Olympia Snowe, the cagier Maine Republican, is just being vague. She has "concerns," and she will "carefully review such concerns until a vote is scheduled." (That just means she's also in favor of delaying a vote until the new class of Republicans can sink the whole thing.)

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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