Bill Hiss

I call on Sen. Susan Collins to share her beliefs on an increasingly crucial issue: Is Donald Trump fit to hold public office?

She has publicly made clear that Mr. Trump would not be her choice for the Republican nomination. But she has been silent on the far more critical issue: is he fit to hold office at all?

With the dramatic movement of the Republican Party to the right, she has become perhaps the most liberal Republican senator, not because she moved leftward, but her party moved substantially to the right. With Sen. Mitt Romney’s retirement, she may be the only Republican moderate. For just this reason, her constituents need to know if she believes Mr. Trump is fit for public office. If she thinks he is, then she should say so. But if she believes he is not, then she owes the people of Maine a clear statement of where she stands.

Maine over the decades has often been well served by its senators. Ed Muskie created the Clean Air and Water Acts and later served as secretary of state. Bill Cohen served through the impeachment investigation of President Nixon and then as secretary of defense. George Mitchell declined a seat on the Supreme Court to continue to serve the country as majority leader, crafted the Easter Accords, and founded the Mitchell Institute with a scholarship for a student from every public high school in Maine.

But our clearest model of a Maine senator speaking out with courage and moral integrity is Margaret Chase Smith, rising in the Senate to call out Sen. Joseph McCarthy for his heinous ruining of citizens’ lives through political and personal persecution.

Today we are seeing a gathering storm of persecution that is far, far worse than anything Joe McCarthy imagined. Mr. Trump is making it baldly clear that if he wins a second term, he will embark on wholesale removal of all political opponents from appointed positions in our government. If he cannot remove his opponents, he will attempt to destroy their departments or offices.


He is also sending clear signals parallel to his calls for anarchy and violence on Jan. 6, 2021. He has said that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a traitor who deserves execution. He threatened Vice President Mike Pence for not doing his bidding in counting electoral votes. Gen. Milley knows the danger of unhinged people hearing the calls for retribution from Mr. Trump and has arranged personal security for himself and his family. The court officers in his four felony cases are being mocked daily.

Sen. Collins should tell us plainly where she stands. If Mr. Trump is nominated by the Republican Party while facing over 90 felony counts of criminal behavior, having already been found liable for sexual abuse and defamation, and his firm found guilty of business fraud, will Sen. Collins endorse him? Will she stay silent until mid-July, hoping that some other force will unseat him?

After the tragic murders in Lewiston, Congressman Jared Golden made the very difficult political decision that he could no longer support assault weapons and would work to restrict them. Standing next to him, Sen. Collins was asked if she would take a similar stand. She responded that there were many halfway measures to consider, such as large magazines.

Perhaps this is an arguable policy position. But with Maine’s tradition of gun ownership, her statement was also a carefully hedged non-commitment to significant changes.

Mr. Trump’s unending torrent of insults, threats, mocking, and encouragement of violence will not end, certainly not this side of a prison cell. He is telling us exactly what he intends to do if reelected: forgive himself and others, and then dismantle American democracy so that it answers only to himself.

I call on Sen. Collins to make a forthright statement of what she believes. Is Donald Trump fit to serve in public office, or not?

With respect, senator, we are running out of time for carefully hedged non-commitments about Mr. Trump. Maine’s people need to hear from their senators and congresspeople, with a clear statement about Mr. Trump, for our state and our country.

Please tell us what you believe.

Bill Hiss of Lewiston is a retired college administrator and congregational minister.

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