COMMENTARY | Sometimes politicians just can’t help themselves, allowing their arrogance to override their sense of priority and sensibility. The latest infringement on such comes from the usually very practical and moderate-voiced office of Susan Collins, the senior U.S. Senator from Maine. On a day when she was invited to the White House for dinner, it would appear that she had a bit of a problem getting there on time, but she wanted to make certain it was understood that her lateness was a result of the Newtown families tardiness in meeting with her.
According to Politico Playbook , Collins stressed that she was late to the dinner hosted by President Obama because she was held up by the Newtown families. “I was 45 minutes late for dinner with the president of the United States,” she said via cell phone. “Everybody was seated when I got there, because I spent time talking to the parents and the family members of those who were killed at Newtown. I told them I had a dinner with the president but that I was deliberately being late.”
She continued: “The Newtown families were VERY late for their meeting with me. I felt a moral obligation to talk with them. I kept the president of the United States waiting. I mean, how rude is that of me? But I explained to him later that the reason I was 45 minutes late for his dinner was the Newtown families were late — very late — getting to my office, and I just could not leave without talking to them. And he was very gracious about it.”
Really? The president was gracious about a senator doing her job? About putting the tragedies of the Newtown families, men and women that lost 26 children and family members during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December, before a dinner at the White House?
No, what would have been rude would have been cutting the meeting short to make the dinner. Still, Collins makes the case that she let the Newtown families know that they were keeping her from her dinner. She then let the president know that it was the Newtown families that made her late.
But it is Collins’ repeated insistence that the Newtown families’ tardiness in their meeting with her that makes the senator seem so insensitive. That these people who had traveled all the way from Connecticut to help in some way to influence gun control legislation to Washington, where the senator lives (part-time), to meet with legislators (including the senator from Maine) could be so dismissive of decorum as to be late in meeting with her (and making her late for the White House function) in a meeting she originally wasn’t even going to attend.
According to Politico, in a report on Friday in “Behind The Curtain, ” it was disclosed that Collins’ staffers attempted to set up a meeting with the Newtown families without the senator present. When the families insisted that Collins be there, the staffers relented and set up the meeting.
Collins called Politico to complain that their article made her look like “an insensitive demon.”
And the subsequent remarks about the Newtown families being late to the meeting didn’t?
But it is important to note that Collins at least found meeting with the Newtown families a bit more important than having dinner at the White House, albeit grudgingly so.
As it turned out, Collins had missed the first course — salad.
Collins is considered an important swing vote in the current fight to get some form of gun control legislation passed through Congress. She was the first Republican to come out in support of the bipartisan measure proposed by Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., presently being considered. She told NBC News that she intended to support the bill because it was “reasonable” to call for expanded background checks for those applying to purchase guns.