Olympia will join the pantheon of great leaders our state has produced — Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen, Ed Muskie, George Mitchell. These committed public servants understood that they were sent to Washington to solve problems, not to score political points.
But this is no longer the Senate of Smith and Muskie, of Cohen and Mitchell, and soon it will no longer be the Senate of Olympia Snowe. The change is particularly troubling in these perilous times. With a $15 trillion debt, 13 million people unemployed, oil near $110 per barrel and turmoil throughout the Middle East, there is an urgent need for leaders from the sensible center who realize that neither party has a monopoly on good ideas. The challenges we face will not be met by those who believe compromise is a dirty word…
Indeed, there are flickerings of bipartisanship that may pull the Senate back from the brink. The “Gang of Six,” which sought last year to produce a bipartisan plan to address the debt, attracted more than 40 senators to a meeting where, one after another, senators stood up and announced that they were prepared to compromise and to take the political heat in order to deal with our unprecedented debt. It was encouraging that this group — with nearly equal numbers from each party — included not just moderates, who usually can be counted on to forge coalitions, but liberals and conservatives as well.