Will Journalists Fawn Over Olympia Snowe If She’s No Longer a ‘Rebel Republican?’

When Maine Republican Olympia Snowe backed aspects of health care reform early last fall, CBS’s Nancy Cordes cheered the "rebel Republican." Now that Snowe is sounding a tougher, more skeptical tone on the legislation, how will journalists treat the moderate Senator?

Appearing on Thursday’s edition of On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked Snowe if health care was dead. She bluntly replied, "I think that this particular legislation. I think its going to be very difficult to reach an agreement even within, I think, the Democratic caucus in both the House and Senate to accept this legislation one way or the other."

Snowe scoffed at President Obama’s suggestion, made during the State of the Union address on Tuesday, that he was open to new ideas about health care. She told the Fox News host: "Well, you know, it is interesting that he posed that question, because I had given, you know, a number of ideas in the direction that health care should take, and unfortunately those ideas weren't incorporated." She added that the legislation had gone in a "radically different direction" since she voted for it in Senate Finance Committee.

Snowe appeared on Friday’s Andrea Mitchell Report to to discuss the same subject with the host. Mitchell wondered where things "went off track" and asked if the White House was "reaching out" to her.

Back in February, CBS reporter Kimberly Dozier favorably compared Snowe to another Maine Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, known for being "the first Senator to stand up to McCarthyism." It will be interesting to see how other journalists and news shows cover Snowe now that she’s less sympathetic to Democratic health care legislation.

A partial transcript of the January 28 On the Record segment, which aired at 10:35pm EST, follows:

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Everyone sure wants her vote. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe is known for being moderate. Does she think the Democrats want to work with Republicans? We went to Capitol Hill and Senator Snowe went "On the Record." Senator, nice to see you.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE, R - MAINE: Nice to see you, Greta, thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I'm glad you the clothing memo today.

SNOWE: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: What good fortune for me. Anyway, last night, big speech, president's State of the Union. And he said this, "But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know." One of the criticisms the Democrats have had of Republicans you have no ideas and you are not helping. Republicans say we are cut out of the deal. What is it?

SNOWE: Well, you know, it is interesting that he posed that question, because I had given, you know, a number of ideas in the direction that health care should take, and unfortunately those ideas weren't incorporated. In fact, it went into a radically different direction since the time I voted for the package in the finance committee. At that point hit considerable concerns, but I thought it deserved continuing the process and seeing what we could do to build the bridges and build the consensus.

VAN SUSTEREN: There seemed to be a couple issues and a couple layers in health care. One is the substance of it, but the second part is whether or not Republicans are included in the discussion or not? I talked to Democrats and they say Republicans are obstructionists. I talk to Republicans and they say they won't even include us. You have been in a unique position for a little while in December where you seemed to be able to talk to Democrats. Are the Republicans included in this discussion or not?

SNOWE: They haven't been. They might have been obviously earlier on in the process. There might have been conversations obviously with the White House and in the leadership. Those initial conversations might have taken place whether or not health care would be on the agenda. I don't know. But I do know there were several Republican who were in the Finance Committee that were working in the group of six with Chairman Baucus, and to his credit he tried to build bipartisanship at that point. Unfortunately, the issue continued to be driven by artificial deadlines. I said from the outset, forget the deadlines. Let's just discuss how we can build strong support for the right policy in crafting health care. Health care is a complex issue and not to mention costly. We had to get it right, there are so many facets to it. But unfortunately, they were really obsessed by arbitrary timetables that did not fit the complexity of the issue and the scale of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why were the Democrats so concerned about the timetables?

SNOWE: It's all inside the beltway conventional wisdom. You can only do it one year, the first year of the two years because the second year, this year, is obviously an election year. And I pointed out to the Democrats and the President you don't have to abide by the time table. We're all in this working on it together. Get it right. I don't know what possessed them to think that you could accomplish such a major initiative under a very shortened timetable. We were criticized in the Finance Committee during the summer we were taking too long. I said it's obvious people aren't familiar with health care. We were doing it the right way. We weren't concentrating on politics. We were concentrating on policy. And so we would ask question after question to get answers, really trying to examine each facet and each issue. And the more we unraveled, you know, the various layers of health care, we learned how complex it was, and it took more time. Those are the types of questions that should be asked by every member of the United States Senate. That wasn't happening. So people understood that rightfully. The American people figured it out. It is one thing for them- my constituent said to me, it is one thing for us not to fully understand everything in legislation, but we truly expect our elected officials to do that. And they knew that the Senate was not fully understanding the complexities in and the scope of the legislation.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org