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The courage of Senator Susan Collins

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, at work in Washington earlier this summer. MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

Senator Susan Collins of Maine made the only sensible choice on Monday, announcing that she would not support the Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, in November. She joins Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, five other Republican senators, and a growing list of GOP congressmen who have repudiated Trump. The lone holdout in the New England Senate delegation is Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and with each passing day her continued support for Trump becomes more inexcusable.

Collins, a lifelong Republican, outlined her objections to Trump in an op-ed for The Washington Post. She cited grave concerns about his fitness for office. “Trump’s lack of self-restraint and his barrage of ill-informed comments would make an already perilous world even more so. . . . [His] tendency to lash out when challenged further escalates the possibility of disputes spinning dangerously out of control.”

Many senior Republicans with long resumes of service to the GOP have reached similar conclusions. Also on Monday, 50 Republican national security officials condemned Trump, saying he “would be the most reckless president in American history.” On Tuesday, former Republican Environmental Protection Agency heads endorsed Hillary Clinton. The opponents range from rock-ribbed conservatives like Ted Cruz to moderates like Collins, because the objection to Trump is not just ideological. His temperamental unsuitability for the job transcends all political labels.


Ayotte, enmeshed in a reelection fight against Democrat Maggie Hassan, seems more concerned about her electoral fortunes than in doing the right thing for the country. She does not “endorse” Trump but does “support” him, a lawyerly formulation that legitimizes Trump’s candidacy. Instead, she should be joining Collins in choking off political support for a dangerous candidate. She may pay a political price, but there’s also a price for inaction: Ultimately, a senator who can’t manage to take a public, unequivocal stand against a man like Trump only raises questions about her own judgment.