On the crisis of the United States government forcibly separating children from their parents at the border, Sen. Susan Collins has once again demonstrated that she is the worst kind of dangerous. It is not a superlative to be proud of.

Since taking her seat in 1997, Collins has claimed the mantle of “moderate,” a term lacking a clear definition. Generally speaking, however, a moderate is one who can see both sides of an issue – and act accordingly. With few exceptions, Collins gives lip service to ideas not supported by the Republican leadership, but then votes with them anyway.

Throughout her tenure, Collins has mouthed benign platitudes about bipartisanship and alternative viewpoints, but as the Republican Party has hurtled right, she has always identified with party rather than principle. She has no discernible core values.

This was true in her support of the Patriot Act in 2001, a hideous piece of government overreach against which any Republican committed to limited government should have voted.

It was true in her support of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees, especially her vigorous championing of the demonstrably racist Jeff Sessions to be attorney general and her “yea” vote in committee for the staggeringly ill-qualified foe of public education Betsy Prince DeVos as secretary of education.

Responding to Trump’s fawning remarks about neo-Nazis in Charlottesville last year, Collins said that he should have been clearer about his stance on the murderous rioters there. But she declined to condemn the president when he doubled down on his hateful rhetoric.

Instead, she falls back on inane pronouncements like “we need to accept that Donald Trump is our president,” as though the office is an anointed position rather than an elected one.

Collins subsequently gave herself a pass on defending the Affordable Care Act. After implausibly claiming that Mitch McConnell had made an “ironclad” commitment to stabilize the ACA, when he broke his patently fraudulent promise, she feigned surprise and refused to condemn him for not bringing reform measures to a vote.

Which brings us, predictably enough, to Collins’ remarks Sunday regarding the administration’s vicious ripping of immigrant children from their families – in at least one case, from their mother’s very breast – and placing them who knows where.

Her best suggestion? Return to a piece of legislation that failed in February after – as Collins herself put it – “the Department of Homeland Security issued an inflammatory press release that torpedoed the bill.”

What makes Collins so dangerous? Since it became apparent that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee, Collins has pretended to distance herself from him. She registers his hate, but she refuses to see it for what it is.

“I do not believe that he is in favor of anti-Semitism or racism or Nazis,” she said of his remarks on Charlottesville, “but when he says that there were some ‘fine people’ in that group, it sends the wrong message.”

If Collins is waiting for Trump, Sessions or their establishment fellow travelers to say plainly, “I hate blacks and Jews,” she might be able to dodge the reality a bit longer, mustering fake umbrage and soldiering on.

But ignoring manifestations of racism and anti-Semitism that fall short of direct statements, a return to slavery or the establishment of concentration camps demonstrates an appalling ignorance of history and a horrifying naiveté.

Indeed, Collins equivocated on the Trump administration’s grotesque and brutal treatment of immigrants and their children even as the world likened the detention centers in which they are held to concentration camps.

The United States as an ideal – what George Washington called “The Great Experiment” and Ronald Reagan compared to “a shining city upon a hill” – is under mortal threat. The kidnapping of immigrant children is only the latest of the many weapons that Trump and his ilk have plunged into the beating heart of the American promise.

Our forebears neither conjured nor secured our freedoms with mealy-mouthed, Collinsesque bromides. Washington waged and won an apparently hopeless war to secure our independence. In the same cause, countless patriots put their lives and livelihoods at risk in word and deed.

Collins must do the same. The stakes are as high today as they were 240 years ago.

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