WASHINGTON — Former Maine U.S. Sen. William Cohen, a Republican who served as secretary of defense, said he’ll likely vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in November, citing her experience as secretary of state and former first lady.
“In all likelihood, I would say yes,” Cohen, who served as defense secretary under Clinton’s husband, Bill, from 1997 to 2001, told MSNBC in an interview when asked if she had earned his vote.
“I would not feel comfortable” with Republican Donald Trump, Clinton’s billionaire rival and a political novice, having access to the nation’s nuclear codes, Cohen said. “I’d feel more comfortable with Hillary Clinton, certainly.”
Cohen, 76, a Bangor native and lawyer who served in Congress from 1973 to 1997, has long been a voice of moderation: In his first term as the congressman from Maine’s 2nd District, he was one of the first Republicans to support impeaching President Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal.
He hammered Trump and other Republican presidential candidates earlier this year on foreign policy, after Trump called on the military to “take out” terrorists’ families and said he would bring back methods of torture, one rival suggested carpet bombing the terrorist Islamic State “into oblivion” and another refused to rule out torture.
Cohen said the U.S. could face a trial on war crimes if this was realized, telling CNN in March that it’s “astounding” that torture was part of some Republicans’ agendas.
“The notion that we would attack and kill the families of terrorists is something that contravenes everything the United States stands for in this world of, now, disorder,” he said.
Cohen is the most prominent Maine Republican figure to endorse Clinton so far, although U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a former Cohen aide and fellow moderate, said in August that she wouldn’t vote for either major-party candidate.
Reuters and BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.