Friday, August 29, 2014

A Remembrance of Paul LePage

In hindsight, we probably should have seen it coming, but it all seems so surreal now. He had been elected Governor with roughly 38% of the vote, fueled by the self-proclaimed Tea Party, a demoralized Democratic state party that many feared was intent on shooting itself in the foot, and an independent whose outsized ego was not yet readily apparent.
The warning signs were immediate, and all too frequent. Given the state’s economic malaise, Governor LePage somehow determined that his first act of any consequence ought to involve abducting a mural (under cover of darkness) from the Department of Labor—ostensibly because one of his supporters astutely recognized it as an example of North Korean-style propaganda (not for what it actually was—a depiction of labor history). While the 62% of Maine voters who’d opposed him did their best to ignore him, the Governor nevertheless provided comedic relief to a country in need of a good laugh.
Unfortunately for Maine’s hard-working people, and anyone interested in constructive and civil political dialogue, it became increasingly difficult to keep his irrational pronouncements and occasional tantrums out of the hands of the media. After all, if a good story proves elusive elsewhere, it’s tough to ignore the one that drops right into your lap.
While on the campaign trail, he assured his supporters he’d tell President Obama to go to hell. Once in the Blaine House, he assured anyone who’d listen that the President hated white people. This was undoubtedly around the same time he was telling the NAACP they could “kiss his butt” for daring to question his decision not to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Bangor and Portland. Donald Trump’s notoriously thin skin resembled elephant hide when contrasted with that of former Governor LePage.
It wasn’t long before major policy failures such as completely bungling a deal with Kestral Aviation that would have brought up to 600 new jobs to the Brunswick area (apparently Maine was not “open for business”) became lost in a sad circus sideshow.
In response to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection banning BPA (and its link to numerous health issues in young children and fetuses) in all reusable food and beverage containers sold in the state, LePage rejected the science and suggested the worst that could happen was that “some women may have little beards”.
One could assume there are many ways to take on the IRS without offending millions of other people, but Governor LePage had clearly eluded his handlers yet again when he likened the IRS to the Gestapo. He was allegedly discussing that agency’s role in enforcing the Affordable Care Act that had just been upheld by the Supreme Court, but who can be certain?
Who can forget his comment regarding Vaseline, or the lack thereof, in criticizing Democratic State Senator Troy Jackson during deadlocked budget negotiations?
His words and deeds had pretty much warned us the day was coming. He told us his greatest fear in the state of Maine was newspapers, and while sitting in a fighter jet simulator he wistfully expressed the desire to find the Press Herald building “and blow it up”. His aides maintained he was “clearly joking”.
But then along came Sovereign Citizens. The FBI still considers them a domestic terrorist organization that (among other things) believes the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, the Sandy Hook school shootings, and is plotting a Christian holocaust via mass collection of firearms. So, why did Governor LePage choose to meet with this group? His handlers maintained it was reasonable to expect he’d meet with a wide range of constituents. They offered no explanation, however, as to why he then met with them eight times.
Mike Tipping, author of “As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage & the Tea Party Takeover of Maine” revealed LePage bought into several of the Sovereign Citizen conspiracy theories, had a sheriff look into a number of their demands, and had his legal staff draft an opinion on the group’s contention that Democratic leaders of the state legislature should be arrested and executed (for “treason”, naturally).

After the outcry surrounding this particular story, things seemed to plummet downhill quickly for the former Governor. He turned up one morning outside the headquarters of the Maine Army National Guard in an agitated state, red-faced and furiously chain-smoking Camels. No one present could fully understand his rather incoherent demands, but he apparently believed he had the authority to issue arrest warrants for Justin Alfond, Mark Eves, and a host of other political opponents. He clearly expected the National Guard to carry out these arrests. It will always be remembered as a very sad moment by all who witnessed it as the former Governor and a handful of hardcore supporters were corralled and gently led away.
In hindsight, it was a very good thing that Governor LePage made sure the hospitals in Maine were paid the money they’d been owed. As a result, we can all be sure he’s getting the excellent care, and rest, he so clearly deserved. One thing’s for sure, things have certainly been much quieter since Governor Michaud was elected back in 2014.

I.M. Muhral
Somewhere in Maine
August, 2017