Dear Paul LePage,
I know you’re having a bad week – an “absolute disaster,” as you put it the other night – so I thought I’d try to brighten things up a bit by congratulating you in advance on your new campaign slogan:
Paul LePage, Republican for Governor: He’s not playing!
I know, I know, you didn’t intend that to be your primary sound bite when you hit the road Monday to “Turn the Page” (Another good one!) on Maine’s troubled economy.
If you had your druthers, we’d all be marveling at your comprehensive, 15-page cure-all (actually, 12 pages if you don’t count the snazzy cover and footnotes) for everything from Maine’s unemployment woes to its educational shortcomings to its looming $1 billion budget shortfall.
(I particularly enjoyed this excerpt from your “EZ Pass for Jobs” proposal: Make no mistake, those who violate the law will be forced to get off at the first exit. But everyone else should speed on through and create new jobs quickly. Now there’s an economic policy we can all get our heads around!)
Instead, Maine is all abuzz about your wife, her homes in Waterville and Florida, her illegal claim to property-tax exemptions for both properties at the same time, her odd decision to become a Florida resident, her subsequent renewal of her Maine driver’s license, your kids’ in-state tuition status as students at Florida State University
Complicated stuff, to be sure. A lot more complicated than your proposed “5 Dollar First Step To Becoming an Entrepreneur.”
Hence your anger when you showed up at a press conference in Augusta only to find a gaggle of reporters eager to discuss your apparent aversion to owning residential property, along with your wife’s apparent aversion to being a legal resident of the very state you want to lead. (Hmmm does she know something we don’t?)
“I am running for governor. Not my wife,” you snarled at Maine Public Radio’s A.J. Higgins moments before you stalked out of the State House. “And if you guys want to do the Enquirer, I’m not playing. Goodbye.”
Off message? To be sure.
But I’ve got to tell you, Mr. LePage, that “I’m not playing” line just might have legs – especially for a hot-under-the-collar guy like you.
It’s short, to the point and infinitely more headline-friendly than the “Let’s stop the bull—-” retort you later served up to MPR’s Josie Huang at another press conference in Portland.
Think about it.
Let’s say you actually become Maine’s next governor and one day you run into an angry crowd protesting social service cuts just outside your office.
Engage with them? Tell them about how you’re still technically homeless yourself but it didn’t stop you from “pulling myself up by the bootstraps” to become Maine’s chief executive?
Not on your life.
Just give them all a friendly wave and say, “Sorry, folks. I’m not playing!”
Or what if you’re halfway through your first State of the State speech and, just as you tell that unsubstantiated stemwinder about how the Maine Department of Environmental Protection once made you do a “buffalo study,” a lone Democratic voice in the Legislature hollers, “You lie!”
Shoot him cold glance and keep on going? Hell no.
Just look around the House chamber, lean into the microphone and announce, “OK. That’s it. I’m not playing. Goodbye.”
Then calmly walk out down the center aisle of the House chamber, go out the door and follow the Tea Party Trail markers back to the Blaine House.
I guarantee the entire Legislature will be dumbstruck. Kind of like all of Maine is right now.
And how about that inevitable day when your secretary answers a call from the homestead investigative unit in Florida’s Volusia County: The gentleman on the other end says he’s looking into your wife’s legal residency and, with all due respect, he thought you might be able to help shed some light on the situation.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” your secretary can reply. “But the governor isn’t playing today.”
Trust me, Mr. LePage, you can’t go wrong here. Heck, Sarah Palin decided to stop playing altogether with 18 months left on her term as governor of Alaska, and now she’s worth millions!
(Speaking of Palin, can you shoot me an e-mail when she embarks on her inevitable GOP rescue mission to Maine? I get all tingly when she looks my way and says “lamestream media.”)
So keep your chin up, Mr. LePage. I’ve got a feeling this newfound strategy will bring nothing but good things for you.
And to be perfectly honest, it’s good for the rest of us as well.
The less Paul LePage plays, after all, the less all of Maine gets played.
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org