Dear Secretary of State Summers,
Can I dispense with the formalities and just call you Charlie? Because what I’m about to ask you could not be more personal.
It’s about your moment in history, Charlie. Your chance to shine. Dare I say your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect Maine from a looming constitutional crisis the likes of which this great state has never seen.
Our governor has lost his mind.
What else is new, you ask?
I’ll tell you what.
Less than a week after he lit up the Internet with his weekend radio address about how the Internal Revenue Service is “the new Gestapo” as it prepares to collect penalties from people who don’t obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, ever-impulsive Gov. Paul LePage did himself one better Thursday.
He told Paul Heintz, a remarkably persistent reporter for the Vermont weekly newspaper Seven Days, that the IRS is going to start killing people.
I kid you not, Charlie. Just like that kid in the old Bruce Willis movie, Paul LePage now sees dead people.
He also said Canadians are streaming south as we speak because their country’s health-care system is already killing folks up there … and that he wants to apologize to Japanese Americans who were sent to internment camps during World War II … and that he’s also got a soft spot for “people that were accused of being communists during McCarthyism.” See what I mean, Charlie? The guy’s barn door is swinging on one hinge — and even the screws on that are coming loose!
So why am I writing to you?
Simple. For months, readers have been calling, emailing and stopping me on the street to ask, “How can we get rid of this guy? Can’t we start some kind of recall petition?”
The short answer is no. The Constitution of the state of Maine has no such provision — at least not yet.
“Then can we impeach him?” they plead.
Not with a Republican-controlled Legislature, we can’t — especially when we have House Speaker Robert Nutting calling objections to LePage’s “Gestapo” crack nothing more than “manufactured outrage.” (Ever been to Auschwitz, Bob?)
So no recall and no impeachment.
But there is a third option, Charlie. And that’s where you come in.
Go to Article V, Part First, Section 15 of the state Constitution: “Temporary mental or physical disability of the Governor.” Now scroll down to the third paragraph:
“When the Secretary of State shall have reason to believe that the Governor is unable to discharge the duties of that office, the Secretary of State may so certify to the Supreme Judicial Court, declaring the reason for such belief. After notice to the Governor, a hearing before the court and a decision by a majority of the court that the Governor is unable to discharge the duties of the Office of Governor, the court shall notify the President of the Senate … “
It goes on to deal with the succession of executive power and what happens if the governor gets his marbles back, but you get the gist of it, right, Charlie?
You — and only you — stand between Maine’s welfare (no, Charlie, not that kind of welfare) and a chief executive who appears to be a misfiring neuron or two away from a sippy cup.
What’s causing this extended meltdown?
Well, I’m no psychiatrist, but I’ve got a hunch it has something to do with LePage going to Vermont, arguably the most liberal state in the nation, in the first place. He was there to help raise funds for Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock, who’s got to be wishing he’d gone with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie right about now.
My guess is that LePage, with the scent of liberals so heavy in the air, had one of those “fight or flight” reactions to acute stress. And seeing as he runs from nothing but reality, his only choice was to take another shot at the IRS — this time with his claim that it has the entire United States of America in its cross hairs.
Asked an incredulous Heintz: “They’re headed in the direction of killing a lot of people?”
Replied LePage: “Yeah.”
Heintz: “Are you serious?”
LePage: “Yeah, very serious. You know why?”
Heintz: “Tell me.”
Later in the interview, perhaps in response to all the jaws dropping around him, the governor said he doesn’t think the IRS will “intentionally kill people.”
But to be honest, Charlie, that felt to me like the eye of the storm passing over — everything seems hunky-dory for a second and then, wham, he’s back in la-la land.
LePage also told Heintz that last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act “robbed an awful lot of freedom because now we are going to be told what we have to do. Never in the history of our country have we been told we had to do something.”
Our government has “never in our history” told us we have to do something? Has LePage ever seen a speed limit sign?
Now Charlie, I know there are some who say LePage is crazy like a fox. Or that our governor — much as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker carried the tea party’s water in the attack on labor unions — has been named the far right’s designated sputterer for the never-ending assault on “Obamacare.”
But I’m not so sure, Charlie. Tell you the truth, if I worked over in the IRS branch office in South Portland, I’d be thinking about a protection-from-abuse order ASAP.
Say what? You’re too busy running for the U.S. Senate at the moment to put on your secretary of state hat?
I totally hear you. In fact, I don’t know why Maine’s founders stuck you with this task in the first place — it would seem to be more up the alley of Attorney General William Schneider or maybe Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
But look at it this way, Charlie. You petition the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to examine whether LePage is in fact morphing into a fluffernutter and a significant chunk of the state’s electorate will suddenly be hailing you as a hero.
(Better yet, your independent opponent Angus King will stop telling all those Joshua Chamberlain stories because, next to you, Chamberlain will suddenly seem so 1860s.)
So go ahead, Charlie, be a hero. Stand tall, pick up the phone and make the call.
We can only hope Chief Justice Leigh Saufley is standing by.
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: