Dear Governor LePage:
I’ve been debating for the past few days whether this is a good time to check in. But as a concerned citizen (with emphasis on “concerned”) I’ve got to ask:
Have you been hitting the L-Dopa lately?
L-Dopa, you’ll recall, is that temporary miracle drug that Dr. Malcolm Saye, played by Robin Williams, gives to a ward full of catatonic patients in the 1990 movie “Awakenings.” It transforms them from prisoners of their own closed minds into perfectly rational human beings who revel, if only for a short time, in sweet, blissful reality.
Kind of like you’ve been doing lately, huh Big Guy?
Not sure if you’ll remember it all, but let’s take a quick look back at what you’ve been up to the past few years.
We begin with your first round of national headlines, in July of 2010, when you boasted during a campaign stop that if elected governor, you’d tell President Obama to “Go to hell.”
No way? Trust me, Governor, it happened.
How about that Saturday morning radio address you gave last April, when you turned up your nose at the whole idea of issuing bonds to fund the state’s long-term needs?
“A bond is a fancy word for borrowing money the state doesn’t have,” you snarled at the time. “Bonds are not the answer to our problems.”
Doesn’t ring a bell? Sorry, sir, but I’m ripping those quotes right from the Associated Press clipping.
Surely you remember your comments last fall about the federally funded expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. You said Maine wanted no part of it — in fact, you called it a “degradation of our nation’s premier health care system.”
Total blank? Geez, Governor, looks like you were further gone than we thought.
Let’s try something a bit more recent.
Just over two weeks ago, you had a chat with WCSH-TV’s Caroline Cornish, who asked you about your threat to veto any and all legislation that hits your desk unless lawmakers first agree to use Maine’s future liquor revenue to pay off the state’s $184 million debt to its hospitals.
“Until they pay the hospitals, nothing gets done,” you told Cornish. “Nothing!”
“So 100 percent nothing gets passed?” asked the intrepid Cornish.
“You got it,” you replied.
Work with me here, Governor. You were standing outside the State House, it was snowing and for some reason you had sunglasses on. Do you remember even seeing Caroline Cornish that day?
OK, one last try. Let’s go back to that now-infamous emergency bill, sponsored by Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, that aimed to let bars open at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day even though it was a Sunday.
Not only did you promise to veto the measure (again, the hospital debt), you even went on WPFO-TV and called it “garbage.”
No, sir, it wasn’t trash day. I swear to God you were talking about Barry Hobbins and his green beer.
Enter L-Dopa — or whatever else it was that opened your eyes to the way life should be.
It first kicked in last Friday, when you not only signed the St. Patrick’s Day bill, but donned a leprechaun hat and smiled for a photographer while you did it!
(Just an aside, Governor, but you could create a pot of gold for the state’s General Fund if you blew that photo up into a few thousand posters and sold them on eBay. I’d mount one right over my desk, and I guarantee Barry Hobbins would paper his entire man room with them.)
But it wasn’t until Wednesday that your awakening was in full bloom, right Big Guy?
Your administration dashed off a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius reversing your previous course on the Medicaid expansion. You now say Maine wants in as long as the feds pay the full freight for 10 years – although I have a hunch that precondition will be but a fading memory by this weekend.
You unveiled a $100 million bond package for roads, bridges and other transportation packages. Looks like bonds might be “the answer to our problems” after all, huh Governor?
And that promise to veto whatever hits your desk until the hospital bill is paid?
In addition to the green-beer bill you so ceremoniously signed, you let six more pieces of passed legislation sail into the law books without so much as lifting your veto pen.
Now I’m not sure if you realize this, Governor, but the new you has the whole state of Maine in a tizzy.
Your conservative base is appalled. As one poster on the right-leaning chat room As Maine Goes put it, “I’m so confused by this. After years of talk of conservative principles, this is really heartbreaking to watch.”
Over on the left, they’ve all died and gone to heaven. Blogging under the headline “Has LePage Become a Socialist?”, Portland uber-progressive Ethan Strimling gushed, “If LePage expands government to insure more people, build much-needed infrastructure, and inject millions into our economy to create jobs, count me in.”
Then there are the cynics who point to the fast-approaching 2014 gubernatorial election and dismiss this as so much pandering to Maine’s coveted independent voters. (“Hmmm,” I can hear those undecideds musing, “maybe he’s not so crazy after all.”)
As for me, Governor, I’m channeling that triumphant moment in “Awakenings,” when the patient played by Robert De Niro looks into a rolling camera and says, “Hello. My name is Leonard Lowe. It has been explained to me that I’ve been away for quite some time. I’m back.”
Of course, Leonard’s miracle cure eventually wears off. And alas, Governor, so might whatever’s floating your boat these days.
But until then, Big Guy, let me be the first of many Mainers to welcome you to the real world.
You’ve been away for quite some time.
Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: