Phil: It looks like the fireworks started a few days before the Fourth this year.
Ethan: I assume you are referring to the political fireworks around the governor meeting with “domestic terrorists” more often than he did with Justin Alfond or Mark Eves.
Phil: The reality is he probably visited you at your social service agency – LearningWorks – more times than he met with Alfond and Eves.
Ethan: To be honest, I am done writing the obituary of LePage until he actually loses an election (the guy appears to be made of Teflon among the base of your party). But this latest foray into controversy truly seems a bit untoward. I don’t actually believe the guys LePage met with would carry out an execution, but why in the world did the governor spend 16 hours with these yahoos? Moderates on your side must be scratching their heads.
Phil: I have to agree with you on this one. I can understand meeting with anyone once. Maybe even twice. But eight times is inexplicable.
Ethan: You’d think he would have noticed their tinfoil hats the first time they walked in.
Phil: Honestly, Ethan. The one good thing to come of this is that it spotlights a fringe part of my party. The Constitutional Coalition, as they call themselves, have been a obstructionist force for the last six years. Very extreme, bordering racist, and a bit bullying in their style.
Ethan: Then what’s your take on why he met with them so often? And how much political damage do you see?
Phil: I don’t know why he met with them so often. Maybe he was neutralizing an election revolt in November. Maybe he felt a duty to hear all they had to say after their support in 2010. Maybe he simply never says no to a constituency group that wants to meet with him.
Phil: Look, he has met with approximately 400 citizens during his Saturday constituent meetings. I am sure many of those meetings have occurred with the same people.
Ethan: But these meetings were not during his Saturday constituent meetings. They were all days of the week and took place in the Cabinet room, in the Blaine House, by conference call. LePage initiated the first meeting, for heaven’s sake. This kind of access is granted to very few.
Phil: I agree, if additional facts don’t add a new perspective, these meetings appear to have been a mistake.
Ethan: I expect this problem will cause some on the right to sit home or reconsider the other candidates. In fact, if I am Eliot Cutler, I give up trying to outmaneuver Michaud and I start putting all my firepower on this. If Mike’s 5 point lead over LePage becomes 8, 9 or 10, LePage might swoon the way Libby Mitchell did in 2010. If that happens, Eliot could try to pick up the pieces.
Phil: Yes, I suppose Eliot could appeal to Republicans who may be drifting away from LePage, but his 50-year history in the Democratic Party will cause many to be skeptical.
Ethan: This issue isn’t about Democrat or Republican. This issue is about leadership and judgment. If Eliot was willing, his ad would simply say, “Gov. LePage met eight times with a people affiliated with a group on the FBI’s domestic terrorist list. Whether he agrees with their extreme views or not, we need someone with better judgment.” That ad could be devastating and the swoon I mentioned could begin.
Phil: Not sure what you’re hearing, but I don’t sense any “swoon” away from LePage on Main Street. The comments from people I crossed paths with after the story broke mostly assumed the media and Democratic operatives were yet again trying to discredit LePage.
Ethan: That excuse is just getting old. Blaming others for his problems rarely works in politics and most people see right through it.
Phil: Since my sources tell me there is more to come on this subject, how about I use another tried and true method in politics – changing the subject. Any thoughts about Independence Day?
Ethan: Well done. I am spending the holiday with family. What could be better?
Phil: Likewise. I always find myself thinking about the courage displayed by the signers of the Declaration of Independence. They were people of means who risked their lives and fortunes to create what has become the greatest example of what free people can accomplish in the history of the world.
Ethan: The signers were people of means, but our true independence was won by working people, every one of them immigrants or born from immigrants, with barely enough food to feed their families. It’s them I always remember on the Fourth of July and them I wish our politics would better serve.
Phil: I agree to agree on that one.