Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Bill Nemitz firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not sure what the protocol is for this sort of thing, so I'm just going to go ahead and do it:
I hereby proclaim today Adrienne Bennett Appreciation Day.
I'm not kidding. After all she's been through, first as Gov. Paul LePage's press secretary and now as his director of communications, Bennett deserves at least one day when all of Maine pauses to thank her for her willingness, day in and day out, to explain the man who defies explanation.
Just ask a few of her predecessors.
"I worked for a governor who would listen," recalled David Farmer, who served for four years as Gov. John Baldacci's communications director, in an interview Tuesday. "I'm not sure the current governor does that -- and I think that makes Adrienne's job very difficult."
If not downright impossible.
Bennett's latest travails stem from LePage's claim on July 25 that Maine students are "looked down upon" by colleges and universities throughout the United States. And that the College of William & Mary in Virginia will not look at an application from Maine without first requiring "a placement exam to see if you qualify."
The latest in a long line of "say what?" moments came during a news conference intended to spur LePage's education agenda. That objective, like so many before it, got swept away in the stream of consciousness that runs unchecked from LePage's perpetually closed mind to his ever-open mouth.
Still, lest we digress, our focus today is not on the Big Guy. It's on the poor woman we pay to stand between us and LePage and, like a loyal soldier in a losing battle, stand her ground even while the general beats a hasty retreat.
In an email Tuesday, Bennett politely declined comment on just how tough a summer this has been. She didn't need to -- her attempts to contain the damage from LePage's latest gaffes demonstrate the futility of speaking for a guy who sees facts as a luxury that his administration simply can't afford.
Late last week, after officials at William & Mary stated not once but twice that they treat Maine students just like everyone else, Bennett bravely stepped up and told Kennebec Journal reporter Susan McMillan that "someone at the school" told LePage about the nonexistent exam way back in 2005 ... or maybe it was 2006.
Someone from the college?
"That's my understanding," said Bennett.
Then, on Monday, Bennett told the Bangor Daily News that the "looked down upon" quote came not from any single experience or empirical evidence after all. Rather, it sprang from Guv's own "life experience."
"He's a businessman. It's from his life experience of talking to people," Bennett told the newspaper. "While it's anecdotal, he believes it."
Note that Bennett no longer claimed it was true -- because it isn't. All she could do was draw a line between reality and LePage Land and infer, with the poker face that's now familiar to all of Maine, that her boss prefers the latter.
The diss of his entire state, of course, came right on the heels of LePage's now-infamous description of the Internal Revenue Service as "the new Gestapo" during a radio rant last month against the Affordable Care Act.
Even as that one lit up the national news wires, a clearly frustrated Bennett told the Maine media that when she wrote the radio remarks for LePage, the Gestapo reference was not included. It came, she said, after "healthy dialogue" about whether it was on-message and, more importantly, an appropriate thing for Maine's chief executive to say.
Put more simply, Bennett tried to talk LePage out of uttering something that was as moronic as it was offensive. He then went ahead and said it anyway.
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