December 7, 2012

Bill Nemitz: Smile Guv! You're in public office!

I just came across the perfect Christmas gift for Gov. Paul LePage.


Tune in to NewsRadio 560 WGAN at 8:08 a.m. today to hear columnist Bill Nemitz talk about this column and other issues.

What say we all pitch in and buy him the deluxe, 10-DVD set from "Candid Camera."

It includes a "Smile, You're on Candid Camera!" hat and T-shirt, which LePage could wear every time he appears in public so the "tracker" hired by the Maine Democratic Party will have no trouble finding him in a crowd.

But more important, those DVDs are chock full of people caught on camera when they least expect it – and laughing about it!

Unlike the Guv, whose sudden distaste for being videotaped in public mushroomed Wednesday into an anything-but-appropriate tantrum just before he swore in the 126th Maine State Senate. (Here's the tape).

"I think it's vulgar, I think it's vicious and I think it's vile to me and my family," LePage snarled to a packed (and generally shocked) audience. What's more, he continued, it's the latest example of "the lack of respect that the office of the governor of Maine is receiving."

(Not to be confused with the lack of respect the "office of the governor" showed the Maine Senate.)

So here we are, more than a month after the election, and LePage has yet to even exchange pleasantries through gritted teeth with Senate President Justin Alfond, House Speaker Mark Eves or any other leaders of the Legislature's duly elected Democratic majority.

LePage's latest ultimatum: He will not meet with the Dems until their party calls off Brian Jordan, the young "private paparazzi" whom the governor called out twice by name during Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony. (Jordan, alas, was nowhere in sight.)

Interesting phenomenon, this video-tracking business. Go to YouTube and you'll find countless cases where trackers have pestered, pursued and provoked politicians to the point where, as Sen.-elect Angus King put it this fall when describing his Republican-paid tracker, "it's pretty lousy."

Now let's be clear here. If LePage's tracker was in fact getting in the governor's face (or, worse yet, video-stalking LePage's family) at every opportunity, public or private, the governor's complaint would at least have some validity.

But according to Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant, that is not what's happening.

"We're not lying in the bushes outside his house," Grant said Thursday. "We're not following his family to the supermarket."

Rather, he said, Jordan shows up at public events where LePage is scheduled to speak, secures permission to set up his tripod and camera and simply records what the governor says from the podium -- and only what he says from the podium.

"Our tracker has been instructed not to record private conversations -- and to my knowledge, he hasn't. This is about public comments and nothing more," Grant said, adding that the Democrats do it only to hold LePage "accountable for what he says in a public setting."

But what about LePage's claim that the tracker attended a Veterans Day event last month and recorded the governor having a private chat with an elderly veteran?

"What he's saying is untrue," Grant said.

Also setting off the "false" alarm is LePage's claim earlier this week that "I have not made an issue of this nor did it bother me until Veterans Day."

Really? Why, then, do the Democrats have a list of 11 public appearances by LePage, 10 of which occurred before Veterans Day, at which Jordan was shown the door by LePage Communications Director Adrienne Bennett or various other political operatives?

More importantly, why did LePage wait until this week -- the very week the Legislature's Democratic leadership was being sworn in -- to start complaining about a tracker he's known about for months?

(Continued on page 2)

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