May 22, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Standing up to a master of tantrums

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

LePage then pushed away from the witness table in a huff. And it all might have ended right there had Hill, gracious to a fault, not suggested that she and the governor discuss his concerns "outside this meeting."

Re-enter the Big Guy.

"Thank you. Thank you very much," he snarled. "But outside this committee won't happen unless I have a way to speak."

(I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that of all the problems Maine now faces, LePage having "a way to speak" is not one of them.)

"I want to get on the record and this committee is not allowing it," LePage told Hill. "And it's unfortunate that the people of the state of Maine are being played for patsies."

With that, LePage got up, pushed the chair back into the table with a wee bit too much force and stomped out with a theatrical wave of the hand and a final, not-so-heartfelt "Thank you!"

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not good. With the end of the legislative session looming -- not to mention the real threat of a state shutdown come July 1 -- our governor has reduced himself to crashing committee hearings and calling his fellow Mainers "patsies" as if we were all bit players in one of those cheesy 1940s gangster movies.

Which brings us back to Hill, who backs down to no one. (Her dogged pursuit of the Maine Turnpike Authority, you'll recall, ultimately led to last year's imprisonment of former Executive Director Paul Violette for embezzlement.)

Hill could have killed LePage's microphone by flipping a switch at her desk -- but wisely thought better of it. She also has a 911 emergency button, but resisted that temptation as well.

Instead, Hill looked the Big Guy straight in the eye and, as nicely as she could, told him to stuff it.

More than anything else surrounding Sunday's showdown, Hill will long remember the silence that enveloped the room as LePage, perhaps for the first time in his life, opened mouth and dutifully inserted sock. (Stand down, LePage lovers. We're speaking metaphorically here.)

"My committee members told me afterward that they were in pain watching it, just wondering what was going to happen next," recalled Hill. "I was very polite, I kept telling him I meant no insult. And much to my surprise, he was somewhat polite back and he said, 'I'm out of here.'"

Paul LePage, silenced at last.

And the 2013 Socky goes to ...

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

 

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