Saturday, March 8, 2014
Dear Governor LePage,
AIRING IT OUT
Tune in to NewsRadio 560 WGAN at 8:08 a.m. today to hear columnist Bill Nemitz talk about this column and other issues.
So ... what's new?
Oh right. Everything.
President Obama, who you once said you'd tell to "go to hell," is instead going on to a second term.
State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, your biggest cheerleader since the day after you trounced him in the Republican gubernatorial primary way back in 2010, is going home to his little tax-sheltered forest in Georgetown. Or, rising sea levels permitting, to his beach club in Popham.
Attorney General Bill Schneider and Secretary of State Charlie Summers are going back to oblivion, soon to be replaced by Democrats. (Watch out for that presumptive Attorney General Janet Mills, Governor. She hits back.)
And then there's the Legislature.
Now Governor, I admit I was as shocked as I'm sure you were by Tuesday's Democratic surge that obliterated your Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
I mean, unofficial Democratic majorities of 87-60-4 in the House and 21-13-1 in the Senate? Are you kidding me? If I were the Blaine House cat, I'd probably be landing clear across the Kennebec River right about now.
But as that moronic saying goes, it is what it is. And if you thought keeping those Republican lawmakers in line was tough, wait 'til you get a load of what's waiting for you on the third floor of the State House come early December.
There's Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, the leading contender for Senate president. The same guy you referred to in April as "a little spoiled brat from Portland" who "is very fortunate that his granddad (the late philanthropist Harold Alfond) was born ahead of him."
That little spoiled brat is about to become second in line for your job, Big Guy. So if I were you, I'd watch out for wayward buses.
There's Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, now the front-runner for House speaker. At a fundraiser in the spring, he was quoted as saying the strategy for retaking the Legislature this fall would be to "tie the Republicans to Gov. LePage."
Give that man a crystal ball. (Not to mention outgoing Speaker Bob Nutting's gavel.)
And behind the emerging Democratic leadership we now have two chambers more than half-full of what you've spent two years deriding as "the loyal opposition."
That they are, Governor. And make no mistake about it, that they will continue to be.
So here's what everyone wants to know (except for Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who's packing his bags and heading home to Shrillville): With the second half of your term suddenly looking a whole lot different from the first, what can we expect to see coming out of the Blaine House?
Will it be an olive branch?
Or will it be the big bird? (No, sir, not the embattled PBS icon. The other big bird.)
The way I see it, Governor, you're in a heck of a bind here.
Your tea party base is at full boil. They saw what happened with Mitt Romney (whom they never trusted from the start) and now look to guys like you (Can you believe that turncoat Chris Christie?) to keep their dreamy delusions alive.
They still want you to push that right-to-work legislation you've been talking about for the past two years.
Except now you can't.
They still want you to cut 24,000 low-income Mainers from MaineCare -- federal waivers or no federal waivers.
Except now you can't.
They still want you to stigmatize the poor, chastise the school teachers, antagonize the environmentalists, demonize the public sector and, in your spare time, franchise more one-size-fits-all legislation hot off the presses from the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council.
All of which you can keep on doing -- except it won't get you anywhere.
But here's what you can do, Governor. Even now, as the 2010 Conservative Rapture gives way to the 2012 Reality Check, you can still govern.
That means no more stomping down to the nearest committee room to glare at legislators who aren't marching in lockstep with your agenda. Keep that up and a few soon-to-be committee chairs might just send you out for coffee.
It means watching where you point that veto pen. With your re-election to a second term now a very open question, more than a few moderate Republican lawmakers may view the occasional veto override as short-term political liability insurance.
But more than anything -- and I know I've said this before, Governor -- it means becoming a better communicator.
Yeah, I've seen the videos you've been posting lately on YouTube about education, welfare and whatever else gets your dander up.
And while I'm thrilled you finally discovered the video button on your smartphone, the rigid scripting and clumsy camera work leave me wondering if you're being held hostage on some faraway sound stage designed to look like the governor's office.
Put more simply, Governor, stop hiding behind prepared texts that sound about as much like you as Honey Boo Boo doing Shakespeare. And when you do come out and speak without a teleprompter, see if you can go a full minute, or two, or three without calling someone a nasty name.
Now I know you've got fences to mend, so let me close on a conciliatory note.
Late last month, when most of your fellow Republicans were treating you like you'd just climbed out of the spent-fuel casks at Maine Yankee, you put out a weekend address that was -- and I mean this, Governor -- nothing short of statesmanlike.
You talked about how you'd been reading Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Lincoln" and how Gen. George McLellan once called Lincoln a "baboon." You lamented that, with the election just days away, we were once again mired in "the mean season."
Then you said this: "We have two basic political philosophies -- liberal and conservative -- but regardless of our views, we must learn to debate the issues with civility and integrity."
So go ahead, Big Guy. Painful as this week's election fallout surely must be, there's no time like the present.
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: