April 21, 2013

Dan Demeritt: Waxing poetic on the president, politics, punditry and LePage

The author turns to alliteration to weave a column with a common thread.

When I write well, it is quite literally an accident. My grip on the rules of grammar, agreement and literary devices is tenuous at best, so I try, test and type my thoughts until I stumble across a phrase that works. A good ear and the sharp eye of an editor are really all that ever makes this column worth a read.

Save for alliteration, defined as “the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in neighboring words.” I am always able to achieve alliteration.

And so it will be this week with a brief consideration of topics starting with the letter P.

PRIDE IN OUR PRESIDENT

Despite the policy differences that kept me from voting for President Obama, I have always been proud that he is our president – especially during national crisis and catastrophe, when his leadership and empathy rise to the challenge of the times.

We saw that again this past week with the president’s reaction and resolve concerning the bombings in Boston. 

PREFERENTIAL PUNDITRY

I wanted to write this week’s column on Sen. Angus King’s first 100 days in office and proclaimed as much on a recent visit to this paper’s newsroom. But Bill Nemitz beat me to the story, providing a 2,000-word account of King’s first 100 in last Sunday’s paper.

Nemitz did not steal my idea – he was probably in Washington working on the piece when I made my newsroom pronouncement. Nor can I be bitter about the lost opportunity because Nemitz did such a brilliant job with his piece.

My own assessment of Sen. King will take far fewer than 2,000 words.

Angus was a statesman the day he was sworn in, he has surrounded himself with a dedicated and talented staff, and he is doing the work it takes to be effective in Washington.

Angus will drive my partisan friends nuts, but he will be gracious and thoughtful about it. And he will find unexpected opportunities to lead.

THE PUGNACIOUS PAUL LePAGE

When you get elected governor, you take on great responsibility and the executive powers enumerated in our state constitution and outlined in our state statutes. But apparently there are very real, albeit unwritten, limitations on the chief executive’s power when it comes to the Maine Department of Labor.

I have lived through some of it first hand, and it continues to amaze me. Items as routine as the decor in a lobby or a quick pep talk with department staff become matters of protest, federal review and front-page news.

Last month LePage invited unemployment hearing officers to the Blaine House to share concerns from employers about the hearing process. If the discussion went anything like my last lunch at the Blaine House, the food was delicious and the dialogue completely one-sided.

I can completely understand how the uninitiated can find the governor’s passion for issues and capacity for dominating a conversation to be intimidating. But it does not mean that the Blaine House discussion, admittedly unconventional, was illegal or even improper.

As a former small-business owner and employer, I also understand the frustration with the unemployment hearing process.

Good employees are like gold and employers want to keep them on the job as long as possible, whereas bad apples need to be removed from the barrel as soon as possible.

Despite having been through the process several times, I still find it illogical that an employer should have to document and then defend the firing of the absent, tardy or uninspired.

Last week the governor announced the formation of a balanced, blue ribbon commission to look at Maine’s unemployment insurance system and a cooperative approach with a review by the U.S. Department of Labor. That would have been the first step of a more conventional governor, but LePage is not cut from that cloth.

I am sure Paul LePage, ever the entrepreneur, would have preferred to fix the problem over blueberry cobbler at the Blaine House.

Unfortunately, governmental problems are rarely fixed that fast. But I hope LePage keeps trying and that state agency employees and stakeholders learn to stop taking offense. 

POLITICAL APPEARANCE PLUG

The University of Southern Maine’s School of Business Alumni Council’s annual alumni reception and forum is on the business of politics. I will be appearing, along with Ted O’Meara and Jesse Knox, on a panel moderated by Barbara Rath.

The forum kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Glickman Library on USM’s Portland campus. Visit www.usmsba.org to learn more.

As always, thank you for reading.

Dan Demeritt is a Republican political consultant and public relations specialist. He is a former campaign aide and communications director for Gov. Paul LePage. He can be contacted at:

dan@win207.com

Twitter: @demerittdan

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