January 5, 2013

Our View: Strange PR strategy in LePage's canned videos

The straight-talking governor likes it better when the questions come from his own staff.

Gov. LePage might not have time to sit down with Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, but he apparently does have time to sit down on camera with his own press secretary.

click image to enlarge

A screen grab from Gov. Paul LePage's video about tax cuts.

In a YouTube video, funded by the taxpayers and distributed by the governor's office and the Re-Elect Governor Paul LePage campaign, the governor listens to a few softballs from his communications director, Adrienne Bennett, and delivers what sound like rehearsed answers.

"Governor, during the 125th Legislature, you led the way to reduce the tax burden on Mainers, so congratulations on that," begins the first question. "How is it that right now you're getting push back from Democrats, in particular, about putting more money back into the pockets of Mainers?"

"Well," the governor responds, "it's politics."

If the governor had taken the time to sit down with Democrats instead of just his staff, maybe he would have learned that there are no plans by the Democrats to roll back the recent tax cuts.

He might have found it more constructive to actually meet with the lawmakers who Maine voters have determined will be his partners in running the government for the next two years instead of accusing them of "lying about" him and who benefits from his tax policy. But that's not how this governor operates.

Putting aside the content of his interview, however, the video itself is very strange.

LePage has not held a news conference for almost half a year, but in recent months he has released several videos in which he either reads a statement to the camera or in which he controls the questions.

Releasing video interviews was the go-to communications strategy of Osama bin Laden, but it's not usually how things operate in a democracy.

Sen. Olympia Snowe did not shy away from direct questioning by the press. Neither does Sen. Susan Collins nor Rep. Chellie Pingree nor Rep. Mike Michaud.

The past two governors held regular news conferences and were prepared to answer a wide variety of detailed questions about state policy.

Apparently, LePage likes it better when the interviewer is on his payroll and he has the final say on what the public gets to see and hear.

This strategy might avoid an embarrassing gaffe, but it's not going to give the governor much credibility outside his loyal base of supporters.

It's one thing to refuse to meet with Democrats in the Legislature, but refusing to speak with the people of Maine is an odd position for someone who wants to lead them.


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