Thursday, April 17, 2014
Dear Governor LePage,
So what, now you're a weatherman?
Here we are in the middle of the beginning of the end, with the July 1 deadline for passing a state budget just two weeks away, and you're going all meteorological on us.
"Right now ... right now, it's this," you told WCSH's Don Carrigan just the other day. "There's a cloud of blind hatred coming from the third floor (of the State House) from a couple of people. And I don't play that kind of politics."
First, let me just say I have no idea how my friend Carrigan keeps managing to pull this off: He sticks the mike under your chin, you say something that sets two-thirds of your fellow Mainers' hair on fire and Carrigan dashes back to the studio with yet another 60 seconds of pure gold for what someday will be a "Bill Green's Maine" retrospective titled "Legend of the Blaine House Beast -- The Maine Governor Who Growled."
But back to the cloud of blind hatred.
Now I'm no Joe Cupo, Governor, but I'm pretty darned sure that clouds form when hot air rises and runs into cooler air aloft, causing water vapor in the hot air to condense until it blocks out the sun and, in extreme cases, sends us all running for cover.
So, much as I hate to admit it, Big Guy, I think you might be onto something here.
For more than two years now, there's been all kinds of hot air swirling around the second floor of the State House, where you work when you're not holed up across the street in the Blaine House. Aim one of those thermal imaging cameras at your office and I guarantee it will light up like a Christmas tree.
Upstairs where the Legislature works, on the other hand, the atmosphere is noticeably more temperate.
Sure, an occasional squall pops up -- like on Thursday when Minority Leader Ken Fredette said on the House floor that he opposes Medicaid expansion because he has a "man's brain." (Not fair, huh Guv?)
Still, when it comes to the budget, the Dems and the Republicans have done a bang-up job settling their differences and passing a two-year spending plan that pretty much everyone hates. (Which in politics is the equivalent of variable cloudiness with a 50 percent chance of rain: nothing to cheer about, but not bad enough to cancel the whole picnic.)
Heck, even Fredette's man-brain told him to go ahead and support the budget on Thursday because, as he so accurately put it, "Time is now short and we, the Legislature, must act to protect the hardworking people of Maine."
Enter the hot air mass.
"It's just absolutely horrific," you told Carrigan. "It's horrific. I thought the first two budgets that I had in Waterville, when I became mayor, were bad. But this is almost laughable."
Man, are you blowing in every direction these days!
One second, the budget is "horrific" -- a word we normally associate with interstate pile-ups, airplane crashes and people who like to speak in hyperbole.
The next, the $6.3 billion spending package is "laughable" -- a word that connotes amusement, farce and that ever-growing highlight reel they're compiling over at WCSH.
But it gets worse.
Now that both the Maine House and Senate have passed the budget with the two-thirds majorities needed to override a high-pressure gubernatorial veto, the political forecast calls for a 100 percent chance that you'll go ahead and nix the whole deal. We know this because last weekend you went on statewide radio and said you would.
Yet now that the budget is on your desk, you're saying you'll sit on it for 10 days because the Maine Constitution says you can. And because, as your chief of staff, John McGough, said in a recent letter to state employees, you "will need this time to evaluate each piece" of the budget.
Evaluate each piece? If you haven't done that already, Governor, then how do you know it's "horrific" and "laughable"?
You and I both know you're using that 10 days for one simple reason: The closer you can push this turbulence to the June 30 drop-dead date for enactment of a state budget, the better your chances of producing what for you would be the perfect storm.
Also known as a state shutdown.
Makes you giddy, doesn't it, Big Guy? Satellite TV trucks surrounding the State House, breathless reporters saying this is the biggest crisis to hit a state capital since Scott Walker put the whole state of Wisconsin under a dark cloud back in 2011, maybe even a team from the Weather Channel driving around the Blaine House in search of that "cloud of blind hatred."
("It's real, folks -- and it's starting to form a funnel," I can hear storm chaser Jim Cantori warning us. "If you haven't already, now's the time to take cover!")
And there in the middle the maelstrom will be you, right, Governor?
Assuming you manage to peel off just enough Republicans from that two-thirds majority to sustain your veto, you'll howl above the din and flying bipartisan debris that all of this could have been prevented if only Senate President Justin Alfond, House Speaker Mark Eves and all those other dimwit Democrats on the third floor hadn't spawned that cloud of blind hatred in the first place.
"Quite frankly, folks, this is no way to start a Maine summer," you'll shout as the copper all but peels off the State House dome. "But if the loyal opposition wants a storm, that's exactly what they're going to get!"
What you won't do, of course, is accept any responsibility whatsoever for the hot air that's been fueling this brouhaha since the day you took office.
Nor will you use your own "man's brain" (No can do? Then borrow Ken Fredette's), sign the budget (or let it become law without a signature) and steer Maine around this tempest before real people (you know, the ones you promised to put before politics) start getting hurt.
I know, Big Guy, your base would never forgive you. But real leadership means being willing to reach out beyond that base and, when it really counts, do something constructive, something selfless, something truly gutsy.
Not to be confused with gusty.
Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: