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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Maine's Eloquent History

Politicians usually enjoy a good "buzz" either about something good they have been involved in or something negative about their opponents.  It's a natural inclination to learn what the water cooler folks are saying about the state of the state.  In Maine, my experience about water cooler talk is reticence - the people generally don't like to cause trouble.  Except when the newly elected Governor LePage makes the news over and over again because of his miserable communications.  An echo of discontent about the Governor and his poor judgement with regard to communications is growing into a deafening rock concert of disbelief.  Now we read a rather substantial article in the January  25, 2011 edition of Newsweek Magazine, where the lead sentence credits the right wing Tea Party with the Maine governor's election.  What's worse, the rest of the article goes down hill from there.  Portland Press Herald owner rightly wrote an op-ed piece in the Maine Sunday Telegram saying Maine has too much at economic risk with a Governor who cannot manage his communications.  In other words, the Governor must clean up his style.

In the weekly Forecaster newspaper, contributor Edgar Allen Beem said the Governor's latest objectionable remark regarding the NAACP and the Martin Luther King Day events he didn't want to attend (i.e.the " kiss my butt" statement), was as "appealing as passing gas in a crowded room...."  (Forecaster January 28, 2011, p. 7).

And so it goes (to borrow a Kurt Vonneghut phrase).

Most troubling about the LePage honeymoon mis-comments is the morale reflected in the tone of the Maine State House, where it seems as though people are walking on rotten eggs.  My impression, after being in the Capitol Rotunda two times this past week, was like I entered a medieval movie plot. People who I usually know to be outgoing were whispering in the wings; the usual camaraderie between legislators and the public was obviously strained. Nobody wants to be caught "on mike" talking or answering questions about Governor LePage or his administration.  Behind the scenes, however, I have never heard such bold "water cooler" talk in Maine government.  One legislator commented to me about how Governor LePage gave his daughter a $40,000 job in his administration.  This particular legislator said, "I wish the Governor would offer me a $40,000 a year job to work here!"  In fact, Maine legislators are only paid a few thousand dollars a year for their two year term of public service.

How can Mr. LePage wake up in the morning knowing he inherited the eloquent legacy of Margaret Chase Smith, Senator Olympia Snowe, Senator Susan Collins, Secretary of State Muskie, Senator William Cohen, Senator George Mitchell, Governor John McKernan, Governor Angus King and General/Governor Joshua Chamberlain, to name a few, and then proceed to act so poorly in word and deed?

So it goes.  And we are only two and a half weeks into this LePage administration, but who is counting?  Ahem!  Newsweek will probably want a follow up story.

LePage is not generating good "buzz"



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