All that stuff about the media twisting his words. His enemies distorting what he said. A simple slip of the tongue.
All that stuff?
That was a lie, or at best an excuse for the blatantly racist and dangerous words that Gov. Paul LePage used last month during a town hall meeting in Bridgton.
Either he lives in a world disconnected from facts, or LePage has made a decision to lie unabashedly in an attempt to bend the real world to the way he imagines it. He lies effortlessly and with complete conviction.
Appearing on WVOM on Monday, LePage revisited his racist remarks from earlier this year, in which he accused drug dealers from away of impregnating white girls in Maine — a racist trope that was widely and rightly condemned.
This time, however, he dropped the pretense and trotted out a new excuse for the un-excusable:
“I had to scream at the top of my lungs about black dealers coming in and doing things that they’re doing to our state. I had to scream about guillotines and those types of things before they were embarrassed into giving us a handful of DEA agents. That is what it takes with this 127th [Legislature]. It takes outrageous actions to get them off the dime. They just simply don’t move.”
Allow me to deconstruct. LePage, who had initially said his “white girl” comments weren’t about race, now says that yes, in fact, they were. They were all about “black drug dealers” and what “they’re doing to our state.”
Heroin, drug abuse and drug addiction are a white problem in Maine. And the issue is homegrown. People from away aren’t doing this to us, we’re doing it to ourselves. To make it about black people from away is truly ugly.
Then there’s the lie. LePage didn’t need to scream, race-bait or say outrageous things to convince the Legislature to increase the number of drug agents in the state. Democrats, Republicans and independents had reached an agreement to do that — long before the governor’s hateful outburst.
The plan was thoughtful and included new resources for treatment and enforcement. It passed the Legislature with relative ease and was a rare point of bipartisan agreement.
The governor lives in a fantasy world where the normal constructs of behavior simply don’t matter.
Joking on Tuesday, LePage said that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump owes him for paving the way for his brash brand of politics. He “should give me a stipend or give me a bonus for starting this whole thing about being outspoken,” LePage said.
What Trump and LePage do isn’t about being outspoken or speaking uncomfortable truths. Instead, it’s about capitalizing on the anger and fear of voters. These two showmen give their audience someone to hate, whether it’s a black drug dealer or a rapist from Mexico.
The online magazine Vox described Trump this way: “Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante.”
Sounds familiar to me.
LePage won two elections in Maine with policy ideas that could be boiled down into a postcard: cut income taxes, gut welfare, defend Maine from people from away.
Trump offers similar bromides.
There’s no substance. No plan to help rural communities that are struggling. No ideas to expand prosperity. Just talking points. Very effective talking points.
And because LePage and Trump capture the anger of many people so well, they’re simply given a pass on their lies, shameless behavior and lack of substance.
Maine’s paper mills are facing an apocalypse. In Lincoln, East Millinocket, Old Town, Bucksport and Jay, times are tough and jobs have disappeared. If the governor cares, he’s not letting on, and he’s offered no plan to help these communities recover.
Trump talks about making America great again. But you can’t insult your way to prosperity.
These men aren’t leaders, they’re three rows deep in the lynch mob, egging the crowd on. They give voice to society’s ugliest ideas, for political gain or for sport. Their solutions are simple: Blame someone else. Punish them. Kill them.
There are real problems in Maine and the country, including poverty, particularly among children, and a working class that’s being left behind, especially in rural communities. To begin to address those problems will take hard work and political compromise.
Name calling, demagoguery and a warped reality won’t get it done.