Maine House Republicans should be leery of Gov. Paul LePage.
They willfully — joyfully, even — followed the governor over the cliff of a government shutdown. More than anyone else, they have stuck with the governor and his misplaced priorities and inappropriate behavior.
But with his treatment of Republicans in the Maine Senate, they should recognize the warning signs for their future.
The governor last week lied to Republican Senate leaders, telling them he was going on vacation when — apparently, but who can say for certain with LePage — he really wasn’t.
When the news came out, the governor initially said that the entire thing was a rumor, a story made up by the “vile” media. He went so far as to say that he likes to make up crazy things — lies — and then yell “fake news” when the media report his words.
“I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they’ll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it’s awful,” LePage said on WGAN last week.
LePage’s staff then used words carefully chosen not to clarify but to instead obfuscate the truth. The governor’s spokesman denied that the governor had ever made such a threat. “Fake news,” he chortled.
Turns out, LePage’s attack on the media was also a lie, designed to deflect from his original vacation lie.
Now, the governor has settled on a third explanation. He lied to the Senate leaders to get them to return his telephone call.
This doesn’t hold water, either, because the governor talked to Republican Senate leaders. Both Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau and Sen. Roger Katz, who was leading negotiations on the state budget, are honorable men, who have demonstrated that they are willing to try to work with the governor.
Here’s my count: The governor lied to Senate Republicans. He lied to the media. He lied on the radio. And then he lied again when he suggested Katz and Thibodeau wouldn’t return his telephone calls.
My mom used to use this expression: “He’d rather climb a tree to lie to you than stand on the ground and tell the truth.”
Translation: Some people will go to great lengths to lie when it would be pretty easy just to tell the truth.
In this case, I have no idea what the original truth was.
Perhaps the governor woke up angry and really considered going on vacation in a pique of rage and after seeing his friend, Gov. Chris Christie, enjoying himself on a deserted New Jersey beach, courtesy of his own manufactured government shutdown.
LePage started dialing, fingers faster than his brain, and left the voicemail for Katz.
As the media tried to sort out fact from fiction, perhaps his press office was in the dark. His staff’s non-denial, denial was the best they could do. Like the press office for President Donald Trump, it often seems as if the folks designated to actually talk to the public through the press are out of the loop.
Unchallenged in the warm and friendly embrace of talk radio, the governor then yucked it up with one of his favorite subjects: the vile, terrible and not-long-for-this-world media.
“The sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be,” LePage told his radio enablers.
The press holds the governor accountable, and he doesn’t like it. So he lashes out and tells lies to try to get his way.
The Senate Republicans acted in good faith during negotiations with Democrats on a state budget. The governor wanted to beat them and was willing to lie to achieve his goals.
LePage’s time as governor is running short. He’s got one more session left and I believe he’s already looking for his escape path in Washington.
So, be warned House Republican Leader Ken Fredette and Rep. Jeff Timberlake — the two men struggling for the loyalty and love of the House Republican caucus.
The governor has shown he’ll lie to other Republicans. He’ll lie when he knows there’s evidence of the truth. He’ll lie to cover up his own wrongdoing. He’ll lie to get his way, to get even.
Right now, you’re all smiles, standing with the governor for a photo celebrating the government shutdown you manufactured.
But as LePage starts working on what’s next for him, you might very well be his next target — if it advances his personal agenda.
The governor is a man who would rather climb a tree to tell a lie, than stand on the ground and tell the truth. And there are a lot of trees in Maine.
If you trust the governor, you do so at your own peril.