Governor should act like a leader, not a bully
OK, that’s it! As my late father used to say, it’s time to zip your lips. It is time to stop the name-calling. Stop the bully posturing. Start acting like a governor.
I have been a Maine resident since the days of Gov. James Longley. I’ve been through Govs. Brennan, McKernan, King and Baldacci. I have written about all of the above and the way they governed, or tried to govern, this great state. Never once did I write about a Maine governor being rude, crude and socially inappropriate. Until now.
Maine has witnessed a lot of governing “styles” since 1975 but nothing approaching that of our present governor, Paul LePage, a man who in many other settings would be considered a bully.
Maine has no need for an elected “leader” who routinely resorts to name-calling to try and make a point. He uses the intimidation of name-calling to make less of other people. He says hurtful things and appears to think they are funny. Bullies do the same thing. He is, I believe, a man who has gone over the top too often.
Gov. LePage went overboard the first time when he stooped to playground posturing with his insulting of President Obama. He insulted Maine people again when he said the NAACP was nothing more than a special interest group … like the Maine Chamber of Commerce isn’t!? He was overboard again when he accused — yes, accused — hard-working men and women in Maine state government of being criminals. And make no mistake about it, characterizing a person as “corrupt” is synonymous with dishonest, crooked, fraudulent, etc. For Gov. LePage to say any one employee, or group of state employees, is corrupt is to clearly imply that they have broken the law. If the governor cannot prove that, and it turns out to be false, Gov. LePage has committed slander. That is likely an actionable offense. It’s curious the state employees union hasn’t filed a complaint in court.
So now, Maine’s elected “leader” has gone beyond overboard. His penchant for name-calling cannot be excused. The time to stop has come. If he doesn’t, Maine people should recall him.
For our governor to characterize any group as anything remotely similar to the Gestapo of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany defies explanation. LePage is either incredibly insensitive or he completely lacks the social graces that someone in his position of influence most certainly should possess.
The Internal Revenue Service is not the Gestapo and the IRS will never become the Gestapo, not even remotely similar to the Gestapo. Hitler’s secret police were killers; they were murderers, specifically charged with killing Jews but known to be wildly indiscriminate in their delivery of death. Using the word “Gestapo” conjures up only one image in the mind of anyone who has studied world history. There isn’t any way a person or organization can be Gestapo-like unless there is involvement in systematic, premeditated murder of innocent people.
Even what LePage said was an “apology” rang hollow as he has continued to repeat his characterization of the IRS as “Gestapo.” If you say you are sorry, mean it.
By the time children enter grammar school, they have been told time and again that name-calling is unacceptable, that it is hurtful and hateful and often leads to physical confrontations. In my experiences, most young people get it by the time they are in high school. There is plenty of joking around and good-natured teasing among kids, but there is a line that once crossed yields much different results. Most people know this, and get it.
We do not allow name-calling in my high school education program. In fact, every student who is enrolled in our Alternative Education program signs a pledge to refrain from harassing behavior aimed at any other student, or group of students. At the top of the list on the pledge they sign is name-calling. And our students are proud of the commitment they make. For example, if someone uses the “R word” he or she is typically reminded by fellow students, not the teachers, that it is unacceptable.
Our successful students do not make fun of people because of their race, their sexual preferences, the way they dress, the way they talk, the color of their hair, and so on. That doesn’t mean there are not instances that call for stern reminders about our pledge. Sometimes it becomes necessary to mete out consequences. Rarely, we end up with a student who just doesn’t get it, or doesn’t want to get it. They are dropped from the program.
I should note that our policy also makes it clear to students that harassment can lead to being charged under Maine hate crimes law. That applies to everyone in Maine.
I don’t think Gov. LePage is setting a particularly good example for young people. I can only hope the governor would be embarrassed if some youngster declared that it was OK to call someone an insulting name because, “the governor does it.”
The world of politics is overflowing with name-calling these days but Gov. LePage has taken this to new lows. He’s not hurling insults at other politicians. He is insulting all of us, the people who live and work in Maine.
John Adams wrote in 1776 that he feared the Continental Congress would be dictated “by noise, not sense; by meanness, not greatness; by ignorance, not learning; by contracted hearts, not large souls.” To lead, we need greatness.
Jim Toedtman, editor of the AARP Bulletin, writes in the current issue that, “We are surrounded by noise, meanness and ignorance. The measure for our leaders must be their ability to rediscover that proven formula of sense, greatness and learning.”
I could not agree more heartily.
Now, I challenge Gov. LePage to agree as well and drop the invective. Choose to be great.
Michael McGuire lives in Owls Head.