Friday, January 21, 2011

The Guv

On the face of it, we really should be pulling for Paul LePage, Maine's newly elected Republican Governor. He's Franco-American, and overcame a terrible childhood of poverty, abuse, homelessness, and discrimination. He's plain-spoken and a man of the people. Completely on his own, he became a successful businessman and politician, ending as General Manager for Marden's and Mayor of Waterville before running for Governor. So what if during the campaign, he was a little rough ("LePage tells Obama to go to hell"), he courted the Tea Party, he aired some weird positions on climate change and energy and creationism and healthcare. Politicians will say anything to get into office, and once they get there, they tend to moderate, right?

Maybe not right. The first few weeks of LePage's tenure have been a bit ominous.
  • As I wrote the other day, he's nominated a developer to run the Department of Environmental Protection.
  • He's appointed his 22-year-old daughter, just out of college, to assist his chief-of-staff at a salary and benefits much higher than the usual entry-level position.
  • He's told the NAACP, on Martin Luther King Day, that he won't be beholden to "special interests" and that the NAACP can "kiss my butt."
  • He wants Maine to join the national lawsuit to get out of the new healthcare law.
  • He wants to relax state rules that protect vernal pools from development.
  • He wants to get rid of the Land Use Regulation Commission, the independent body that controls development in the 10 million acres of Maine's unorganized territories.
  • He's attended a number of "red-tape removal audit" forums, but only one environmental forum.
Heaven knows the government gets in the way sometimes. But the effort to streamline and reduce must not damage the things that make Maine special and viable, and it must not hurt the poor and sick. Remember, Governor, that getting only 38% of the vote is hardly a mandate for change.

I don't know if he's related to the LePages who make glue or to the LePages who bake bread. Those would be good, down-to-earth roots to have. I'm worried, however, that he's already turning into an angry beast. Just re-arrange a couple of letters in his name and you get "pelage," "the hairy covering of a mammal." What is the real Paul LePage, man or monster?

No comments: