May 21, 2018
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Condemning ‘government by disrespect’

Rich Beauchesne | AP
Rich Beauchesne | AP


Hurling insults and demeaning those who challenge you may look tough on television, but it is rarely an effective way to accomplish anything in the real world. Especially in a state or national capitol where compromise — no, this should not be a dirty word — is necessary to pass budgets and policy.

With this in mind, eight Republican senators wrote an OpEd, which appears on the page opposite this today, calling upon Gov. Paul LePage to tone down his rhetoric.

“We feel compelled to express our discomfort and dismay with the tone and spirit of some of the remarks [the governor] has made,” the group wrote. “Were these isolated incidents we would bite our collective tongues, because we are all human. But, unfortunately, such is not the case. We feel we must speak out.”

The group was spearheaded by Sens. Roger Katz of Augusta and Brian Langley of Ellsworth, both freshmen. Other signatories to the column are Nichi Farnham of Bangor, Chris Rector of Thomaston, Roger Sherman of Houlton, Thomas Martin of Benton, Tom Saviello of Wilton and Earle McCormick of West Gardiner.

They are to be commended for taking a stand against what they called “government by disrespect.”

Just days after taking office, Gov. LePage said opponents of his decision not to attend an NAACP event commemorating Martin Luther King day could “kiss my butt.”

In the midst of a debate over the possible dangers of bisphenol-A, a chemical used in plastics that many studies have linked to health problems, the governor said BPA was safe and the worst that could happen is that women would grow “little beards.”

Last month, he ordered the removal of a mural depicting the history of Maine’s labor movement from the Department of Labor, saying it was too one-sided. His office produced a note from a “secret admirer” as evidence of complaints about the mural. His office refuses to say where the mural is being stored.

As for protesters who said they’d form a human chain to protest the mural, Gov. LePage said: “I’d laugh at them,” Gov. LePage responded. “I’d laugh at them, the idiots.”

Within days, the governor was before the Legislature’s Republican caucus saying he’d start “zipping my mouth up and not offending them.”

The eight Republicans went a step further and rightly said the governor should stop the offensive comments altogether. “Belittling comments, whether they come from the governor or his opponents, have no place in Maine public life,” they wrote. “By demeaning others, the governor also discourages people from taking part in debating the issues of the day — worrying if not only their ideas, but they themselves as people, will be the subject of scorn.”

Their words echo those spoken by another Mainer who eloquently condemned the nasty rhetoric of post World War II Washington.

“I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny – Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear,” Margaret Chase Smith said in her famous “Declaration of Conscience” speech in 1950. “I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people.”

The goals of the Republican Party — fiscal discipline, policies that help businesses grow and prosper without sacrificing Maine’s environment, a stable and funded pension system, among them — are too important to be sidetracked by insults and threats.

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