My father would have turned 100 years old this week. He has been gone for 18 years now, but his place in Maine and America as a leader and statesman is as secure as ever. I am proud to bear his name and proud that his centennial has sparked a renewed appreciation for all that he accomplished.
Of course, no one accomplishes all the things my father did without the help and support of other talented people. Sen. Ed Muskie had many trusted aides and advisors over the years, outstanding people like George Mitchell, Don Nicoll, Leon Billings and Eliot Cutler. I know that he would be pleased that Eliot, a person for whom he had the greatest respect, is seeking to be Maine’s governor.
I have known Eliot all my life. He worked side by side with my father on two of the most important laws in our nation’s recent history — the landmark Clean Air and Clean Water acts. These laws have had far-reaching impacts on all of our lives, protecting public health and the quality of our natural environment.
Beyond his work on the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, Eliot’s environmental record over his entire life and career has been exemplary. My father recommended to President Jimmy Carter that he appoint Eliot to be associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget because Dad trusted Eliot’s environmental commitment and believed in his leadership abilities.
At the agency, Eliot oversaw policies and billion-dollar budgets for the nation’s principal natural resources, environmental, energy and science agencies, strengthening the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service.
Eliot went on to establish what became the nation’s second largest environmental law firm, where he forced the federal government to clean up nuclear waste, lent his firm’s expertise at no charge to reopening the Kennebec River to fish running upstream to spawn and figured out environmentally sound ways to build desperately needed new roads and airports in state after state around the country.
As many people in Maine can still recall, my father was never shy about saying what he believed, and blind partisan loyalty was never his path. Were he alive today, I believe he would proudly support Eliot for governor.
For purely partisan reasons, some environmental groups have decided to support Michael Michaud, the Democratic Party candidate for governor this year, not because of his environmental record but rather in spite of it.
They are supporting a candidate who voted to eliminate food safety warnings, for continued taxpayer subsidies for the oil industry, and against a “right to know” law that enables the public to find out about hazardous substances in their community. They are standing behind someone whose record over two decades in the Maine Legislature was so abysmal, according to the Maine League of Conservation Voters, that he voted right on environmental issues barely half the time. My father would be amazed and distressed.
On the 100th anniversary of his birth, I ask you to remember what my father stood for and what he accomplished. Examine the records of all the candidates for governor this year. Only one measures up to the leadership standards Dad set, and that’s Eliot Cutler.
Sen. Muskie believed in Eliot. So do I, and so should you.
Edmund S. Muskie Jr. is the son of former Democratic Maine governor, U.S. senator and secretary of state Edmund Muskie.