This week brings proof that even the smartest among us are not immune to a “gotcha” moment.
And with recording devices at our fingertips, “gotcha” moments have become the shining stars of political campaigns.
There is little doubt that state Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick of Bangor is a smart guy. He’s a physician — one of three rheumatologist/arthritis specialists in northern Maine. That takes some brains.
He’s also a Democratic state senator seeking re-election against Republican challenger and former Bangor City Council Chairman Cary Weston.
Democratic Congressman and Maine gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud is a high school graduate and former mill worker who has defeated several more formally educated opponents throughout his political career.
Michaud’s fellow candidate, independent Eliot Cutler, is a lawyer, a successful businessman and an articulate guy. It takes some smarts to graduate from law school and pass the bar for sure, but he also lost the gubernatorial election four years ago to the well-educated but crude and rude Republican candidate Paul LePage.
All that said, I’m guessing Gratwick’s secretly recorded statements to a constituent that he didn’t put much stock in Michaud’s brain power and considered Cutler the smarter of the two, won’t do much to change the vote in November.
Look through your history books, and you’ll see smarts and charm don’t always win the race.
Gratwick made the statements about Cutler and Michaud while he was campaigning door-to-door for his own race in District 32, which includes Bangor and Hermon. A fellow named “Jim” apparently invited the candidate into his home for a little political discussion and just a bit of “gotcha!”
Of course, we all know now that “Jim” released the recording to members of the Maine Republican Party, who promptly and not surprisingly posted the edited recording on YouTube. Republicans are looking to drive Democrats into the Cutler camp and away from Michaud, who many believe poses the greatest threat to LePage’s re-election.
Yes, I know, Democrats have been paying a video tracker to follow Gov. LePage around for years, hoping to catch any gaffe or misstep, which you can bet would also end up on YouTube.
Being recorded anytime, anyplace, whether openly or secretly, has become an expected part of the political and certainly the campaigning process.
It’s a bipartisan and equivalently slimy tactic.
Gratwick, though a smart guy, probably just wised up to that.
Of course, just like the politicos quoted in subsequent news stories regarding Gratwick’s remarks, most of us denounce such maneuvers, yet quietly relish them, eagerly reading each and every word and awaiting the fallout.
As the partisan bickering ensues over the latest gaffe, Republicans will argue that the Democrats perfected the “gotcha” strategy, in relation to Gov. LePage. But even they must admit that LePage really doesn’t need a hidden camera to get caught. He simply steps up to any given microphone and lets loose with blunder after blunder.
Gratwick is backpedaling now, saying his remarks were taken out of context and that he is a huge Michaud supporter. As a fellow Democrat, sharing some of the same financial resources and under pressure from the same Democratic power base, I’m sure he is. It just appears he doesn’t think Michaud is a “brain guy.” Either that or he thought that is what “Jim” wanted him to say.
Politics can be ugly and “gotcha” politics is even uglier.
The bright side to this otherwise disheartening story is that just as technology has placed recording devices in everyone’s hands, it also allows us easy access to real and true information on any candidate we wish to evaluate.
In truth, we don’t have to rely on histrionic political ads and “gotcha” drama to educate ourselves on a candidate’s record, qualifications or platform. It’s all available online to peruse and research ourselves.
Do you wonder whether Michaud has been instrumental in keeping our water clean while LePage has been set on polluting it as Michaud’s ad suggests?
Do your due diligence and find out.
What Gratwick thinks of Michaud is of no concern to me and will have no influence on my vote in either race. Whether I think they are smart, effective, honorable and have the voting record I’m in line with, will.
A good “gotcha” story will always make bold headlines and juicy reading. But hopefully voters will rise above the din and make their decisions based on their own thoughtful research.
It would be the smart thing to do.
Renee Ordway can be reached at email@example.com.